Elements of Literature
WHAT DO WE MEAN BY THE PHRASE ‘ELEMENTS OF LITERATURE?
The phrase ‘elements of literature’ refers to the constituent parts of a work of literature in whatever form it takes: poetry, prose, or drama.
Why are they important?
Students must understand these common elements if they are to competently read or write a piece of literature.
Understanding the various elements is particularly useful when studying longer works. It enables students to examine specific aspects of the work in isolation before piecing these separate aspects back together to display an understanding of the work as a whole.
Having a firm grasp on how the different elements work can also be very useful when comparing and contrasting two or more texts.
Not only does understanding the various elements of literature help us to answer literature analysis questions in exam situations, but it also helps us develop a deeper appreciation of literature in general.
what are the elements of literature ?
This article will examine the following elements: plot , setting, character, point-of-view, theme, and tone. Each of these broad elements has many possible subcategories, and there is some crossover between some elements – this isn’t Math , after all!
Hundreds of terms are associated with literature as a whole, and I recommend viewing this glossary for a complete breakdown of these.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AN ELEMENT OF LITERATURE AND A LITERARY DEVICE?
Elements of literature are present in every literary text. They are the essential ingredients required to create any piece of literature, including poems, plays, novels, short stories, feature articles, nonfiction books, etc.
Literary devices , on the other hand, are tools and techniques that are used to create specific effects within a work. Think metaphor, simile, hyperbole, foreshadowing, etc. We examine literary devices in detail in other articles on this site.
While the elements of literature will appear in every literary text, not every literary device will.
Now, let’s look at each of these oh-so-crucial elements of literature.
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Plot refers to all related things that happen in the sequence of a story. The shape of the plot comes from the order of these events and consists of several distinct aspects that we’ll look at in turn.
The plot comprises a series of cause-and-effect events that lead the reader from the story’s beginning, through the middle, to the story’s ending (though sometimes the chronological order is played with for dramatic effect).
Exposition: This is the introduction of the story. Usually, it will be where the reader acquires the necessary background information they’ll need to follow the various plot threads through to the end. This is also where the story’s setting is established, the main characters are introduced to the reader, and the central conflict emerges.
Conflict: The conflict of the story serves as the focus and driving force of most of the story’s actions. Essentially, conflict consists of a central (and sometimes secondary) problem. Without a problem or conflict, there is no story. Conflict usually takes the form of two opposing forces. These can be external forces or, sometimes, these opposing forces can take the form of an internal struggle within the protagonist or main character.
Rising Action: The rising action of the narrative begins at the end of the exposition. It usually forms most of the plot and begins with an inciting incident that kick-starts a series of cause-and-effect events. The rising action builds on tension and culminates in the climax.
Climax: After introducing the problem or central conflict of the story, the action rises as the drama unfolds in a series of causes and effects . These events culminate in the story’s dramatic high point, known as the climax. This is when the tension finally reaches its breaking point
Falling Action: This part of the narrative comprises the events that happen after the climax. Things begin to slow down and work their way towards the story’s end, tying up loose ends on the way. We can think of the falling action as a de-escalation of the story’s drama.
Resolution: This is the final part of the plot arc and represents the closing of the conflict and the return of normality – or new normality – in the wake of the story’s events. Often, this takes the form of a significant change within the main character. A resolution restores balance and order to the world or brings about a new balance and order.
PRACTICE ACTIVITY: PLOT
Discuss a well-known story in class. Fairytales are an excellent resource for this activity. Students must name a scene from each story that corresponds to each of the sections of the plot as listed above: exposition, conflict, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.
Setting consists of two key elements: space and time. Space refers to the where of the story, most often the geographical location where the action of the story takes place. Time refers to the when of the story. This could be a historical period, the present, or the future.
The setting has other aspects for the reader or writer to consider. For example, drilling down from the broader time and place, elements such as the weather, cultural context, physical surroundings, etc., can be important.
The setting is a crucial part of a story’s exposition and is often used to establish the mood of the story. A carefully crafted setting can be used to skillfully hint at the story’s theme and reveal some aspects of the various characters.
PRACTICE ACTIVITY: SETTING
Gather up a variety of fiction and nonfiction texts. Students should go through the selected texts and write two sentences about each that identify the settings of each. The sentences should make clear where and when the stories take place.
A story’s characters are the doers of the actions. Characters most often take human form, but, on occasion, a story can employ animals, fantastical creatures, and even inanimate objects as characters.
Some characters are dynamic and change over the course of a story, while others are static and do not grow or change due to the story’s action.
There are many different types of characters to be found in works of literature, and each serves a different function.
Now, let’s look at some of the most important of these.
The protagonist is the story’s main character. The story’s plot centers around these characters, who are usually sympathetic and likable to the reader; that is, they are most often the ‘hero’ of the story.
The antagonist is the bad guy or girl of the piece. Most of the plot’s action is borne of the conflict between the protagonist and the antagonist.
Flat characters are one-dimensional characters that are purely functional in the story. They are more a sketch than a detailed portrait, and they help move the action along by serving a simple purpose. We aren’t afforded much insight into the interior lives of such characters.
Unlike flat characters, rounded characters are more complex and drawn in more detail by the writer. As well as being described in comprehensive physical detail, we will gain an insight into the character’s interior life, their hopes, fears, dreams, desires, etc.
Choose a play that has been studied in class. Students should look at the character list and then categorize each of the characters according to the abovementioned types: protagonist, antagonist, flat character, or rounded character. As an extension, can the students identify whether each character is dynamic or static by the end of the tale?
4: POINT OF VIEW
Point of view in literature refers to the perspective through which you experience the story’s events.
There are various advantages and disadvantages to the different points of view available for the writer, but they can all be usefully categorized according to whether they’re first-person, second-person, or third-person points of view.
Now, let’s look at some of the most common points of view in each category.
The key to recognizing this point of view is using pronouns such as I, me, my, we, us, our, etc. There are several variations of the first-person narrative , but they all have a single person narrating the story’s events either as it unfolds or in the past tense.
When considering a first-person narrative, the first question to ask is who is the person telling the story. Let’s look at two main types of the first-person point of view.
First-Person Protagonist : This is when the story’s main character relates the action first-hand as he or she experiences or experienced it. As the narrator is also the main character, the reader is placed right at the center of the action and sees events unfold through the main character’s eyes.
First-Person Periphery: In this case, we see the story unfold, not from the main character’s POV but from the perspective of a secondary character with limited participation in the story itself.
Second Person: This perspective is uncommon. Though it is hard to pull off without sounding corny, you will find it in some books, such as those Choose Your Own Adventure-type books. You can recognize this perspective by using the second person pronoun ‘you’.
Third Person Limited: From this perspective, we see events unfold from the point of view of one person in the story. As the name suggests, we are limited to seeing things from the perspective of the third-person narrator and do not gain insight into the internal life of the other characters other than through their actions as described by the third-person narrator (he, she, they, etc.).
Third Person Omniscient: The great eye in the sky! The 3rd person omniscient narrator, as the name suggests, knows everything about everyone. From this point of view, nothing is off-limits. This allows the reader to peek behind every curtain and into every corner of what is going on as the narrator moves freely through time and space, jumping in and out of the characters’ heads along the way.
Advantages and Disadvantages
As we’ve mentioned, there are specific advantages and disadvantages to each of the different points of view. While the third-person omniscient point of view allows the reader full access to each character, the third-person limited point of view is great for building tension in a story as the writer can control what the reader knows and when they know it.
The main advantage of the first-person perspective is that it puts the reader into the head of the narrator. This brings a sense of intimacy and personal detail to the story.
We have a complete guide to point of view here for further details.
PRACTICE ACTIVITY: POINT OF VIEW
Take a scene from a story or a movie that the student is familiar with (again, fairytales can serve well here). Students must rewrite the scene from each of the different POVs listed above: first-person protagonist, first-person periphery, second-person, third-person limited, and third-person omniscient. Finally, discuss the advantages and disadvantages of writing the scene from each POV. Which works best and why?
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If the plot refers to what happens in a story, then the theme is to do with what these events mean.
The theme is the big ideas explored in a work of literature. These are often universal ideas that transcend the limits of culture, ethnicity, or language. The theme is the deeper meaning behind the events of the story.
Notably, the theme of a piece of writing is not to be confused with its subject. While the subject of a text is what it is about, the theme is more about how the writer feels about that subject as conveyed in the writing.
It is also important to note that while all works of literature have a theme, they never state that theme explicitly. Although many works of literature deal with more than one theme, it’s usually possible to detect a central theme amid the minor ones.
The most commonly asked question about themes from students is, ‘ How do we work out what the theme is? ’
The truth is, how easy or how difficult it will be to detect a work’s theme will vary significantly between different texts. The ease of identification will depend mainly on how straightforward or complex the work is.
Students should look for symbols and motifs within the text to identify the theme. Especially symbols and motifs that repeat.
Students must understand that symbols are when one thing is used to stand for another. While not all symbols are related to the text’s theme, when symbols are used repeatedly or found in a cluster, they usually relate to a motif. This motif will, in turn, relate to the theme of the work.
Of course, this leads to the question: What exactly is a motif?
A motif is a recurring idea or an element that has symbolic significance. Uncovering this significance will reveal the theme to a careful reader.
We can further understand the themes as concepts and statements. Concepts are the broad categories or issues of the work, while statements are the position the writer takes on those issues as expressed in the text.
Here are some examples of thematic concepts commonly found in literature:
When discussing a work’s theme in detail, identifying the thematic concept will not be enough. Students will need to explore what the thematic statements are in the text. That is, they need to identify the opinions the writer expresses on the thematic concepts in the text.
For example, we might identify that a story is about forgiveness, that is, that forgiveness is the primary thematic concept. When we identify what the work says about forgiveness, such as it is necessary for a person to move on with their life, we identify a thematic statement.
PRACTICE ACTIVITY: THEME
Again, choose familiar stories to work with. For each story, identify and write the thematic concept and statement. For more complex stories, multiple themes may need to be identified.
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Tone refers to how the theme is treated in a work. Two works may have the same theme, but each may adopt a different tone in dealing with that theme. For example, the tone of a text can be serious, comical, formal, informal, gloomy, joyful, sarcastic, or sentimental, to name but eight.
The tone that the writer adopts influences how the reader reads that text. It informs how the reader will feel about the characters and events described.
Tone helps to create the mood of the piece and gives life to the story as a whole.
PRACTICE ACTIVITY: TONE
Find examples of texts that convey each of the eight tones listed above: serious, comical, formal, informal, gloomy, joyful, sarcastic, and sentimental. Give three examples from each text that convey that specific tone. The examples can be drawn from direct quotations of the narrative or dialogue or a commentary on the structure of the text.
Though the essential elements of literature are few in number, they can take a lifetime to master. The more experience a student gains in creating and analyzing texts regarding these elements, the more adept they will become in their use.
Time invested in this area will reap rich rewards regarding the skill with which a student can craft a text and the level of enjoyment and meaning they can derive from their reading.
Time well spent, for sure.
Other great articles related to elements of literature.
7 ways to write great Characters and Settings | Story Elements
Teaching The 5 Story Elements: A Complete Guide for Teachers & Students
Short Story Writing for Students and Teachers
The content for this page has been written by Shane Mac Donnchaidh. A former principal of an international school and English university lecturer with 15 years of teaching and administration experience. Shane’s latest Book, The Complete Guide to Nonfiction Writing , can be found here. Editing and support for this article have been provided by the literacyideas team.
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5 Elements Of a Story Explained With Examples (+ Free Worksheet)
What do all good stories have in common? And no it’s not aliens or big explosions! It’s the five elements of a story: Characters, Setting, Plot, Conflict and Resolution. Story elements are needed to create a well-structured story. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing a short story or a long novel, the core elements are always there.
What are Story Elements?
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This short video lesson explains the main points relating to the five story elements:
Story elements are the building blocks needed to make a story work. Without these blocks, a story will break down, failing to meet the expectations of readers. Simply put, these elements remind writers what to include in stories, and what needs to be planned. By understanding each element, you increase the chances of writing a better story or novel.
Over the years, writers have adapted these elements to suit their writing process. In fact, there can be as few as 4 elements in literature all the way up to 12 elements. The most universally used story elements contain just five building blocks:
These five elements are a great place to start when you need help planning your story. You may also notice that these story elements are what most book outlining techniques are based on.
5 Elements Of A Story
Below we have explained each of the five elements of a story in detail, along with examples.
