Friday, January 6, 2012

Short Story Elements

SETTING -- The time and location in which a story takes place is called the setting. For some stories the setting is very important, while for others it is not. There are several aspects of a story's setting to consider when examining how setting contributes to a story (some, or all, may be present in a story):

a) place - geographical location. Where is the action of the story taking place?

b) time - When is the story taking place? (historical period, time of day, year, etc)

c) weather conditions - Is it rainy, sunny, stormy, etc?

d) social conditions - What is the daily life of the characters like? Does the story contain local colour (writing that focuses on the speech, dress, mannerisms, customs, etc. of a particular place)?

e) mood or atmosphere - What feeling is created at the beginning of the story? Is it bright and cheerful or dark and frightening?

PLOT -- The plot is how the author arranges events to develop his basic idea; It is the sequence of events in a story or play. The plot is a planned, logical series of events having a beginning, middle, and end. The short story usually has one plot so it can be read in one sitting. There are five essential parts of plot:

a) Introduction - The beginning of the story where the characters and the setting is revealed. b) Rising Action - This is where the events in the story become complicated and the conflict in the story is revealed (events between the introduction and climax).

c) Climax - This is the highest point of interest and the turning point of the story. The reader wonders what will happen next; will the conflict be resolved or not?

d) Falling action - The events and complications begin to resolve themselves. The reader knows what has happened next and if the conflict was resolved or not (events between climax and denouement).

e) Denouement - This is the final outcome or untangling of events in the story.

It is helpful to consider climax as a three-fold phenomenon: 1) the main character receives new information 2) accepts this information (realizes it but does not necessarily agree with it) 3) acts on this information (makes a choice that will determine whether or not he/she gains his objective).

CONFLICT-- Conflict is essential to plot. Without conflict there is no plot. It is the opposition of forces which ties one incident to another and makes the plot move. Conflict is not merely limited to open arguments, rather it is any form of opposition that faces the main character. Within a short story there may be only one central struggle, or there may be one dominant struggle with many minor ones.

There are two types of conflict:

1) External - A struggle with a force outside one's self.

2) Internal - A struggle within one's self; a person must make some decision, overcome pain, quiet their temper, resist an urge, etc. There are four kinds of conflict:

1) Man vs. Man (physical) - The leading character struggles with his physical strength against other men, forces of nature, or animals.

2) Man vs. Circumstances (classical) - The leading character struggles against fate, or the circumstances of life facing him/her.

3) Man vs. Society (social) - The leading character struggles against ideas, practices, or customs of other people.

4) Man vs. Himself/Herself (psychological) - The leading character struggles with himself/herself; with his/her own soul, ideas of right or wrong, physical limitations, choices, etc.

CHARACTER -- There are two meanings for the word character:

1) The person in a work of fiction.

2) The characteristics of a person.

Persons in a work of fiction - Antagonist and Protagonist

Short stories use few characters. One character is clearly central to the story with all major events having some importance to this character - he/she is the PROTAGONIST. The opposer of the main character is called the ANTAGONIST.

The Characteristics of a Person -

In order for a story to seem real to the reader its characters must seem real. Characterization is the information the author gives the reader about the characters themselves. The author may reveal a character in several ways:

a) his/her physical appearance

b) what he/she says, thinks, feels and dreams

c) what he/she does or does not do

d) what others say about him/her and how others react to him/her

Characters are convincing if they are: consistent, motivated, and life-like (resemble real people)

Characters are...

1. Individual - round, many sided and complex personalities.

2. Developing - dynamic, many sided personalities that change, for better or worse, by the end of the story.

3. Static - Stereotype, have one or two characteristics that never change and are emphasized e.g. brilliant detective, drunk, scrooge, cruel stepmother, etc.


Point of view, or p.o.v., is defined as the angle from which the story is told.

1. Innocent Eye - The story is told through the eyes of a child (his/her judgment being different from that of an adult) .

