Literary Elements – basic
building blocks of literature
Plot: this is the gist of the story
Initiating conflict: Part of the
exposition. Involves the characters and establishment of setting.
It is a decisive moment or a turning point in a storyline at which the rising
action turns around into a falling action. Thus, a climax is the point at which
a conflict or crisis reaches its peak that calls for a resolution or denouement.
Resolution / Denouement: The final
part of a play, movie, or narrative in which the strands of the plot are drawn
together and matters are explained or resolved.
Overall Conflict: this conflict
seems to “drive” the entire story
Man vs. self (time)
Man vs. nature
Man vs. man (society)
May also be referred to as Internal/external
Diction: Author’s / Speaker’s word choice
Tone: author’s/speaker’s attitude
Mood: audience reaction /
Point of View: who is the
narrator? Is it first or third? The POV
greatly influences the story and how it is read.
Setting: Overall Environment. Often, the setting acts as another character,
usually the antagonist.
(includes speaker/narrator): development of personality/ “character”.
Thoughts/ beliefs/ morals
Opinions of others
Types of Characters include: protagonist,
antagonist, foil, stereotype, round, flat, static, and dynamic.
Theme: subject (friendship, racism,
prejudice, love, family bonds, good vs. evil)
author’s/speaker’s message about the theme (subject). Ex. Love is dangerous,
love is fickle. Also known as main idea, gist, key idea, central idea.
order of points, events, word choice. It is the way the writer chooses to
arrange sentence structure (syntax) as well as the words (diction). What is the overall effect? How does he/she
write? Simple? Involved? Poetic? Humorous? Stoic? How does this style
contribute to the overall message?
the cycle: Description, Action, Dialogue.
TECHNIQUES - enhances the basic narrative/literature
Backstory: given early on, story
that precedes events in the story that is being told.
Cliffhanger: narrative ends
unresolved, to draw the audience back to a future episode for the resolution.
Flashback: altering time sequences,
taking characters back to the “beginning”.
Flashforward: (Prolepsis) a scene
that temporarily jumps the narrative forward in time. Usually surrounding
events that are expected.
Foreshadowing: deliberate, yet
implicit hints towards future events in the narrative.
Frame story: story within a story.
Plot twist: unexpected change in
the direction or expected outcome of the plot.
Poetic Justice: virtue (good trait)
is rewarded, or vice (bad trait) is punished, by an ironic twist of fate
related to the character’s own conduct. Karma
Unreliable Narrator: narrator is
not sincere, or introduces a bias which is ultimately misleading.
2nd person: text written
in the style of a direct address
/ FIGURES OF SPEECH
Allegory: a symbolic story
Alliteration: repetition of the
same letter/sound at the beginning within closely connected words.
Repetition: repeating the same
word/phrase for impact.
Hyperbole: an exaggeration not
meant to be taken literally, but figuratively (for effect).
Imagery: when the author appeals to
at least one of the 5 senses.
Metaphor: direct comparison of two
seemingly unlike “things”. DON’T CONFUSE WITH SYMBOLISM!!!!!!
Simile: comparison using “like” or
Onomatopoeia: word that sounds the
same as, or similar to what the word means.
Oxymoron: a term made of two words
that deliberately or coincidentally imply each other’s opposite.
Paradox: an extended oxymoron in
phrase or sentence form. A phrase that
describes an idea composed of concepts that conflict. “In order to have peace,
we must have war.”
Parody: using humor or wit to make
fun of (SNL).
Satire: using humor, irony, wit to
attack, make fun of people’s stupidity/flaws.
Pun: play on words.
Irony: series of strange/twisted
Symbolism: commonly or repetitive
tangible item representing an intangible concept.
similes/metaphors to give “living” qualities to “non-living” things.