Characters are the most familiar element in stories. Every story has at least one main character. Stories can also have multiple secondary characters, such as supporting characters and villain/s. The main character should be introduced at the beginning. While introducing this character it is a good idea to include key information about this character’s personality, past and physical appearance. You should also provide a hint to what this character’s major conflict is in the story (more on conflict later).
The main character also goes through changes throughout the story. All the challenges and obstacles they face in the story allow them to learn, grow and develop. Depending on your plot, they might become a better person, or even a worse one – if this is a villain’s origin story. But be careful here – Growth should not be mistaken for a personality change! The main character must stay true to who they are. Deep inside their personality should stay more or less the same. The only thing that changes is the lessons they learn, and how these impact them.
Check out this post on 20 tips for character development for more guidance.
Settings in stories refer to three things: Location, Time Period and Mood. The easiest element to understand is location . Location is the physical place/s the story takes part in mostly. For example, the tale of Cinderella takes part in two main locations: Cinderella’s Palace and the Ballroom at the Prince’s Palace. It is a good idea to explain each new location in great detail, so the readers feel like they are also right there with the characters. The physical location is also something that can be included at the beginning of the story to set the story’s tone.
Next comes the time period . Every story is set in some time period. Some stories especially about time travel may be set across multiple time periods. You don’t always have to include the exact date or year in your story. But it is a good idea that during the planning phase, you know the year or even dates the story is set in. This can help you include accurate details about location and even key events. For example, you don’t want to be talking about characters using mobile phones in the 18th century – It just wouldn’t make sense (Unless of course, it’s a time travel story)!
The final part of the setting is the mood . The mood is the feeling you want readers to feel when reading your story. Do you want them to be scared, excited or happy? It’s the way you explain and describe a particular location, object or person. For example in horror stories, you may notice dark language being used throughout, such as gore, dismal, damp or vile. While a fairy tale such as Cinderella uses light and warm language like magical, glittering, beautiful or happily ever after. The choice of words sets the mood and adds an extra layer of excitement to a story.
The plot explains what a story is about from beginning to end. It can contain multiple scenes and events. In its simplest form, a plot has a beginning, middle and end. The beginning introduces the characters and sometimes shows a minor conflict. The middle is where the major conflict occurs. And the ending is where all conflicts are resolved, and the story comes to a close. The story mountain template is a great way to plan out a story’s plot.
A story is not a story without conflict. Conflict is also a key part of a story’s plot (see section above). The purpose of conflict in stories is to challenge your characters and push them to their limits. It is only when they face this conflict, do they really grow and reach their full potential. Conflicts can be internal, external or both. Internal conflicts come from inside your main character, such as not having the confidence in themself or having a fear of something. While external conflicts are created elsewhere, such as natural disasters or evil villains creating havoc.
The resolution is a solution to the main conflict. Without a resolution, the conflict would be neverending, and this could lead to a disappointing ending to your story. Resolutions could include huge battle scenes or even the discovery of new information which changes everything. Sometimes in stories resolutions don’t always solve the conflict 100%. This normally leads to cliffhanger endings, where a small piece of conflict still exists somewhere. But the important thing to remember is that all conflicts need some kind of resolution in stories to make them satisfying to the reader.
Story Elements Examples
We explained each story element above, and now it’s time to put our teachings into practice. Here are some common story element examples we created.
The fox and the crow is one of Aesop’s most famous fables . It tells the story of a sly fox who tricks a foolish crow into giving her breakfast away. You can read the full fable on the read.gov website .
Here are the elements of a story applied to the fable of the fox and the crow:
- Characters: A sly fox and a foolish crow.
- Setting: Bright Morning in the woods.
- Plot: A hungry fox is looking for food. The fox notices the crow with cheese in its beak. Using his charming words, the fox tricks the crow into dropping the cheese into the fox’s mouth. The story ends with the fox feeling satisfied, and the crow left with nothing to eat.
- Conflict: The Fox wants the cheese that the Crow has.
- Resolution: Using his charming words, the fox is able to trick the crow into singing. When she starts to sing, the cheese drops into the fox’s mouth.
Cinderella is one of the most famous fairy tales of all time. It tells the tale of a poor servant girl who is abused by her stepmother and stepsisters. One night with the help of her fairy godmother, she attends the ball. It is at the ball that the prince falls in love with Cinderella. Eventually leading to a happy ending.
Here are the elements of a story applied to the short story of Cinderella:
- Characters: Cinderella, the stepsisters, the stepmother, the fairy godmother, and the prince.
- Setting: Long time ago in a kingdom. Physical locations include Cinderella’s Palace and the ballroom at the Prince’s Palace.
- Plot: Cinderella’s father passes away leaving her with her horrible stepmother and two stepsisters. They abuse her and make her clean the house all day. One day, an invite comes from the Prince’s palace inviting everyone to the ball. Cinderella is forced to stay at home, while her stepmother and sisters attend. Suddenly Cinderella’s fairy godmother appears and helps her get to the ball. But she must return home by midnight. At the ball, Cinderella and the Prince fall in love. The clock nearly strikes twelve and Cinderella runs away leaving a glass slipper behind. The prince then searches the kingdom to find Cinderella. Eventually, he finds her. The two get married and live happily ever after.
- Conflict: Cinderella must find a way to get away from her stepmother and stepsisters.
- Resolution: Cinderella and the prince get married.
Put everything you learned into practice with our free story elements worksheet PDF. This PDF includes a blank story elements anchor chart or graphic organiser, two completed examples and an explanation of each of the story elements. This worksheet pack is great for planning your own story:
Common Questions About Story Elements
Writing a story is a huge task. Simply just putting pen to paper isn’t really going to cut it, especially if you want to write professionally. Planning is needed. That’s where the story elements come in. Breaking a story down into different components, helps you plan out each area carefully. It also reminds you of the importance of each element and the impact they can have on the final story.
Some writers have expanded the traditional 5 elements to 7 elements of a story. These 7 elements include:
- Theme: What is the moral or main lesson to learn in your story?
- Characters: Who are your main and supporting characters?
- Setting: Where is your story set? Think about location and time period.
- Plot: What happens in your story?
- Conflict: What is the main conflict? Is this conflict internal or external?
- Point of View: Is this story written in first, second or third person view?
- Style: What kind of language or tone of voice will you use?
The 5 elements of a story include:
- Setting: Where is your story set? Think about location, time period and mood.
- Plot: What are the key events that happen in your story ?
- Resolution: How is the main conflict solved?
The longest version of the story elements includes 12 elements:
- Protagonist: Who is the main character or hero of the story?
- Antagonist : Who is the villain of the story?
- Setting : Where is your story set? Think about location and time period.
- Conflict : What is the main conflict? Is this conflict internal or external?
- Sacrifice : What will the main character lose if they fail?
- Rising Action : What action/s lead up to the main conflict?
- Falling Action: What happens after the conflict had ended?
- Message: What is the key message of your story?
- Language : What kind of words would you use? Think about the tone of voice and mood of the story.
- Theme: What is the overall moral or main lesson to learn in your story?
- Reality: How does your story relate to the real world?
Some versions of the story elements, completely remove the conflict element. In the 6 elements structure, conflict is included in the plot element:
- Plot: What happens in your story? Think about the main conflict.
We could consider the order of events, in this 9 story elements structure:
- Tension: What is the source of conflict?
- Climax: The moment when the main conflict happens.
- Plot: What happens in your story?
- Purpose: Why do certain events happen in your story?
- Chronology: What is the order of main events in your story?
The story elements can also be adapted to contain 8 elements:
- Style: What kind of language or words will you use?
- Tone: What is the overall mood of the story? Is it dark, funny or heartfelt?
Got any more questions about the key elements of a story? Share them in the comments below!
Marty the wizard is the master of Imagine Forest. When he's not reading a ton of books or writing some of his own tales, he loves to be surrounded by the magical creatures that live in Imagine Forest. While living in his tree house he has devoted his time to helping children around the world with their writing skills and creativity.
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Story Elements: 7 Main Elements of a Story and 5 Elements of Plot
Krystal N. Craiker
Whether it’s a short story, novel, or play, every type of story has the same basic elements.
Today, we’re taking a look at the seven key elements of a story, as well as the five elements of plot. Knowing these essential elements will ensure that your story is well-developed and engaging.
What Are the 7 Literary Elements of a Story?
What are the 5 elements of plot, conclusion: basic story elements.
There are seven basic elements of a story, and they all work together. There’s no particular order of importance because they are all necessary.
When you’re writing a story, you might start with one and develop the others later. For instance, you might create a character before you have a plot or setting.
There’s no correct place to start—as long as you have all seven elements by the end, you’ve got a story.
Every story needs characters. Your protagonist is your main character, and they are the primary character interacting with the plot and the conflict. You might have multiple protagonists or secondary protagonists. An antagonist works against your main character’s goals to create conflict.
There are short stories and even some plays that have only one character, but most stories have several characters. Not every minor character needs to be well-developed and have a story arc, but your major players should.
Your characters don’t have to be human or humanoid, either. Animals or supernatural elements can be characters, too!
Your story must take place somewhere. Setting is where and when the story takes place, the physical location and time period.. Some stories have only one setting, while others have several settings.
A story can have an overarching setting and smaller settings within it. For example, Pride and Prejudice takes place in England. Lizzy travels through several locations in the country. The smaller settings within the story include individual homes and estates, like Longbourn, Netherfield Park, and Pemberley.
Setting also includes time periods. This might be a year or an era. You can be less specific in your time period, like “modern-day” or “near future,” but it is still an important component of your setting.
Our next story element is theme. You can think of theme as the “why” behind the story. What is the big idea? Why did the author write the story, and what message are they trying to convey?
Some common themes in stories include:
- Good versus evil
- Coming of age
Themes can also be warnings, such as the dangers of seeking revenge or the effects of war. Sometimes themes are social criticisms on class, race, gender, or religion.
Tone might be the most complicated of all the story elements. Tone is the overall feeling of your story. A mystery might be foreboding. A women’s literature story might feel nostalgic. A romance might have an optimistic, romantic tone.
Tone should fit both your genre and your individual story. Create tone with writing elements such as word choice, sentence length, and sentence variety. Aspects of the setting, such as the weather, can contribute to tone, as well.
ProWritingAid can help with some of the aspects of tone. In your document settings, change your document type to your genre. The Summary Report will then compare various style aspects to your genre, such as sentence length, emotion tells, and sentence structure. These all play a role in establishing a tone that fits your genre.
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Point of View
Every story needs a point of view (POV). This determines whether we’re seeing something from the narrator’s perspective or a character’s perspective. There are four main points of view in creative writing and literature.
First person tells the story from a character’s perspective using first person pronouns (I, me, my, mine, we, our, ours). The POV does not have to be from the perspective of the main character. For example, in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby , the narrator, Nick, is mostly an observer and participant in Gatsby and Daisy’s story.
You can also use third person limited to show the story through the eyes of one character. This point of view uses third person pronouns (he, him, his, her, hers, their, theirs). If your story features alternating points-of-view, third person limited only shows one character’s perspective at a time.
First person and third person limited points of view are sometimes referred to as deep POV .
If the story is told from the narrator’s perspective, the POV is typically third person omniscient. Omniscient means all-knowing: the narrator sees all and knows all.
Rarely, stories are written in second person (you, yours). This point of view is more common in short stories than novellas or novels. Fanfiction and choose-your-own-adventure stories use second person more often than traditional creative writing does.
Conflict is the problem that drives a story’s plot forward. The conflict is what is keeping your characters from achieving their goals. There are internal conflicts, in which the character must overcome some internal struggle. There are also external conflicts that the character must face.
There are seven major types of conflict in literature. They are:
- Man vs. man
- Man vs. nature
- Man vs. society
- Man vs. technology
- Man vs. supernatural
- Man vs. fate
- Man vs. self
Typically, a story has several small conflicts and a large, overarching internal or external conflict. While all the elements of a story are crucial, conflict is the one that makes your story interesting and engaging.
Finally, you can’t have a story without a plot. The plot is the series of events that occur in a story. It’s the beginning, middle, and end. It’s easy to confuse conflict and plot.
Plot is what happens, while conflict is the things standing in the way of different characters’ goals. The two are inextricably linked.
Plot is one of the seven elements of a story, but there are also different elements of plot. We’ll cover this in greater detail in the next section.
