English 12A » Literary Elements
Theme: The main idea of a story, poem, novel, or play usually expressed as a general statement. Some works have a stated theme, which is expressed directly and explicitly. More frequently works have an implied theme, which is revealed gradually through such other elements as plot, character, setting, point of view, symbol and irony.
Setting: The time and place in which the events of a story, novel, or play occur. The setting often helps create an atmosphere or mood. Setting can also be referred to as a scene.
Plot: The sequence of events in a story, novel, or play, with each event causing or leading to the next. The plot can begin with exposition, which introduces the story’s characters, setting, and situation.
Character: A person in a literary work.
Characterization: The methods a writer uses to develop the personality of a character. The author can choose to achieve this directly, when the writer simply states a character’s traits, or indirectly, when the writer depends on the reader to draw conclusions about the character through their words and actions and the words and actions of the other characters in the story.
Conflict: The struggle between two opposing forces that lie at the center of a plot in a story or drama. An external conflict exists when a character struggles against some outside force, such as another person, nature society, or fate. An internal conflict exists within the mind of a character that is torn between opposing feelings or goals.
Structure: The manner in which a literary work is “put together,” the way an author combines setting, characters, and events to tell an effective story. For example, structure includes such things as the division of a drama into acts and scenes, a novel’s chapter and section divisions, and a poem’s stanzas.
Point of view: The vantage point from which a writer tells a story. There are three main points of view: omniscient, first person, and limited third person. In the omniscient (“all knowing”) point of view, the person telling the story knows everything that is going on in the story. In the first-person point of view, the narrator is a character in the story. In the limited third-person point of view, the narrator is outside the story – like an omniscient narrator – but tells the story from the vantage point of only one character.
Language: The author’s use of words which can include a range of elements such as dialogue and dialect, colloquial expressions, the use of profanity, sophistication of vocabulary, word choice, sentence structure, and poetic forms.
Mood: The emotional quality or atmosphere of a story.
Tone: The attitude taken by the author or speaker toward the subject of a work.
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