Short Story Notes
Definition of short story:
A. Brief tale that can be read in one sitting—Edgar Allan Poe
B. It only has one main conflict, a few characters, and
C. Characters, events and places in a short story often
reflect the real world
It is a type of fiction:
A. Fiction is writing based on the writer’s imagination and
contains made up characters and events (vs. non-fiction which is factual)
B. Although made up, fiction has its roots in life
Elements of a short story:
A. Plot: Pattern of action in the story
People who take part in the action
C. Point of view: the angle or perspective from which the story is told
First person: A character
within the story tells the story. First
person is denoted by the use of “I / we”
2. Third person limited: we see the events through the perspective of one
character. Third person is
denoted by the use of “he / she / they” (observer)
3. Third person omniscient: the narrator has the ability to look into the
hearts and minds of all characters at all times.
Also denoted by “he / she / they”
Omni (all) scient (seeing
D. Setting: Consists of where and when the action takes place (environment
of the story)
Theme: The insight to life revealed by the story—can be thought of as
the moral of the story
F. Conflict: struggle between opposing forces—usually the driving force
behind the story
1. Internal: opposition is within the character
vs. Self ("Tell Tale Heart" by Poe)
opposition between a character and forces outside her / his being
a) Person vs. Nature (
"The Interlopers" by Saki)
b) Person vs. Society ("The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson)
c) Person vs. Person ("The Most Dangerous Game" by
d) Person vs. Technology (The Legend of John Henry)
Characterization: Techniques the author uses to develop characters
A. Direct: Comments from the narrator or from the character her / himself
B. Indirect: Speech, thoughts, and actions of the character, speech and
actions of other characters, physical description.
We have to infer (guess based on above traits)
A. Static: character does not change over the course of the story
B. Dynamic: character changes over the course of the story
C. Flat: represent a single characteristic, trait or idea.
Flat characters are not fully developed (2-dimensional)
D. Round: complex, multidimensional and developed.
Round characters represent a number of qualities and traits
Irony: Contradiction between appearances and reality.
When we expect one thing and another occurs.
A. Verbal Irony: Occurs when what a character says is the exact opposite
of what he / she means. Sarcasm
is similar to verbal irony; however, sarcasm is harsh and direct while
verbal irony is implied.
B. Situational Irony: The actual outcome is the exact opposite or very
different from the expected outcome.
In situational irony, the final outcome often seems “unfair.”
C. Cosmic Irony (Irony of Fate): When situational irony goes beyond just
being unfair and becomes morally tragic.
Cosmic irony often causes characters to question their deities and
causes them to see the universe as hostile.
Cosmic irony suggests that people are just pawns to malicious
D. Dramatic Irony: The
audience is aware of what is happening before the characters are.
There is a contrast between the true situation and what the
character says and does.
A. Exposition: Introduction of characters, setting, and situation
B. Rising Action: Longest section of the story—leads to the climax
Catalyst that begins the major conflict
D. Climax: Highest emotional
peak—occurs when opposing forces meet
E. Falling Action: The immediate result of the climax
Brings the story to a satisfying and logical conclusion