Everything, from a short story to a novel, requires not only the basic elements of a story but also the same essential elements of a plot. While there are multiple types of plot structure (e.g. three-act structure, five-act structure, hero’s journey ), all plots have the same elements. Together, these form a story arc.
Exposition sets the scene. It’s the beginning of the story where we meet our main character and see what their life is like. It also establishes the setting and tone.
The exposition leads to an event known as the inciting incident . This is the gateway to the rising action. This part of the story contains all of the events that lead to the culmination of all the plot points. We see most of the conflict in this section.
The climax is the height of a story. The character finally faces and usually defeats whatever the major conflict is. Tension builds through the rising action and peaks at the climax.
Sometimes, stories have more than one climax, depending on the plot structure, or if there are two different character arcs.
The falling action is when all the other conflicts or character arcs begin resolving. Anything that isn’t addressed in the climax will be addressed in the falling action. Just because the characters have passed the most difficult part of the plot doesn't mean everything is tied up neatly in a bow. Sometimes the climax causes new conflicts!
Resolution or Denouement
The end of a story is called the resolution or denouement. All major conflicts are resolved or purposely left open for a cliff-hanger or sequel. In many stories, this is where you find the happily ever after, but a resolution doesn’t have to be happy. It’s the ending of a story arc or plot, and all the questions are answered or intentionally unanswered.
The seven elements of a story and the five elements of plot work together to form a cohesive and complete story arc. No one element is more important than the other. If you’re writing your own story, planning each of the basic story elements and plot points is a great place to start your outline.
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What Are the Key Elements of a Story?
- Teaching Tools
4. point of view, 5. conflict.
There are five key elements to every story: plot , setting , characters , point of view , and conflict . Whether your students realize it or not, they naturally include all these elements when they’re telling a story to their families or their best fr. It’s what creates the story’s flow, builds anticipation, and excites their listeners.
We can all be great storytellers. It’s in our nature to enjoy a good story and feel compelled to share our own. But when students sit down at their keyboards, or start to put pen to paper, it’s easy to freeze up. Why is writing something down so much harder than chatting up a friend?
Good news — it doesn’t have to be! Encourage your students to take some time before you start writing to figure out their five key story elements. Need some help and direction? Read on for all the details they need to brainstorm the parts of their stories. With this newfound clarity, it’s easy to write a tale their whole class will love. Let’s get started!
The plot is the events or actions that drive your story — it describes the “what” of your tale. The plot lets the reader know what’s happening, describes the problems your characters are trying to solve, and gives the details on how they attempt to solve them.
A strong, compelling plot is essential to any story. But that doesn’t mean it needs to be full of Michael Bay-type action. You don’t need crazy car chases or epic battles to construct an exciting plot. Strong emotions can also drive your story and give your characters plenty to talk about.
However, your story does need several clearly defined plot elements to help you structure your tale’s events and keep the story moving forward.
Elements of Plot
To keep your reader engaged and interested, your story should include these plot elements: exposition , rising action , climax , falling action , and resolution . Let’s explore each one.
Exposition gives the reader the background info they need to jump right into your story’s world . This is often found towards the beginning of your story. Even if you choose to jump right into the action, somewhere along the way your reader needs to get a crash course on your characters’ or setting’s history.
Exposition can be given in a variety of ways. Some examples include:
- Character dialogue
- Letters from the past
- Setting or character descriptions
- Point of View (aka POV, such as the narrator or main character’s thoughts)
But, as spoken by Officer Lockstock in the Tony award-winning Urinetown: The Musical, “nothin’ can kill a show like too much exposition.” This rings true whether you’re watching a play or reading a story. Don’t overload the reader with background info right out of the gate. Keep it natural and let it drive the story forward rather than stalling it while everyone catches up.
Look to great worldbuilding novels, such as Lord of the Rings or Hunger Games, for excellent examples of setting the stage. These worlds were built from the ground up, but as a reader, it never feels labored. Find the common ground between your story’s world and the reader’s and work from there, cluing them into the big differences as you go.
The rising action is the moments in your story that lead up to the climax — choices your main characters have made and the events happening that are at odds with your characters’ goals. This is where your story builds and your reader begins to invest in your characters.
This is likely going to be the longest section of your story. A whole lot happens between the start of the novel and that moment, but often you’ll find yourself holding your breath and waiting to see what will happen. That is the power of rising action.
This is it — the primary turning point and what your story has been building towards . What are your main characters going to do? Will they succeed or fail?
Typical climaxes include victories or defeats. The main goal of the climax is to resolve the conflict, but whether that positively or negatively affects your character is up to you. Or maybe it’s not that simple.
Now that the main conflict is resolved, it’s time to begin wrapping everything up . The falling action is a great time to tie up any loose ends while also giving your characters a chance to deal with the aftermath of the climax.
It’s time to end your tale! If you still have unanswered questions in your plot, answer them now. The resolution is also the time to show the next step in your characters’ lives. Do they live happily ever after? Is a new era dawning? Or do they just continue on with their ordinary existence with a new experience under their belt?
The resolution of one story can also be the start of another. You can introduce a new conflict or raise more questions for your reader. Wrap it up, then begin again!
The setting of your story is both the physical location and point in time in which your plot takes place . For some stories (like the fantasy novels mentioned above) setting is a huge part of the story. You can build a whole new world with its own languages and creatures. In this case, the setting almost acts as its own character in your tale.
But, you don’t have to go all immersive like Tolkien to create a strong setting in your story. What best serves your main themes? Modern day New York or civil rights era Mississippi? Victorian England or Jersey in the 80s? There are so many places you can travel to, and so many interesting times to draw from. Choose your favorite (or multiple favorites if your characters have a time machine 😉) and dig in.
The characters are the people, animals, beings, or personified objects driving your story. A story can have many characters or just one main character as the focus . Going back to our example, The Hunger Games focuses on Katniss, but there are many supporting characters that play a major role in her story: Haymitch, Peeta, Gale, Rue, Primrose, and many, many more. On the other hand, Edgar Allen Poe’s poem “The Raven” has only three: the narrator, Lenore, and the raven. But that’s plenty for an exciting tale.
Your story’s characters should be compelling. Whether good or evil, you need your reader to invest and care about their journey. So, what kind of characters does your story need?
Kinds of Characters
There are many different kinds of characters, but most stories include these two common types :
The protagonist is typically the ‘good guy’ in your story — the one the reader is rooting for. This main character is super important and central to your plot. They are often trying to overcome the conflict while finding themselves at odds with our next character type.
The antagonist of your story doesn’t have to be a single person. It can be any character, group, or force that is at odds with your protagonist. This doesn’t mean they have to be ‘evil’ or the ‘bad guy’, but the antagonist is often pushing the conflict onto our protagonist.
Looking for a fun example? Check out the Wicked Witch from The Wizard of Oz . She’s a classic antagonist in the original story. But in the musical Wicked , we’re told her background tale and she’s transformed into a protagonist the audience can’t help but love. That is the power of a good story!
What changed in our two stories above about the Wicked Witch of the West? The point of view! Point of view (or POV) describes the lens through which the story is being told.
In The Wizard of Oz , the Wicked Witch is at odds with our protagonist Dorothy and her quest to return home. However, in Wicked , we get to see the green witch as a young woman going through the typical struggles of friendship and young love. And that is a whole other story.
Types of Point of View
The POV you choose can help shape your entire story. There are several different POVs to consider, but the most common are first person , second person , and third person .
First Person Point of View
A story told in the first person is most often told from the point of view of the protagonist. Our protagonist narrator will speak using first person pronouns (I, we, me, etc). And as the reader, we are privy to their innermost thoughts and feelings.
This is a great way to pull a reader into the story, and a very strong bond can be formed between the reader and the narrator. Our previous example, The Hunger Games , was told with a first person POV. As a reader, we never knew more than Katniss did about what was happening, leading to some great surprises and reveals as the story continued to unfold throughout the three book series.
Second Person Point of View
You won’t see second person used very often in literature, but it is an important POV to keep in mind. In the second person, the reader is addressed directly and may even become a character of sorts in your story. This point of view is written using second person pronouns (you, your, etc).
Though you can find some books written in second person, most often you will see this writing in your digital reading, such as ads and blog posts — why, hello there!
Third Person Point of View
Third person POV is by far the most common point of view in fiction writing. In this kind of story, the reader is a bystander, observing the actions of the characters as told by an ‘outside narrator’. This POV used third person pronouns (he, she, they, etc). But how much we learn as a reader depends on which style of narrator you choose.
Third Person Omniscient
A third person omniscient narrator knows everything going down in the story. As a reader, we can learn the inside thoughts and feelings of all the main characters. The story unfolds in front of us, and we get to experience it through a variety of character lenses.
Third Person Limited
In this POV, our narrator has access to only one character’s inside thoughts and feelings. As the reader, we typically follow this one character as our main character, learning only what they know and seeing the world through their eyes and experiences.
The conflict is the big problem of the story. What is your main character trying to overcome? That is the conflict .
Conflict comes in many different forms, but will almost always involve an antagonist of sorts. There can be one major conflict in your story, or your characters may encounter several throughout the tale. But more than likely there is one big theme driving the major conflict. So, what does that look like?
Types of Conflict
There are different types of conflicts you may choose to use, but the most common are character vs self , character vs character , character vs nature , and character vs society .
Character vs Self
In this type of conflict, your main character must overcome something within themselves to achieve their goal. These internal conflicts may look like a doubt, fear, or grudge. It’s whatever is holding them back from their desires.
The Lord of the Rings provides a great example of character vs self with Aragorn. He is destined to be king, but his own doubts have taken him away from that path. One of the major plots of the story is Aragorn realizing that he is capable and worthy of this leadership role.
Character vs Character
In a character vs character conflict, someone is standing in our protagonist’s way. This is a very common conflict type in superhero tales. There’s a ‘bad guy’ our main characters must defeat before the story ends.
Character vs Nature
Character vs nature conflicts pit our characters against some kind of natural force. It could be a natural disaster (tornado, hurricane, wildfire, avalanche) or any other kind of survival tale. Many post-apocalyptic stories involve both character vs nature and character vs character conflicts.
Another example of character vs nature is when our characters are battling forces of nature, such as in The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. In this heartbreaking story, two teens are fighting cancer diagnoses — a force of nature they have no control over. After falling in love, they are then left to battle time and death — two other powerful forces of nature.
Character vs Society
In our final conflict type, characters are battling oppressive societal norms. In character vs society, our protagonist feels like they are at odds with the whole world. This can often be broken down into character vs character to get a strong emotional pull (such as a kid at odd with their parents) but the themes are much bigger than any one person.
The importance of incorporating these elements into your story
When you’re helping students write their story, keep these elements in mind or encourage students to use them to outline their stories and major themes. Including these five elements will give their stories direction, structure, and a great flow, keeping their readers flipping those pages long into the night.
Now, what are you waiting for? Go forth and give your students the tools they need to tell their tale! We can’t wait to read what your students dream up.
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Short story definition.
A short story is a fully developed story that is shorter than a novel and longer than a fable . It typically takes just a single sitting for reading. Short Story focuses on the incidents bigger or smaller and evokes strong feelings from its readers. A short story often has a few characters in the plot .
Features of a Short Story
As a short story is mostly a short narrative and has few features. The standard features include exposition , complication, crisis, climax , and resolution of the crisis. However, it is not essential that all short stories follow the same pattern.
Difference between Short Story, Novella, and Novel
Writers do not agree on the exact length of a story but some say that it presents only one aspect of life and is reasonably beyond or within a 3,000 to 7,000-word count. However, a novelette is a bit longer and typically presents several aspects of the life of a character or some character such as Animal Farm by George Orwell and The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway . However, novels are divided into chapters, are longer, and are usually above 50,000 words. Some novels are in higher volumes like Charles Dicken’s A Tale of Two Cities or Judge the Obscure by Thomas Hardy .
How to Write and Plot a Short Story?
When writing a short story or creating a plot of a short story, keep these points in your mind.
- Create lifelike characters and move them fast in the story. It’s also called pace.
- Keep the number of characters quite limited, if and when possible. Ideally, they should be more than one and less than five. Especially when you are just in the learning stage.
- Create a conflict between characters or between a character and nature.
- Put a resolution or mystery by the end or In Medias Res .
- Use figurative language .
Five (5) Major Elements of a Short Story
Although there are several elements and it could depend on the writer what to include or what not to include, these five are fundamental elements of a short story.
