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Elements of Plot (Parts of a Story) & Other LITERARY TERMS

Plot Diagram

1. PLOT sequence of events in a story; what happens
Elements of Plot (Also called Parts of a Story)
a) EXPOSITION important background information; usually in the early part of the
story; sets tone, establishes setting, introduces characters, gives background info
b) CONFLICT - struggle or problem the main character faces. (The plot -- what happens -- usually
centers around a conflict.)
Internal conflict struggle is within (inside) the character; man vs. himself
External conflict character struggles against an outside force
*3 main kinds of external conflict: *man vs. man; *man vs. nature; *man vs. society
Other possible external conflicts are: man vs. technology/machine; man vs. fate/gods;
man vs. supernatural; man vs. God
c) RISING ACTIONbuilds suspense to climax; moves plot along by expanding the conflict
d) CLIMAX turning point for main character (often a choice to make); highest point of interest
(for reader) and emotional intensity (for character). Usually occurs later in story, after reader
gets involved. Sometimes points to a resolution of the conflict.
e) FALLING ACTION occurs after climax; leads to conflict being resolved; loose ends are tied
f) RESOLUTION, or denouement (day-noo-mahn) the resolving of the conflict; usually (but
not always) toward end of story

2. THEME main idea or point of story; heart of the story; moral/lesson to be learned;
Writers perception about life, human nature, etc., that he/she want to get across to reader

3. SETTING time AND place; when AND where the story takes place (Specifics may be
told/described in detail OR may have to rely on clues about geographical location, surroundings,
time in history, year, time of day, etc.); Setting usually revealed in exposition.

4. CHARACTER a person (or animal/imaginary creature) who takes part in the
action of a story;
a) MAJOR CHARACTERSmost important characters; often undergo changes in story
b) MINOR CHARACTERSinteract with major characters; less important, but help move story along
c) PROTAGONIST: the main character; the one central character or hero the audience identifies with
d) ANTAGONIST- opposes the protagonist/main character; sometimes isnt even a
person character, but a force of nature, aspect of society, internal conflict, etc.
e) DYNAMIC characters change throughout story
f) STATIC characters remain the same
g) ROUND characters have many personality traits revealed by author/writer
h) FLAT characters are described more simply; may represent one trait or
i) FOIL a character who provides a striking contrast to another character,
especially to the main character; Opposite personalities are foils

1. Exposition
4. Climax !
6. Resolution/denouement
5. CHARACTERIZATION methods the writer uses to develop characters
Four basic characterization methods:
a) describe physical appearance;
b) reveal characters nature, or personality, through characters own thoughts, feelings, speech, or
c) reveal more about the character through the speech, thoughts, feelings, actions of OTHER
characters about him or her
d) narrator makes direct comments about him/her

6. POINT OF VIEW -method for narrating; based on the perspective/view/understanding of narrator;
a) FIRST-PERSON point of view narrator is a character involved in the action of the
story and refers to himself in the story in first person as I, me, we, us
b) THIRD-PERSON point of view -narrator is outside story, looking in (not a participate or
character in the story) and refers to all the characters in third person as he, she, they, them
c) THIRD-PERSON LIMITED point of view outside narrator gets in mind/thoughts of only
one main character
d) THIRD-PERSON OMNISCIENT point-of-view outside narrator is all-knowing about more
than one characters mind/thoughts, feelings,
e) Objective or dramatic point of view narrator disappears and we dont know
the characters thoughts/feelings

7. STYLE particular way a piece of literature is written; not what is said, but how it is said; writers
own unqiue way of communicating ideas through word choice, sentence length, tone, figurative
language, point of view
(Some style examples: formal, conversational, journalistic, wordy, ornate, poetic, dynamic, etc.)
8. TONE the attitude the writer takes toward the subject/story, in order to shape or influence the
readers emotional response.
9. MOOD the feeling the reader experiences; created by the writer through use of descriptive
words, setting, figurative language, etc.

10. IRONY - A contrast between what appears to be true and what is reality; "a weird,
unexpected twist of events"; Reality is opposite of what it seems
3 Types of Irony:
a) SITUATIONAL IRONY- Contrast between what reader or character expects and what
actually exists or happens
b) VERBAL IRONY - knowingly say one thing but mean the opposite; (Sarcasm &
c) DRAMATIC IRONY - Reader/viewer knows something the character does not

11. SATIRE (noun) - the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or mocking ridicule to expose and criticize
peoples stupidity or character weaknesses especially about contemporary politics and other
social issues. (satirical - adjective)
12. EPIPHANY - Moment of important sudden revelation, understanding, insight (Ah-ha moment)
13. AMBIGUITY - uncertain, inexact meaning; Writer "leaves us hanging"/wondering
14. SUSPENSE - excitement or tension the audience feels to know the outcome of the plot as
they become involved in a story
15. FORESHADOWING - a writer's use of hints or clues to indicate events and situations that
will occur later in a plot. (Foreshadowing creates suspense.)
16. FLASHBACK - a conversation, episode or event that happened before the beginning of the
story. It interrupts the story's chronological flow -- or the natural telling of events in
order of the time they occurred -- to go back in time.
17. SYMBOL person, place, thing, or activity that stands for something else, beyond its literal meaning
18. MOTIF (noun) - a recurring theme, idea, symbol, or topic, etc.; in a particular literary work;
NOTE: A symbol may occur just one time in a story. IF it occurs multiple times, its also called a motif.