[home] [units]

Short Story Notes 

I. 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 limited detail
   C. Characters, events and places in a short story often reflect the real world

II. 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

III. Elements of a short story:

   A. Plot: Pattern of action in the story
Character: People who take part in the action
   C. Point of view: the angle or perspective from which the story is told
       1. 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)
   E. 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--Person vs. Self ("Tell Tale Heart" by Poe) 
      2. External: 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 Richard Connell)
          d) Person vs. Technology (The Legend of John Henry)

IV. 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).

V. Character 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 3-dimensional)

V. 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 forces.
   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.  

VI. Plot Development:
   A. Exposition: Introduction of characters, setting, and situation
   B. Rising Action: Longest section of the story—leads to the climax
Complication: 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
Resolution: Brings the story to a satisfying and logical conclusion