Examples of Short Stories from Literature
The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde
The Happy Prince is one of the best stories written in English Literature written by Oscar Wilde. The story shows how the elites of that kingdom neglect the poor. And the statue of the Happy Prince takes the help of a Swallow to help the poor of the city. One by one, the Prince starts losing his precious stones, rubies, and gold leaves when the Swallow starts plucking them to give to the poor that the Prince can see from his high pedestal. The dramatic irony of the story reaches the climax when the city mayor sees the dead bird and the ugly broken statue. When the statue is sent to a furnace, God invites the Prince and the Swallow to live in the City of Gold in heaven.
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
In the short story The Yellow Wallpaper, Charlotte sheds light on the difficulties faced by the narrator of the story, due to depression after childbirth. Her husband John, a physician, takes her to a countryside home for the cure and assumes that she is suffering from hysteria. He doesn’t allow her to do her favorite activities , like writing which helps her escape reality. She is also distant to her child. After a while, she is obsessed with the yellow wallpaper in her room and imagines that a woman, like her, is stuck in it and wants to come out. To help the imaginary woman, the narrator starts peeling the wallpaper. By the end of the story, John, sees her creeping around the room and faints. The story also highlights how many women are ignored by their spouses, leading them to depression.
The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” is another wonderful example of a short horror story. In the story, the anonymous narrator tells about the murder of an old man that he has committed in cold blood because he had ‘vulture eyes’. The story is told in the first-person narrative and explores the state of mind of a person. The narrator has hallucinations after the murder when he feels guilty. He convinces the readers that he is not insane. By the end of the story, he continues to hallucinate and asks what to do to make the old man’s heart stop. This is an excellent example of a short story having a few characters and a complicated theme .
The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin
This story is an extraordinary piece of its time. Louise Mallard, probably oppressed by her husband, is relieved when she sees the prospects of freedom after the death of her husband. She rejoices and imagines a bright future after receiving the news. However, Brently Mallard, Louise’s husband returns home. The pain of her failing dreams causes her to suffer a heart attack and death. The doctor assumes that she has died of heart failure as she couldn’t absorb the happiness at her husband’s arrival.
The Necklace by Guy De Maupassant
The Necklace is one of the best short stories. It revolves around the life of a clerk in the ministry of education and his extraordinarily beautiful wife, Mathilda. She borrows an expensive necklace from her friend for a ball but loses it when they are returning home. They, somehow, arrange to replace it after purchasing the original necklace with borrowed money and spend their lives in the struggle to pay back the loan. After several years, they met the same friend again. To their horror, she tells them that her necklace was fake.
To Build a Fire by Jack London
To Build a Fire is the story of an anonymous character who leaves home for a destination on the Yukon trail but faces heavy snow which makes him fall. He tries to kill his dog to keep himself alive, but the dog also senses his intentions. Later, he tries to make the fire but does not succeed and dies. His struggle and his wrong notion about his strength and thinking power prove fatal for him. This is one of the best short stories without the names of the characters.
Short Story Meaning and Function
A short story presents one aspect of the life of a character. It could be an incident, an event, a description of a feeling, or even a simple act. A short story can also impact a reader and even inspire them. For persons who cannot read novels, enjoy reading the short stories. Moreover, in a short story, the characters also share their innermost thoughts, their motives, their feelings, their emotions, and different notions.
Synonyms of Short Story
The nearest synonyms for the short story are narrative, novella , tale, yarn, story, and novelette.
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7 Elements of a Story: How to Create an Awesome Narrative
If you're looking to turn an original idea into a story, you're in luck: thanks to the groundwork laid by storytellers over the years, we now know the secrets of creating an engaging narrative. You can turn the slightest concept into a gripping tale by mastering the seven essential elements of a story — theme, characters, setting, plot, conflict, point of view, and style.
To help you better understand how stories come together, here are seven elements you'll find in almost any story:
Story Element #1: Theme
Story element #2: characters, story element #3: setting, story element #4: plot, story element #5: conflict, story element #6: point of view, story element #7: style.
Before you can work out what’s driving your characters or your plot, it helps to know what’s driving you to write this story in the first place. Is there an overarching lesson or message you want to get across? Are you looking to evoke a certain feeling?
A clear, artfully deployed theme will elevate your story beyond the sum of its parts and help it stick in the minds of your readers. Make sure you give those readers some credit, though: instead of spelling it out, weave aspects of your theme into other elements of your story and let them discover it on their own.
- What is the Theme of a Story? (Guide)
Your characters give your story the depth it needs to keep readers wanting more — they are, quite literally, the life force of your story. Their personalities and interactions with one another will naturally create conflict and drive your story forward.
Well-crafted characters will also make your story more relatable. If your readers can imagine themselves in your characters’ shoes — or recognize aspects of characters’ personalities in people they know — they’ll develop a stronger connection with your story as a whole.
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The setting is the world in which your story will take place — this includes the broader locations and time, as well as more specific details like your characters’ school or workplace. You’ll often see writers transplant well-known plots into a new setting ( Romeo & Juliet in Space! Cinderella in 1960s Brooklyn!). Whenever this happens, the new environment always finds a way to influence and adapt the story into something new.
While rich setting descriptions will captivate your readers, it’s important not to bore them with paragraphs upon paragraphs of pure description. As with the theme, weaving exposition into your story little by little will allow the reader to gradually create a mental image of your fictional world as the story unfolds, making for a much more immersive experience.
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Now we’re getting to the main event — the plot, aka the things that actually happen in your story. In almost all genres (the exception being literary fiction), as your story progresses, the stakes for your protagonist escalate and lead to an inevitable climax.
If your plot comes across as a sequence of random events, your readers will tend to get bored or confused
This happened, then this happened, and then THIS also happened.
Instead, each point of your plot must happen as a result of a character's actions.
This happened, therefore that happened, which then caused THIS to happen.
This pattern of "cause and effect" induces a sense of intrigue and suspense , making the audience want to find out what happens next.
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We mentioned rising stakes just now — the reason underlying this tension is your story’s conflict. Whether the source of this conflict is external, like an unyielding antagonist , or internal, like a moral struggle for your main character, it’ll be one of the most important elements of your story. Conflict creates tension by giving your protagonist some sense of purpose. It gets readers invested in the story, encouraging them to keep turning the page.
If you're still not convinced, remember that every story always asks the same question:
Will the protagonist overcome their obstacles to get what they want?
In other words, conflict is story.
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Your book’s point of view is the perspective from which the story is told. You’ve got a few options here, all of which have different impacts on the overall tone of your story. A close viewpoint like first person or third person limited will feel more intimate while ones that hold the protagonist at arm’s length (such as third person omniscient or second person ) may feel more objective and formal.
Understanding Point of View
Learn to master different POVs and choose the best for your story.
The character you choose for your book’s POV can also determine the arc of the entire narrative. Take a murder mystery novel : telling the story through the viewpoint of the murderer (possibly an unreliable narrator ) will be drastically different than if it had been seen through the detective's eyes.
By choosing an unusual viewpoint character, you can completely upend how your plot unfolds, the central conflict, and how your audience sympathizes with certain characters.
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Your writing style is the culmination of all the features that make your storytelling so unique — that’s everything from your pacing and tone to the specific words or phrases you use. While reflection and deliberation can help you refine your style, there really aren’t any particular criteria to determine what “good” prose means.
Take Ernest Hemmingway and Toni Morrison, two of America’s most celebrated authors — their writing styles couldn’t be more different. Hemmingway is known for his concise and straightforward prose, invoking scenes with a few sparse sentences. On the other hand, Morrison leans more towards rich and vivid imagery that relishes in the language. This goes to show that no style is better than another — as long as you’re being true to yourself, your personality will shine through and make your story one to be remembered.
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So there you have it, seven essential story elements that any narrative can’t live without. Bear these in mind as you work on your book, and you’ll be a master storyteller in no time!
If you’re ready to take your story to the next level, check out our guide to professional editing to help you work out your next steps.
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5 elements of plot and how to use them to build your novel, what is a plot.
To put it simply: you can’t have a story without a plot.
It doesn’t matter if you have a strong concept, an incredible cast of characters, an important message, or all three. If you don’t have a plot, you don’t have a story.
So how do you ensure you not only have a plot, but a good one? Let’s start from the beginning.
Plot point - An event or scene in your story.
Plot - The chain of events that make up your story, or the combination of your plot points.
Narrative arc - The order of plot points in your story.
Imagine you’ve written out all the scenes that make up your story on individual note cards . Each note card is a plot point. The stack of note cards as a whole is your plot. The order in which you organize these note cards is your narrative arc.
As you write multiple plot points or events that lead the reader from beginning to middle to end, you’re creating a plot.
It’s important to remember that the plot points in your story have to be intentional, not random. They must connect together and lead the story in a specific direction. For example, a dog sees a squirrel, a boy crashes his bike, and a little girl falls over is not a plot.
However, a dog sees a squirrel, and then its owner loses hold of its leash, causing the dog to run free, knocking over a little girl and causing a boy to crash his bike is a plot because the events connect together in a way that builds a story.
If the events do not connect and build upon each other, then why would a reader keep turning the page?
As you create your plot points—and therefore build your plot—you should start with the five elements of a plot. It’s a simple structure that works as a good starting point for building a story. Once you have your five plot points, it will be much easier to start filling in the blanks, building your narrative structure, and organizing your story as a whole.
The 5 Elements of Plot
This is your book’s introduction, where you introduce your characters, establish the setting, and begin to introduce the primary conflict of your story.
Often, the exposition of a story only lasts for a few chapters because readers are eager to dive into the conflict of the story. Don’t wait too long to introduce your inciting incident and get the ball rolling! Many authors make the mistake of having their exposition be full of interesting but ultimately unnecessary information about the world in their book. Don’t do this!
As much as you’ll want to make sure your reader knows all the background information, it’s not enjoyable to read pages and pages of non-action. You should immediately place the reader within the action of your story, and try to weave background information in as organically as you can here.
2. Rising Action
The rising action normally begins with an inciting incident, or a moment that sets your story into action. As it progresses, you’ll have multiple moments of conflict that escalate and create tension as the story moves toward the climax.
Think of it as the portion of a roller coaster where you’re climbing up to the peak. You want to continue to build your story until the reader is ready to reach the point where everything comes crashing down.
This section will take up the largest chunk of your book and can make or break your story—so be sure to make every moment of conflict more interesting than the last. Don’t be afraid to raise some questions that won’t get answered until the end of your book.
The climax is the peak of tension, plot, and character in your story. It’s the moment that your reader has been waiting for—so make it exciting!
Often, this is the point in the story that everything changes, or where your main character is forced to make a life-altering decision. It should be the point where the reader is unsure where your story is going to go next. To use our roller coaster analogy, imagine you’re at the top of the peak and everything stops: what’s going to happen? A great climax will leave the readers with this feeling, forcing them to keep reading until the end.
4. Falling Action
Now that you’ve reached the peak of your story, it’s time to start moving toward a more satisfying conclusion. This is the time to start resolving conflicts and subplots so your story doesn’t feel rushed in the last few chapters. This is also where any conflicts that arose as a result of the climax can start being resolved.
Finally, the resolution is the end of your story where you can tie up the final loose ends and bring your story to its happy or tragic ending. Or, if you’re writing a series, now would be the time to write a cliffhanger and leave them eager for the next installment!
How to Use These Elements to Build a Plot
To help you better understand how these plot elements work within the larger story framework, let’s look at the plot of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone .
- Exposition : We find out how Harry Potter, who is now 11, ended up at the Dursley’s, where he is beginning to receive letters from an unknown source.
- Rising Action : Harry finally finds out about his past and magical abilities, then goes to school at Hogwarts. He fights a troll with Ron to save Hermione, which turns out to be a distraction set up by Professor Quirrell. Harry is recruited to the Quidditch team, where during a match he is jinxed to fall off his broomstick. Harry sees Professor Snape fighting with another teacher, reinforcing his belief that he shouldn’t trust him. While serving detention, Harry finds out about Voldemort after Harry is nearly killed.
- Climax : Harry, Ron, and Hermione go to stop Snape from stealing the Sorcerer’s Stone, having to overcome many obstacles to get there. When Harry gets to the end, he finds Professor Quirrell, who is hosting Voldemort’s soul, and keeps them from finding the Sorcerer’s Stone.
- Falling Action : We find out Harry and his friends are OK and learn that the Sorcerer’s Stone has been destroyed.
- Resolution : Harry and his friends win House points for saving the school, causing Gryffindor to win the House Cup.