2. Stream of Consciousness - The story is told so that the reader feels as if they are inside the head of one character and knows all their thoughts and reactions.

3. First Person - The story is told by the protagonist or one of the characters who interacts closely with the protagonist or other characters (using pronouns I, me, we, etc). The reader sees the story through this person's eyes as he/she experiences it and only knows what he/she knows or feels.

4. Omniscient- The author can narrate the story using the omniscient point of view. He can move from character to character, event to event, having free access to the thoughts, feelings and motivations of his characters and he introduces information where and when he chooses. There are two main types of omniscient point of view:

a) Omniscient Limited - The author tells the story in third person (using pronouns they, she, he, it, etc). We know only what the character knows and what the author allows him/her to tell us. We can see the thoughts and feelings of characters if the author chooses to reveal them to us.

b) Omniscient Objective – The author tells the story in the third person. It appears as though a camera is following the characters, going anywhere, and recording only what is seen and heard. There is no comment on the characters or their thoughts. No interpretations are offered. The reader is placed in the position of spectator without the author there to explain. The reader has to interpret events on his own.

THEME -- The theme in a piece of fiction is its controlling idea or its central insight. It is the author's underlying meaning or main idea that he is trying to convey. The theme may be the author's thoughts about a topic or view of human nature. The title of the short story usually points to what the writer is saying and he may use various figures of speech to emphasize his theme, such as: symbol, allusion, simile, metaphor, hyperbole, or irony.

Some simple examples of common themes from literature, TV, and film are:

- things are not always as they appear to be

- Love is blind

- Believe in yourself

- People are afraid of change

- Don't judge a book by its cover


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Today's Word - April




Choose (v)

To pick out a person or things from a large number

She took a long time to choose a new dress.

Capable (adj.)

Having mental or physical ability


Mr. Moy is a very capable principal

Capacity (n)

The quantity that can be contained


The hall has a seating capacity of 500

Camouflage (n)

To give a colour, pattern or shape that makes it difficult to identify.

The camouflage of some insects is extraordinary.

Caution (v)

To give an official warning.

The judge cautioned the lawyer for being late.

Ceremony (n)

An act with special intend.

The wedding ceremony will take place at the end of this month.

Celebrity (n)

A popular and famous person

A local celebrity will be joining us in the fund raising campaign.

Cultivate (v)

To develop


The junior Science Fest is organized to cultivate the mind of young children

Cunning (n)

Ability to deceive easily

The boy showed a great deal of cunning in getting his dad to buy his a pair of sunglasses.

Crystal (n)

A kind of transparent mineral like glass

The dining table shone with silver and crystal.

Culprit (n)

A person who has done wrong

‘My pens have gone – who is the culprit?’

Cyst (n)

A hollow growth in the body containing liquid matter

The doctor has to perform a small operation to remove a cyst on his patients arm.

Curfew (n)

A period when people must stay indoor

The military has imposed a curfew to stop the protestors.

Crutch (n)

A stick used as a support under the arm to help a disable person to walk

Salim uses a pair of crutches to move about.

Cremate (v)

To burn a dead person to ashes


Chong wants his dad’s remains to be cremated and not buried

Creep (v)

To move carefully, quietly or secretly

The cat crept silently towards the bird.

Continue (v)

To go on doing something

I hope this wet weather will not continue.

Contribute (v)

To join with other in giving ideas or money

The Malaysian public has been encouraged to contribute money generously towards the Japanese tsunami fund.

Consume (v)

To eat or drink

The new Proton Saga engine consumes a lot of petrol.

Chaos (n)

The complete absence of order

The classroom was in complete chaos when the teacher left.

Certify (v)

To declare that something is true

Can you certify that Siti was not at the party?

Cease (v)

To stop

The plywood factory will cease operation at the end of this month.


To link

The terminal is connected up to the main computer.