Do You Have to Follow This Plot Structure?
Ultimately, what you write is up to you. You are never required to follow any pre-determined arc or structure.
However, these five elements of plot are pretty standard—pick up any novel on your bookshelf and you’ll probably be able to identify them.
Because this plot structure is fairly simple and straightforward, there is plenty of room within it to explore and experiment. If you’re still struggling to develop a plot and need more of a framework, take a look at this article on narrative structure, specifically the section on the 3-act, 8-sequence structure. You’ll likely see a lot of similarities between the two, however the 3-act structure will provide a little more detail on how to build a story.
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What are the Elements of a Story? 12 Central Elements of Storytelling
by Fija Callaghan
Stories are gloriously, beautifully unique; there are as many of them in our world as there have been storytellers. Although many stories follow classic story archetypes , each one is its own distinctive act of creation.
But even though every tale is one of a kind, we can still see patterns in what makes our favorite stories engaging and memorable. These patterns are where we find our essential story elements.
What are the elements of a story?
The elements of a story are the core building blocks that almost any narrative will have, whether it’s a short story or a series of novels, a literary coming-of-age saga or a science fiction epic. These include: a protagonist, an antagonist, setting, perspective, an objective, stakes, rising action, falling action, symbolism, language, theme, and verisimilitude.
It’s these key elements that make us care deeply for the characters, their journey, and the lessons they learn along the way. They’re what make us take the journey and learn those lessons right beside them.
Let’s take a look at the basic story elements you’ll see again and again in the stories we love, and how to use all these elements when writing your own original tales.
The 12 essential elements of every great story
All great stories can be broken down into twelve basic elements. Here’s a closer look at each one and at why they’re so integral to crafting a good story.
1. A protagonist
A protagonist is the central character within a work of literature. A book is always told from this character’s perspective (we’ll look more at perspective down below).
They’re the beating heart to which all roads lead, the one whose choices carry the plot to its conclusion. All other literary elements and devices including the antagonist (which we’ll look at next), environment, and conflicts will in some way support the protagonist’s journey.
These things might help them along their way, become an obstacle that the protagonist needs to overcome, shape who the protagonist is and their relationship with the world around them, or challenge that relationship and teach the protagonist something new. No matter what, everything in your plot structure should in some way be connected to your central guiding character.
A great protagonist is particularly important because they’re the lens through while your reader will see the world of your story. It’s through their triumphs, losses, joys, passions, and agonies that we live within your world and come away from it slightly changed—with a new perspective or a new understanding about what it is to be human.
For tips on how to write a great protagonist, check out our lesson on character !
2. An antagonist
In order for your protagonist to go on a journey—which maybe a physical journey, or an emotional or spiritual one—they need someone or something to challenge them into action. An antagonist is a story element whose goals stand in direct opposition with the goals of the protagonist. They want something, and the protagonist wants something, and those desires cannot exist within the world at the same time.
Most classic villains are antagonists, but an antagonist can also be an otherwise good person whose circumstances have put them in conflict with the central character. They might even be a friend or loved one who has made different choices or has a contrasting view of the world—for example, a parent who can’t agree with their child’s plans for the future, even though the choices they make come from a place of love.
An antagonist can also be more than one person—for instance, a collective group, society, government, or culture. The protagonist’s major conflict may also be something impersonal, such as a force of nature, or it might come from within, like a mental illness or a weakness such as addiction.
Conflict can come in many forms . What matters is that the trajectory of the antagonist or conflicting force forces the protagonist into action and carries the story’s plot forward.
You can find out more about antagonists in literature, and how to craft a dynamic, compelling villain, here .
Setting is the time and place where your story happens. It refers to both the physical location of your narrative and the way your characters are affected by their time and place: their cultural environment, their relationship with the natural world, the way they speak, what sort of social and political events are happening around them.
All of these things are a part of how your characters formed as people.
This can play a major role in the action of the plot. If, for example, your novel is a horror story that takes place in a haunted house, the setting becomes the crux of every choice that your protagonist makes. If your book takes place during the Jazz Age of the American 1920s, the time period and its predominant cultural values will play a huge part in how your characters react to the world around them, what their limitations are, and the way in which they challenge those limitations.
Choosing the right setting and bringing it to life gives your writing a whole new dynamic. It’s where character, choice, and action all begin.
Want to learn more about writing engaging, vivid settings? Check out our lesson on setting .
Closely tied to setting is perspective, or the way your characters see the world. Every one of us brings our own unique filter to the relationship we have with the world around us, built out of our cultural biases, class, social interactions, level of education, upbringing, belief system, and experiences.
If you’re writing a work of medieval historical fiction, for instance, one character’s perspective can vary enormously from another’s. You could show your reader a single scene from the point of view of a queen, a servant, a young child, a landowner, and a knight and produce a very different story within every single one. Even in modern-day fiction, things such as race and social class still have an impact on how we build the world in our mind.
Perspective can also refer to point of view, or the specific narrative lens you choose for your work. The most common points of view in fiction are third person and first person, but there’s also second person and fourth person point of view to choose from! You can learn more about each of these types of point of view in our writing academy .
When used correctly, perspective is a marvelous literary device for bringing depth and suspense into your writing. It’s through clever use of this story element that we get things like the unreliable narrator, in which the writer deliberately misleads the reader’s expectations by writing from a skewed or uninformed point of view.
5. Something to fight for
When we looked at protagonists and antagonists we saw how these two central characters always have opposing goals. When forming your idea out of these basic elements, it’s essential that your hero has something to work towards. Your characters’ goals are the things that will power your story from beginning to end.
This might be a tangible objective, such as the quest for the holy grail; or it might be something more internal, like repairing a damaged relationship. In a good narrative, every single character should want something or be striving for something all the time—however, it’s the goal of your protagonist that’s going to drive the story forward.
Their choices, the consequences of those choices, and their subsequent reaction to those consequences will all be connected to their primary objective: the thing they have been fighting to reach all along.
6. Something to lose
Here’s where your story begins to develop its layers. Your protagonist needs something to fight for, but they also need something that’s at risk. Something they stand to lose if they fail in reaching their goal.
Let’s say your main character really, really wants a new car. That’s an objective—something to fight for. But what happens if he doesn’t get it? Probably not much. He’ll have to keep taking the bus to work, and he might swoon longingly as he passes by the auto dealer on his way home, but life will more or less go on the way it always has. That’s not enough to create a compelling story.
Unless… unless he lives in a rural area where there’s no public transportation, and he’s looking to buy a new car because his has broken down. If he can’t replace his car quickly he won’t be able to keep his job. If he loses his job, he probably won’t be able to keep supporting his family and he might even lose his home. Suddenly wanting a new car is a much more urgent and complex issue.
Your protagonist needs a reason to want the things they do, and to be aware of consequences (real or imagined) if they aren’t able to get them in time.
7. Rising action
When we get into the structure of our plot, the rising action is the escalating cause and effect that comes from the characters’ choices. Every time your protagonist does something in pursuit of their goal, their action will trigger effects in the world around them—some anticipated, some not. At the same time, your antagonist or antagonists will also be pursuing their own, conflicting goals, making their own choices, and sending even more effects out into the world. It’s this interplay of choices, consequences, and reactions, growing greater in urgency and intensity, that builds the narrative arc as the plot unfolds.
To learn more about how to structure your plot from inciting incident to epic conclusion, check out our detailed lesson on plot .
8. Falling action
Once your plot has reached its climax, and your protagonist has finally obtained their goal (or not), and the antagonist has been defeated (or not), and the world as it was has crumbled and then been rebuilt into something new, it’s time for your falling action. Many writers make the mistake of ending their story too quickly, but your readers need time to see the new landscape as it comes together and to say goodbye to your characters after the story’s resolution.
This section won’t take up a huge amount of real estate—usually about ten percent of the book at most. This is where you take a little bit of time to explore what it means to your protagonist to have reached this place in their journey, how those around them are affected by it, and—this is important—where they’re heading next. This gives your reader time to absorb the messages in your story and the lessons they have learned.
Symbolism is using an object, place, person, or element to represent something other than its literal meaning. Even a small thing can represent a big idea. In a story, symbolism can be a recognizable universal symbol or it can be a symbol that’s developed within the context of your world.
Symbolism gives depth to your story and helps support the theme (we’ll talk about theme a little farther below). Contextual symbols, in particular, help convey the message that you’re trying to send through your writing. For instance, if you’re exploring the idea of enduring love through times of great hardship, you could work symbolism into your story by using a fragile object such as a teacup, a vase, or a figurine which manages to stay intact despite being dropped or knocked around. This then becomes a symbol of a relationship that is more durable than it would appear in spite of the dangers it might face.
Very often readers will absorb symbolism in your writing without consciously realizing it. They may not see that the object was a cleverly placed literary device, but they’ll feel the tension and tone it creates in parallel with the plot.
We’ve got lots more detail on how to incorporate rich symbolism into your story here !
In writing, language is the tone, mood, word choices, sentence structure, and unique author’s voice that pulls the story together. Some authors, like Ernest Hemingway, are famous for short, clean lines with simple words and no ornamentation. Others, like Joanne Harris, favour more languid sentences full of delicate flowering words and sensual imagery. Edgar Allen Poe is famous for his dark, velvety vocabulary that brings to mind gothic castles and stormy nights, while writers like Jane Austen use light, approachable sentences peppered with sardonic undertones that go on for half a page.
While many writers will grow to develop a distinctive voice of their own, they may also adjust their rhythm and tone to fit the mood of the type of book they’re writing. In general, shorter, more monosyllabic sentences will speed up the pacing while longer sentences slow it down. Beach reads and thrillers tend to rely more on the former, while historical and literary fiction often use more long sentences. A mix of both is best—too much of either one gets difficult to read for very long.
When exploring language, think about the mood and images you want to convey with each scene. Then see if you can choose the lengths of your sentences and the types of words to match.
To learn more about using unique, beautiful language in your writing, have a look at our lesson on developing your writer’s voice .
Theme is the point of your story. It’s the central idea or message that you’re trying to send your readers through the filter of a fictional world. This can be something like the unbreakable bonds of family, the ravaging landscape of social media, or the seductive destruction of avarice. You may think of a message that you want to explore and build a plot around it, or you may begin writing a story and uncover its true meaning as you go along.
Once you know what the theme of your story is, you can emphasize it further using a range of literary devices including symbolism, metaphors, and allegory as well as your cast of characters and the types of conflicts that they face. Each element of your story should support this central message in some way. By showing the power of this message and the effect it has on the characters and the world, you can make the reader understand its importance and inspire a very real change. That’s the power of storytelling.
You can find out more about how to develop your own themes in our lesson here .
Verisimilitude comes from a word that means “truth,” and it means the truth within a fictional context. All powerful stories come from a true place—from real human needs, strengths, weaknesses, and experiences. This is equally true, if not more so, in fantastical work. If you’re writing about a man who gets exposed to gamma radiation and becomes a big green smashing machine, you’re then asking your reader to accept that this is the truth of your story: stay away from gamma radiation. It’ll Jekyll-and-Hyde you up. Even when you and your reader both know, deep down, that this isn’t actually what gamma radiation is in the slightest, they accept it as the basis of this particular reality.
This comes down to verisimilitude. Even though you’re showing the character in a fantastical and frankly ridiculous context, what stays with us as readers are the deep, sometimes uncomfortable truths: don’t we all have polarities inside of us that make us question who we are? Does Bruce Banner secretly want to be a stronger, braver, more unfeeling version of himself? Wouldn’t you? It’s these intimately resonant connections, more than an iconic pair of tattered purple shorts, that form the heart of this narrative.
When telling a story, no matter how absurdist or unrealistic or removed from our world it may be— especially then—figure out how to offer it to your readers from a place of honesty and truth.
Elements of a story in literature: examples from 5 enduring stories
All the tools we’ve looked at are present in every great story that has been handed down to us through the years, as well as inspiring new works of art that are still being produced today. The ones that stay with us most are the ones that use these elements in surprising new ways. Let’s look at how these patterns function in our best-loved works of classic literature.
1. To Kill a Mockingbird , by Harper Lee
Harper Lee’s renowned novel is set in a fictional American town in the 1930s, though it could easily be in any of a hundred very real places in just about any time period—even today. In this story a black man is falsely accused of rape, and the consequences of that accusation radiate outwards to affect the lives of the people in the story. The novel’s powerful conflict—which was very much influenced by its setting, and its innate prejudices and limitations—communicated a theme which encouraged readers to look at their own history, their ideas, and their future in a new way.
The novel both makes use of and challenges the perspectives of the time. The first-person narrator of this novel is a young child who struggles with her own prejudices and expectations of cultural norms. Through the narrative we see her perspective change as she grows to understand the battles faced by other people and the need to look at every human being as an individual. This juxtaposition of a young central character with a very grownup central conflict creates a powerful theme that has stayed with us for decades.
2. The Maltese Falcon , by Dashiell Hammett
Like many noir thrillers of its time, this classic novel by Dashiell Hammett is heavily driven by the surprising twists and turns that make up its rising action. It’s told through a third-person narration that follows an array of people, many with questionable moralities, who are fighting for their claim to a mythical lost statue. The Maltese Falcon also gives us some of the thriller’s signature character archetypes: the protagonist Sam Spade, the jaded, smooth-talking private eye that would go on to influence the staple hero of the genre. We also have the femme Brigid O’Shaughnessy, one of the novel’s central antagonists, who gave birth to an archetype of seductive, deceitful fatales .
The plot is propelled forward by one mounting conflict after another, set against the backdrop of its distinctive setting: a dark, gritty San Francisco in the late 1920s, in the decade’s height of roaring decadence just before its fall into the great depression. The iconic characters combined with the vivid backdrop have given us a formula that has engaged readers for generations, and will continue to do so for generations more.
3. Breakfast at Tiffany’s , by Truman Capote
Now inextricably associated with Audrey Hepburn’s trademark black dress, Truman Capote’s 1958 novel is built strongly out of setting and character. The central character, Holly Golightly, comes from a modest and scattered upbringing to explode onto the social season of New York’s glittering upper east side. Holly is at odds with her time and place, a city and a decade in which women were expected to conform to patriarchal expectation. Nearly everyone she interacts with attempts to curtail her freedom and independence, which causes that freedom to become something of a contrarian obsession.
It’s this series of small, mounting interpersonal conflicts that support the real conflict of the plot: the main character’s fight for independence to the point of self destruction, and her need to express herself in a larger society that represses expression of the self. This is a perfect example of the power of verisimilitude in a novel: every one of us has fought a similar internal battle at some point during our lives, and we can identify with her struggles to unite her opposing needs and desires.
4. The Lord of the Rings , by J.R.R. Tolkien
J. R. R. Tolkien’s magnum opus has all the elements of a story sprawled across an epic, magnificent canvas: a varied and expressive cast of large and small heroes; an entirely new, unique world; terrifying antagonists; a rich tapestry of symbolism and themes; and an ambitious use of multilayered language that hasn’t been matched since.
While every one of these story elements plays an important part in this saga, the one that probably stays with readers the most is its setting—a multifaceted landscape of Tolkien’s creation with its own histories, languages, cultures, traditions, and races of people. The author accomplished the extraordinary feat of creating an environment that felt like home for generations of readers. It also went on to inspire a myriad of other stories in the modern fairy tale genre.
It’s worth mentioning how well this series utilizes its falling action, the events following the enormous conflict that has powered the events of the plot. Tolkien takes time to show us who these characters are outside of the battles they’ve faced, and where their path is going to lead them next. It’s arguable that seeing how these characters return home, changed by their experiences and embracing a new beginning, has endeared them to their readers most of all.
5. A Christmas Carol , by Charles Dickens
One of the most famous character-driven novels of all time, this story centers on an irascible protagonist who faces the most complex antagonist of all: his own mistakes. Set in Dickensian London, this novel takes the protagonist through several powerful settings, each with a strong personal connection. Through these settings we get to see the supporting characters, people in the protagonist’s life who show him his comfortably embraced weaknesses and his uneasily discarded strengths.
Although the main character, Ebeneezer Scrooge, is a personality so powerful he borders on caricature, he shows us what we could become if we allowed fear and avarice to devour us. The novel shows us what the protagonist is fighting for—a second chance to be a better man—and what he has to lose if he fails: his immortal soul. This story uses symbolism and strong thematic elements as the story unfolds to send a powerful message of redemption and free will to the reader. This is a good example of how the conflict your protagonist faces directly supports the theme that you’re trying to convey.
Using the elements of a story to strengthen your writing
Your own work in progress might have some of these important elements already, and you can emphasize them even further to connect more deeply with your reader. Consider your main characters, location, and the conflict or conflicts that drive the plot forward. Explore your story’s perspective by looking at the way the setting have informed your protagonist’s view of the world. What sort of prejudices, theologies, and values have they absorbed as they grew into the person they are today?
Once you uncover these you’ll start to see glimmers of your theme hiding underneath the surface.
When you begin to understand the theme of your story, you can then begin forming more layers with symbolism, unique settings, and relationships between characters to heighten this theme. Remember that what your characters have to fight for and what they stand to lose will be directly tied to the message you’re sending your readers. This will make the reader re-examine the things they’re fighting for in their own lives, in their society, and in the larger world around them.
Lastly, always write from a place of verisimilitude—from a place of true feelings, real questions, and human values, no matter how far-fetched the context of your world might be. When your readers are able to see themselves and their hopes reflected in your writing, that’s when it will stay with them forever.
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Literary Elements: What are the 7 Elements of Literature?
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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, the 31 literary devices you must know.
Need to analyze The Scarlet Letter or To Kill a Mockingbird for English class, but fumbling for the right vocabulary and concepts for literary devices? You've come to the right place. To successfully interpret and analyze literary texts, you'll first need to have a solid foundation in literary terms and their definitions.
In this article, we'll help you get familiar with most commonly used literary devices in prose and poetry. We'll give you a clear definition of each of the terms we discuss along with examples of literary elements and the context in which they most often appear (comedic writing, drama, or other).
Before we get to the list of literary devices, however, we have a quick refresher on what literary devices are and how understanding them will help you analyze works of literature.
What Are Literary Devices and Why Should You Know Them?
Literary devices are techniques that writers use to create a special and pointed effect in their writing, to convey information, or to help readers understand their writing on a deeper level.
Often, literary devices are used in writing for emphasis or clarity. Authors will also use literary devices to get readers to connect more strongly with either a story as a whole or specific characters or themes.
So why is it important to know different literary devices and terms? Aside from helping you get good grades on your literary analysis homework, there are several benefits to knowing the techniques authors commonly use.
Being able to identify when different literary techniques are being used helps you understand the motivation behind the author's choices. For example, being able to identify symbols in a story can help you figure out why the author might have chosen to insert these focal points and what these might suggest in regard to her attitude toward certain characters, plot points, and events.
In addition, being able to identify literary devices can make a written work's overall meaning or purpose clearer to you. For instance, let's say you're planning to read (or re-read) The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. By knowing that this particular book is a religious allegory with references to Christ (represented by the character Aslan) and Judas (represented by Edmund), it will be clearer to you why Lewis uses certain language to describe certain characters and why certain events happen the way they do.
Finally, literary techniques are important to know because they make texts more interesting and more fun to read. If you were to read a novel without knowing any literary devices, chances are you wouldn't be able to detect many of the layers of meaning interwoven into the story via different techniques.
Now that we've gone over why you should spend some time learning literary devices, let's take a look at some of the most important literary elements to know.
List of Literary Devices: 31 Literary Terms You Should Know
Below is a list of literary devices, most of which you'll often come across in both prose and poetry. We explain what each literary term is and give you an example of how it's used. This literary elements list is arranged in alphabetical order.
An allegory is a story that is used to represent a more general message about real-life (historical) issues and/or events. It is typically an entire book, novel, play, etc.
Example: George Orwell's dystopian book Animal Farm is an allegory for the events preceding the Russian Revolution and the Stalinist era in early 20th century Russia. In the story, animals on a farm practice animalism, which is essentially communism. Many characters correspond to actual historical figures: Old Major represents both the founder of communism Karl Marx and the Russian communist leader Vladimir Lenin; the farmer, Mr. Jones, is the Russian Czar; the boar Napoleon stands for Joseph Stalin; and the pig Snowball represents Leon Trotsky.
Alliteration is a series of words or phrases that all (or almost all) start with the same sound. These sounds are typically consonants to give more stress to that syllable. You'll often come across alliteration in poetry, titles of books and poems ( Jane Austen is a fan of this device, for example—just look at Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility ), and tongue twisters.
Example: "Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers." In this tongue twister, the "p" sound is repeated at the beginning of all major words.
Allusion is when an author makes an indirect reference to a figure, place, event, or idea originating from outside the text. Many allusions make reference to previous works of literature or art.
Example: "Stop acting so smart—it's not like you're Einstein or something." This is an allusion to the famous real-life theoretical physicist Albert Einstein.
An anachronism occurs when there is an (intentional) error in the chronology or timeline of a text. This could be a character who appears in a different time period than when he actually lived, or a technology that appears before it was invented. Anachronisms are often used for comedic effect.
Example: A Renaissance king who says, "That's dope, dude!" would be an anachronism, since this type of language is very modern and not actually from the Renaissance period.
Anaphora is when a word or phrase is repeated at the beginning of multiple sentences throughout a piece of writing. It's used to emphasize the repeated phrase and evoke strong feelings in the audience.
Example: A famous example of anaphora is Winston Churchill's "We Shall Fight on the Beaches" speech. Throughout this speech, he repeats the phrase "we shall fight" while listing numerous places where the British army will continue battling during WWII. He did this to rally both troops and the British people and to give them confidence that they would still win the war.
An anthropomorphism occurs when something nonhuman, such as an animal, place, or inanimate object, behaves in a human-like way.
Example: Children's cartoons have many examples of anthropomorphism. For example, Mickey and Minnie Mouse can speak, wear clothes, sing, dance, drive cars, etc. Real mice can't do any of these things, but the two mouse characters behave much more like humans than mice.
Asyndeton is when the writer leaves out conjunctions (such as "and," "or," "but," and "for") in a group of words or phrases so that the meaning of the phrase or sentence is emphasized. It is often used for speeches since sentences containing asyndeton can have a powerful, memorable rhythm.
Example: Abraham Lincoln ends the Gettysburg Address with the phrase "...and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the Earth." By leaving out certain conjunctions, he ends the speech on a more powerful, melodic note.
Colloquialism is the use of informal language and slang. It's often used by authors to lend a sense of realism to their characters and dialogue. Forms of colloquialism include words, phrases, and contractions that aren't real words (such as "gonna" and "ain't").
Example: "Hey, what's up, man?" This piece of dialogue is an example of a colloquialism, since it uses common everyday words and phrases, namely "what's up" and "man."
An epigraph is when an author inserts a famous quotation, poem, song, or other short passage or text at the beginning of a larger text (e.g., a book, chapter, etc.). An epigraph is typically written by a different writer (with credit given) and used as a way to introduce overarching themes or messages in the work. Some pieces of literature, such as Herman Melville's 1851 novel Moby-Dick , incorporate multiple epigraphs throughout.
Example: At the beginning of Ernest Hemingway's book The Sun Also Rises is an epigraph that consists of a quotation from poet Gertrude Stein, which reads, "You are all a lost generation," and a passage from the Bible.
Epistrophe is similar to anaphora, but in this case, the repeated word or phrase appears at the end of successive statements. Like anaphora, it is used to evoke an emotional response from the audience.
Example: In Lyndon B. Johnson's speech, "The American Promise," he repeats the word "problem" in a use of epistrophe: "There is no Negro problem. There is no Southern problem. There is no Northern problem. There is only an American problem."
A euphemism is when a more mild or indirect word or expression is used in place of another word or phrase that is considered harsh, blunt, vulgar, or unpleasant.
Example: "I'm so sorry, but he didn't make it." The phrase "didn't make it" is a more polite and less blunt way of saying that someone has died.
A flashback is an interruption in a narrative that depicts events that have already occurred, either before the present time or before the time at which the narration takes place. This device is often used to give the reader more background information and details about specific characters, events, plot points, and so on.
Example: Most of the novel Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë is a flashback from the point of view of the housekeeper, Nelly Dean, as she engages in a conversation with a visitor named Lockwood. In this story, Nelly narrates Catherine Earnshaw's and Heathcliff's childhoods, the pair's budding romance, and their tragic demise.
Foreshadowing is when an author indirectly hints at—through things such as dialogue, description, or characters' actions—what's to come later on in the story. This device is often used to introduce tension to a narrative.