Monday, June 27, 2011


Prepositions of Place: at, in, on

In general, we use:

  • at for a POINT
  • in for an ENCLOSED SPACE
  • on for a SURFACE







at the corner

in the garden

on the wall

at the bus stop

in London

on the ceiling

at the door

in France

on the door

at the top of the page

in a box

on the cover

at the end of the road

in my pocket

on the floor

at the entrance

in my wallet

on the carpet

at the crossroads

in a building

on the menu

at the front desk

in a car

on a page

Look at these examples:

  • Jane is waiting for you at the bus stop.
  • The shop is at the end of the street.
  • My plane stopped at Dubai and Hanoi and arrived in Bangkok two hours late.
  • When will you arrive at the office?
  • Do you work in an office?
  • I have a meeting in New York.
  • Do you live in Japan?
  • Jupiter is in the Solar System.
  • The author's name is on the cover of the book.
  • There are no prices on this menu.
  • You are standing on my foot.
  • There was a "no smoking" sign on the wall.
  • I live on the 7th floor at 21 Oxford Street in London.

Notice the use of the prepositions of place at, in and on in these standard expressions:




at home

in a car

on a bus

at work

in a taxi

on a train

at school

in a helicopter

on a plane

at university

in a boat

on a ship

at college

in a lift (elevator)

on a bicycle, on a motorbike

at the top

in the newspaper

on a horse, on an elephant

at the bottom

in the sky

on the radio, on television

at the side

in a row

on the left, on the right

at reception

in Oxford Street

on the way

Taken from:

Then try this quiz here for further understanding.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Today's Expression - March




once in a blue moon

to occur extremely rarely or only once in a life-time

My brother only rings home once in a blue moon. I wish he would ring our parents more often

grass is always greener on the other side

a place that is far away or different seems better than where we are now

He realized that the grass is always greener on the other side when he saw that his new job wasn’t perfect and had its own problems too

a golden opportunity

a great opportunity that might never come again

This is a golden opportunity to make a business deal with that big company.

to catch someone red-handed

to catch someone in the act of committing a crime, usually a theft

The manager caught the new employee red-handed taking money out of the box.

Pour your heart out

express one’s feelings and troubles freely

When she needs to pour her heart out to someone, she goes to visit her grandmother.

Have a soft spot

If you have a soft spot for someone or something, you particularly
like them.

My grandfather has always had a soft spot for fast cars.

On tenterhooks

A person who is on tenterhooks is in a state of anxious suspense
or excitement.

I have been on tenterhooks all week waiting for the results.

Over the moon

If you are over the moon, you are absolutely delighted

We were all over the moon when we heard the good news.

At one's wits' end

you are at your wits' end, you are very worried or anxious about something, and you don't know what to do.

When her son dropped out of school for the second time, Susan was at her wits' end.

Kill two birds with one stone.

If you kill two birds with one stone, you succeed in doing two things at the same time.

I killed two birds with one stone and picked the kids up on the way to the station.

Acid test

To refer to something as the acid test means that it will prove how effective or useful something is.

acid test of a good driver is whether he or she remains calm in an emergency.

Deliver the goods

If a person delivers the goods, they do what is expected of them or what they have promised to do.

We expected great things of the England team, but on the day they simply failed to deliver the goods.

Half the battle

expression refers to a significant part of the effort or work needed to achieve something.

We've already obtained a loan for the project - that's half the battle

Root and branch

If an action is performed thoroughly or completely, it is done 'root and branch'.

The government set up to Destroy the organization root and branch.

rain or shine

(describing something scheduled) no matter what the weather is.

We're leaving tomorrow, rain or shine

under the weather

Ill, sick, unwell

Ted was feeling under the weather yesterday, so he decided not to go to work.

pay the piper

face the consequences for something you've done

I stayed up too late tonight. Tomorrow I'll have to pay the piper

live from hand to mouth

survive on very little money; have only enough money to pay for basic needs.

Chuck and Alice are living from hand to mouth since Chuck lost his job.

hit the books


wish I could go to the movies, but I've got to hit the books