Example: Say you're reading a fictionalized account of Amelia Earhart. Before she embarks on her (what we know to be unfortunate) plane ride, a friend says to her, "Be safe. Wouldn't want you getting lost—or worse." This line would be an example of foreshadowing because it implies that something bad ("or worse") will happen to Earhart.
Hyperbole is an exaggerated statement that's not meant to be taken literally by the reader. It is often used for comedic effect and/or emphasis.
Example: "I'm so hungry I could eat a horse." The speaker will not literally eat an entire horse (and most likely couldn't ), but this hyperbole emphasizes how starved the speaker feels.
Imagery is when an author describes a scene, thing, or idea so that it appeals to our senses (taste, smell, sight, touch, or hearing). This device is often used to help the reader clearly visualize parts of the story by creating a strong mental picture.
Example: Here's an example of imagery taken from William Wordsworth's famous poem "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud":
When all at once I saw a crowd, A host of golden Daffodils; Beside the Lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.
Irony is when a statement is used to express an opposite meaning than the one literally expressed by it. There are three types of irony in literature:
- Verbal irony: When someone says something but means the opposite (similar to sarcasm).
- Situational irony: When something happens that's the opposite of what was expected or intended to happen.
- Dramatic irony: When the audience is aware of the true intentions or outcomes, while the characters are not . As a result, certain actions and/or events take on different meanings for the audience than they do for the characters involved.
- Verbal irony: One example of this type of irony can be found in Edgar Allan Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado." In this short story, a man named Montresor plans to get revenge on another man named Fortunato. As they toast, Montresor says, "And I, Fortunato—I drink to your long life." This statement is ironic because we the readers already know by this point that Montresor plans to kill Fortunato.
- Situational irony: A girl wakes up late for school and quickly rushes to get there. As soon as she arrives, though, she realizes that it's Saturday and there is no school.
- Dramatic irony: In William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet , Romeo commits suicide in order to be with Juliet; however, the audience (unlike poor Romeo) knows that Juliet is not actually dead—just asleep.
Juxtaposition is the comparing and contrasting of two or more different (usually opposite) ideas, characters, objects, etc. This literary device is often used to help create a clearer picture of the characteristics of one object or idea by comparing it with those of another.
Example: One of the most famous literary examples of juxtaposition is the opening passage from Charles Dickens' novel A Tale of Two Cities :
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair …"
Malapropism happens when an incorrect word is used in place of a word that has a similar sound. This misuse of the word typically results in a statement that is both nonsensical and humorous; as a result, this device is commonly used in comedic writing.
Example: "I just can't wait to dance the flamingo!" Here, a character has accidentally called the flamenco (a type of dance) the flamingo (an animal).
Metaphors are when ideas, actions, or objects are described in non-literal terms. In short, it's when an author compares one thing to another. The two things being described usually share something in common but are unalike in all other respects.
A simile is a type of metaphor in which an object, idea, character, action, etc., is compared to another thing using the words "as" or "like."
Both metaphors and similes are often used in writing for clarity or emphasis.
"What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun." In this line from Romeo and Juliet , Romeo compares Juliet to the sun. However, because Romeo doesn't use the words "as" or "like," it is not a simile—just a metaphor.
"She is as vicious as a lion." Since this statement uses the word "as" to make a comparison between "she" and "a lion," it is a simile.
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A metonym is when a related word or phrase is substituted for the actual thing to which it's referring. This device is usually used for poetic or rhetorical effect .
Example: "The pen is mightier than the sword." This statement, which was coined by Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839, contains two examples of metonymy: "the pen" refers to "the written word," and "the sword" refers to "military force/violence."
Mood is the general feeling the writer wants the audience to have. The writer can achieve this through description, setting, dialogue, and word choice .
Example: Here's a passage from J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit: "It had a perfectly round door like a porthole, painted green, with a shiny yellow brass knob in the exact middle. The door opened on to a tube-shaped hall like a tunnel: a very comfortable tunnel without smoke, with panelled walls, and floors tiled and carpeted, provided with polished chairs, and lots and lots of pegs for hats and coats -- the hobbit was fond of visitors." In this passage, Tolkien uses detailed description to set create a cozy, comforting mood. From the writing, you can see that the hobbit's home is well-cared for and designed to provide comfort.
Onomatopoeia is a word (or group of words) that represents a sound and actually resembles or imitates the sound it stands for. It is often used for dramatic, realistic, or poetic effect.
Examples: Buzz, boom, chirp, creak, sizzle, zoom, etc.
An oxymoron is a combination of two words that, together, express a contradictory meaning. This device is often used for emphasis, for humor, to create tension, or to illustrate a paradox (see next entry for more information on paradoxes).
Examples: Deafening silence, organized chaos, cruelly kind, insanely logical, etc.
A paradox is a statement that appears illogical or self-contradictory but, upon investigation, might actually be true or plausible.
Note that a paradox is different from an oxymoron: a paradox is an entire phrase or sentence, whereas an oxymoron is a combination of just two words.
Example: Here's a famous paradoxical sentence: "This statement is false." If the statement is true, then it isn't actually false (as it suggests). But if it's false, then the statement is true! Thus, this statement is a paradox because it is both true and false at the same time.
Personification is when a nonhuman figure or other abstract concept or element is described as having human-like qualities or characteristics. (Unlike anthropomorphism where non-human figures become human-like characters, with personification, the object/figure is simply described as being human-like.) Personification is used to help the reader create a clearer mental picture of the scene or object being described.
Example: "The wind moaned, beckoning me to come outside." In this example, the wind—a nonhuman element—is being described as if it is human (it "moans" and "beckons").
Repetition is when a word or phrase is written multiple times, usually for the purpose of emphasis. It is often used in poetry (for purposes of rhythm as well).
Example: When Lin-Manuel Miranda, who wrote the score for the hit musical Hamilton, gave his speech at the 2016 Tony's, he recited a poem he'd written that included the following line:
And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside.
Satire is genre of writing that criticizes something , such as a person, behavior, belief, government, or society. Satire often employs irony, humor, and hyperbole to make its point.
Example: The Onion is a satirical newspaper and digital media company. It uses satire to parody common news features such as opinion columns, editorial cartoons, and click bait headlines.
A type of monologue that's often used in dramas, a soliloquy is when a character speaks aloud to himself (and to the audience), thereby revealing his inner thoughts and feelings.
Example: In Romeo and Juliet , Juliet's speech on the balcony that begins with, "O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?" is a soliloquy, as she is speaking aloud to herself (remember that she doesn't realize Romeo's there listening!).
Symbolism refers to the use of an object, figure, event, situation, or other idea in a written work to represent something else— typically a broader message or deeper meaning that differs from its literal meaning.
The things used for symbolism are called "symbols," and they'll often appear multiple times throughout a text, sometimes changing in meaning as the plot progresses.
Example: In F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1925 novel The Great Gatsby , the green light that sits across from Gatsby's mansion symbolizes Gatsby's hopes and dreams .
A synecdoche is a literary device in which part of something is used to represent the whole, or vice versa. It's similar to a metonym (see above); however, a metonym doesn't have to represent the whole—just something associated with the word used.
Example: "Help me out, I need some hands!" In this case, "hands" is being used to refer to people (the whole human, essentially).
While mood is what the audience is supposed to feel, tone is the writer or narrator's attitude towards a subject . A good writer will always want the audience to feel the mood they're trying to evoke, but the audience may not always agree with the narrator's tone, especially if the narrator is an unsympathetic character or has viewpoints that differ from those of the reader.
Example: In an essay disdaining Americans and some of the sites they visit as tourists, Rudyard Kipling begins with the line, "Today I am in the Yellowstone Park, and I wish I were dead." If you enjoy Yellowstone and/or national parks, you may not agree with the author's tone in this piece.
How to Identify and Analyze Literary Devices: 4 Tips
In order to fully interpret pieces of literature, you have to understand a lot about literary devices in the texts you read. Here are our top tips for identifying and analyzing different literary techniques:
Tip 1: Read Closely and Carefully
First off, you'll need to make sure that you're reading very carefully. Resist the temptation to skim or skip any sections of the text. If you do this, you might miss some literary devices being used and, as a result, will be unable to accurately interpret the text.
If there are any passages in the work that make you feel especially emotional, curious, intrigued, or just plain interested, check that area again for any literary devices at play.
It's also a good idea to reread any parts you thought were confusing or that you didn't totally understand on a first read-through. Doing this ensures that you have a solid grasp of the passage (and text as a whole) and will be able to analyze it appropriately.
Tip 2: Memorize Common Literary Terms
You won't be able to identify literary elements in texts if you don't know what they are or how they're used, so spend some time memorizing the literary elements list above. Knowing these (and how they look in writing) will allow you to more easily pinpoint these techniques in various types of written works.
Tip 3: Know the Author's Intended Audience
Knowing what kind of audience an author intended her work to have can help you figure out what types of literary devices might be at play.
For example, if you were trying to analyze a children's book, you'd want to be on the lookout for child-appropriate devices, such as repetition and alliteration.
Tip 4: Take Notes and Bookmark Key Passages and Pages
This is one of the most important tips to know, especially if you're reading and analyzing works for English class. As you read, take notes on the work in a notebook or on a computer. Write down any passages, paragraphs, conversations, descriptions, etc., that jump out at you or that contain a literary device you were able to identify.
You can also take notes directly in the book, if possible (but don't do this if you're borrowing a book from the library!). I recommend circling keywords and important phrases, as well as starring interesting or particularly effective passages and paragraphs.
Lastly, use sticky notes or post-its to bookmark pages that are interesting to you or that have some kind of notable literary device. This will help you go back to them later should you need to revisit some of what you've found for a paper you plan to write.
Looking for more in-depth explorations and examples of literary devices? Join us as we delve into imagery , personification , rhetorical devices , tone words and mood , and different points of view in literature, as well as some more poetry-specific terms like assonance and iambic pentameter .
Reading The Great Gatsby for class or even just for fun? Then you'll definitely want to check out our expert guides on the biggest themes in this classic book, from love and relationships to money and materialism .
Got questions about Arthur Miller's The Crucible ? Read our in-depth articles to learn about the most important themes in this play and get a complete rundown of all the characters .
For more information on your favorite works of literature, take a look at our collection of high-quality book guides and our guide to the 9 literary elements that appear in every story !
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Hannah received her MA in Japanese Studies from the University of Michigan and holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Southern California. From 2013 to 2015, she taught English in Japan via the JET Program. She is passionate about education, writing, and travel.
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The 5 Elements of Plot in Literature
The 5 elements of plot in Literature are exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution or conclusion.
Before I tell you what each of the above five elements of plot means in narrative writing, we need to first get a definition of plot in literature.
So here comes a simple meaning of the term ‘plot’ as it applies to the art of storytelling.
The Meaning of Plot
Plot, in very simple terms, refers to the way a writer arranges incidents in a story so that every incident becomes the result of a previous one. Thus, plot in literature works on the basis of cause and effect as the story moves through time.
Elements of Plot
Traditionally, the plot of a narrative moves in the order of exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement or resolution. These are what we refer to as the 5 elements of plot.
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We shall now spend the next few minutes making sure we understand the 5 elements of plot. So if you’re ready to get the meaning of the elements of plot, come along with me.
This element of plot is at the introduction stage of a story. The exposition is the start of the novel, drama, or film and it comprises the following.
- The writer introduces the setting.
- Major characters in the narrative also get a mention in the exposition.
- The writer also gives the reader as much background information as possible. This is to enable the reader to understand the coming events as they unfold.
- The exposition may just take a couple of chapters to be done with.
2. Rising Action
The rising action in the plot of a narrative usually involves an extensive description of the incidents that create a build-up to the climax.
- It is the second part of the plot coming just after the exposition.
- At the rising action stage of the plot of a story, the reader is introduced to the conflict.
- The rising action, therefore, prepares the reader for the most intense part of the plot (climax).
This is why the rising action could take quite a sizeable chunk of the whole narrative.
Please take note of the following points about the climax as an important stage in the plot of a literary work.
- The climax is the third stage in the plot. It comes after the rising action.
- Climax refers to the most exciting stage in the narrative. It is, in fact, the peak of emotions.
- It is where the conflict gets so intense that things come to a head for the protagonist.
- In most cases, this is a moment of decision for the protagonist.
- The climax may also represent an epiphany for the main character.
- At this stage, the story might turn in a different direction as it moves on to the conclusion.
- Thus, the climax marks the turning point in the narrative.
4. Falling Action
The falling action part of the plot prepares the reader for the conclusion. It is the next stage after the climax.
By this stage in the story, the intensity of emotions that both the characters and the reader have been experiencing will now begin to subside.
Below are some key points to note about the falling action as one of the 5 essential elements of plot.
- The falling action contains the immediate aftermath and reactions to the events in the climax.
- This is where the writer tells the reader about all the actions and reactions that happen as a result of the events in the climax and just before the resolution.
The last of the 5 elements of plot in Literature is the resolution.
The resolution is also known as denouement. It is all about the actions and events that finally bring the story to an end.
So here are the key points you must remember about the resolution.
- It is the conclusion stage of the plot.
- All loose ends are tied and the sticky issues that create the conflicts are resolved.
- It is important to note, however, that the writer may choose an ending in which there is no clear resolution of the issues. This is what is known as a cliffhanger ending.
We have seen in this tutorial that the 5 elements of plot in a literary work are exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution. Whether you are an aspiring writer, a teacher, or a student of Literature, you need to fully understand these elements of plot. This knowledge will help you to effectively write or appreciate a narrative.
You will find other equally helpful guides on the study of Literature here.
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'let us descend' follows a slave on a painful journey — finding some hope on the way.
Jesmyn Ward's Let Us Descend is a superb historical-fiction novel sprinkled with supernatural elements that pulls readers into the life of a slave on a long, painful journey.
And, while accurate, this description fails to communicate the depth of this novel as well as the multiplicity of layers in which it works. Angry, beautiful, raw, visceral, and heartfelt, Let Us Descend is the literary equivalent of an open wound from which poetry pours. This novel is a thing you can't help but to feel, a narrative that hurts to read but that also fills you with hope. Ward's work always demands attention, but this book makes it impossible to look away even in its ugliest, most agonizing moments.
Annis is the daughter of an enslaved woman who was raped by her enslaver. Her life is rough, but once she's separated from her mother and then sold by her own father, things get worse. Annis struggles through endless miles on her way to being sold. Tied to other women and walking next to chained men, Annis' feet bleed as she's forced to walk for entire days without food and cross rivers with her hands tied. From the Carolinas, through fields and swamps, all the way to New Orleans, Annis walks and walks, witnessing brutality daily and fighting to keep her humanity intact.
Through her harrowing journey, Annis turns inward — relying on the memories of her mother and the stories she told her about her warrior grandmother — to find comfort, to find the strength to keep going. That introspection pierces the veil and soon Annis starts communicating with spirits and receives regular visits from Aza, her ancestor, who also used to visit her mother. As she begins her new life at a different place, her understanding of the world and the forces that affect it changes and Annis learns to listen to the spirit world. A narrative that plunges headfirst into the evils of slavery, injustice, and abuse, Let Us Descend also morphs into a story of queer love, rebirth, and the importance of memory.
Let Us Descend is an uncomfortable read. Physical, psychological, and sexual violence were constants for slaves, and Ward doesn't shy away from any of it. In fact, Annis' months-long journey is recounted in exhausting detail. At first, it all feels like too much, like the novel could've been edited to move faster through her journey. But over time Ward's intent is revealed and readers come to understand that the details are there because they were part of the story of thousands of souls, and if they had to get through it, the least we can do is read about it, feel their pain, develop more empathy, and make sure we fight the remnants of that treatment wherever we encounter them. Despite those dreadful details, this is not just a narrative that forces readers to look at this country's ugly past and face the lingering effects of its history; it's also a story about perseverance and the power of the spiritual world.
"The Water is all spirit. Before you and me, before anything, there was the Water. We come from the Water. We return to the Water. Only the Water knows all, but the Water does not speak." Those words from Aza exemplify the beautiful word puzzles the spirit world gives Annis. Ward's lyricism is used to great effect, especially in the novel's last third, and the words of the spirit world take center stage. Let Us Descend , which gets its title from Dante's Inferno (Dante makes a few appearances and is referred to as "the Italian") echoes that work in that it shows its characters' descent into hell. However, unlike Dante's masterpiece, Ward also offers a map to crawl back out.
Let Us Descend is as upsetting as it is beautiful and necessary. Ward's writing about slavery doesn't add anything new to the discussion, but her unique mix of historical fiction, supernatural elements, and gorgeous prose helps her carve out a special place in literature that deals with the subject. It's rare to have a historical novel that also feels timely, but this story pulls it off. Readers will walk with Annis, see the world through her eyes, and feel the pain of everything she experiences — but that journey, that suffering, will give them clarity and help them develop a deeper understanding of love, grief, and the realities of slavery. Ward has taken Black history in a time of racial and political turmoil and used it to scream about grief and injustice, but also about beauty, queer love, history, determination, and joy.
Gabino Iglesias is an author, book reviewer and professor living in Austin, Texas. Find him on X, formerly Twitter, at @Gabino_Iglesias .
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Amazon reveals the best books of 2023
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Every year the Amazon Editors read more than 1,000 books, sharing our favorites so that customers can find their next great read. Along the way, we search for the one special title that will emerge as the Best Book of the Year. This year, the Amazon Editors chose James McBride’s The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store . In a world that is sometimes so divisive and isolating, stories can connect us and create community. The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store not only captures that sentiment, it celebrates the power of goodness and looking out for one another—even people who are (seemingly) different from us.
McBride’s novel joins prior Best Book of the Year selections from the Amazon Editors, including Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow ; Amor Towles’ The Lincoln Highway ; Brittany K. Barnett’s A Knock at Midnight ; Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments ; Tara Westover’s Educated ; and David Grann’s Killers of the Flower Moon .
Besides featuring formidable casts of female protagonists, many of our favorites this year share a common theme—they highlight the importance of found family and community. And these books also accomplish what the best ones do: Put us in other people’s shoes and expand our empathy.
Learn more about our Top 10 picks below. To view the full list, visit the Best Books of 2023 . There you’ll find the titles that round-out our overall top 20, along with picks in popular categories, like debut authors, biographies, literary fiction, history, mystery, romance, sci-fi, and everything in between.
by James McBride
"Featuring a cacophonous cast of characters you will adore and a story chock full of the social, racial, and ethnic politics of the small town in which they live, The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store is an irresistible novel—profound as it is ingeniously entertaining, making it one of the great American novels of our time, and why we named it the best book of 2023." —Al Woodworth, Amazon senior editor
by Amanda Peters
"Debut novelist Amanda Peters explores the lengths we go to for love, the cancerous impact of lies, and the unbreakable bonds of family. For fans of Celeste Ng and Ann Patchett , this quietly beautiful book will break, then mend, your heart." —Sarah Gelman, Amazon editorial director
by Michael Finkel
"What a romp! You’ll fly through this true story of an idealistic maniac on a mission to filch priceless treasures —upping the ante with each outrageous crime. A blast to read—but also horrifying when you consider what happened to $2 billion worth of invaluable art." —Lindsay Powers, Amazon senior editor
by Rebecca Yarros
"An epic of world-building, this tale of a kingdom under duress, a deadly competition to become an elite dragon rider, and the young woman who bucks the odds to become powerful in her own right, is a thrilling, not-to-be-missed romantic fantasy." —Seira Wilson, Amazon senior editor
by Jonathan Eig
"Eig’s definitive and engrossing portrait of Martin Luther King Jr. is a remarkable feat of writing and research, revealing the gutting hardships and heroics of a man who changed the world. This is biography at its absolute finest." —Al Woodworth, Amazon senior editor
by Nathan Hill
"With the vibes of Jonathan Franzen novels mixed with the panache of (500) Days of Summer — Wellness is a love story, a marriage story, and a contemporary critique on our world that’s captivated (and maybe even controlled) by social media and the pursuit of domestic bliss. Utterly absorbing, funny, and familiar, Hill captures how life can be hopeful and hurtful, idiosyncratic and robotic, fated and chaotic." —Al Woodworth, Amazon senior editor
by Abraham Verghese
"We didn’t want this book to end—told over the course of three generations, Abraham Verghese weaves a magnetic story of how cultural, social, and racial politics play out in the lives of wives, doctors, and artists who strive to find a home and purpose in a world that is ever-shifting and ever-dangerous. Filled with characters who love deeply and dream big, this novel will sweep you off your feet." —Al Woodworth, Amazon senior editor
by Stephen King
"Holly is retro-King horror at its best in a high-stakes game of cat-and-mouse between an unassuming couple committing unspeakable crimes and Private Investigator Holly Gibney. With tension that coils tighter with every chapter, this unforgettable novel will thrill longtime King fans and newcomers alike." —Seira Wilson, Amazon senior editor
by Walter Isaacson
"You probably have strong opinions about Elon Musk. Walter Isaacson’s page-turning biography perfectly captures the troubled, brilliant, pugnacious billionaire—and how his growing power circles the globe. Packed with oh-my-God moments big and small, I couldn’t put this book down." —Lindsay Powers, Amazon senior editor
by Dennis Lehane
"Unflinching, unsparing, and unsentimental, Lehane's incendiary story is a freeway pileup of racism, mob rule, and a desperate mother pushed beyond her last limit. This moving and darkly hilarious vengeance novel was the mystery we kept returning to this year." —Vannessa Cronin, Amazon senior editor
To read more reviews and author interviews, check out Amazon Book Review .
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Energy & Environmental Science
Realizing excellent conversion efficiency of 14.5% in mg 3 sb 2 /gete-based thermoelectric module for waste heat recovery.
Mg 3 Sb 2 -based thermoelectric materials are drawing significant interest due to their earth-abundant elements and multiple conduction-band structures. Alloying Mg 3 Bi 2 in Mg 3 Sb 2 can regulate the band structure and phonon scattering, but the uncoordinated bipolar conduction poses a barrier to performance enhancement across wide temperature ranges. Herein, augmented zT s of ~0.5 at room temperature and ~1.7 at 673 K were obtained in Mg 3.2 Sb 1.24 Bi 0.75 Se 0.01 due to its high average quality factor contributed by the improved weighted mobility and the suppressed bipolar thermal conductivity. Moreover, the transition metal (Co) is introduced to modify the carrier scattering mechanism, which further enhances the room-temperature zT to ~0.7 and average zT to ~1.43 from 300 K to 773 K in Mg 3.15 Co 0.05 Sb 1.24 Bi 0.75 Se 0.01 . Together with the excellent p-type (Pb 0.15 Ge 0.85 Te) 0.8 (AgSbTe 2 ) 0.2 developed in our previous work, we realized a record-high single-stage module-level conversion efficiency of ~14.5% under a temperature difference of 480 K, signaling a promising future for Mg 3 Sb 2 -based thermoelectric materials in intermediate waste heat recovery applications.
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X. Li, C. Chen, L. Yin, X. Wang, J. Mao, F. Cao and Q. Zhang, Energy Environ. Sci. , 2023, Accepted Manuscript , DOI: 10.1039/D3EE02587J
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Amazon reveals the 10 best books of 2023, and No. 1 is a unanimous winner
Once a year, the Amazon books editorial team gathers in Seattle for a literary battle royale.
They assemble from home bases across the country with a single mission: whittle down a list of best books of the year from the hundreds of titles each editor has read.
The arena is a corporate meeting room equipped with sticky notes and whiteboards. Editors come prepared with books they want to champion. The stories they just can't get out of their heads. The characters they're sure you'll love.
"We discuss, fight, talk about the ones we like the most," says senior manager Al Woodworth . "It's the best day of the year. We get to do what we do best which is advocate for these books and these authors. It's such an honor and we take it very seriously."
The culmination of their debate is a list of the best books of the year . On Wednesday, USA TODAY exclusively reveals the first 10.
Check out: USA TODAY's weekly Best-selling Booklist
The list is deliberately diverse, says Sarah Gelman, editorial director of Amazon Books . You'll find fiction and nonfiction, stories of romance and murder. What each book has in common is the ability to pull in the reader and not let go until the end.
This year, the book that took the top spot was a unanimous victor. James McBride's "The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store" is an instant classic and among the "great American novels of our time," says Woodworth.
Here's a look at the Top 10 and more about why they were crowned. You can find the top 100 list, as well as lists by genre, on amazon.com/bestbooks2023 .
1. 'The Heaven & Earth Grocery Store' by James McBride
What it's about: From the National Book Award winner of "Deacon King Kong," this novel is rooted in small-town secrets. In 1972 Pottstown, Pennsylvania, workers digging the foundation for a development find a skeleton at the bottom of a well. Who the skeleton was and how it got there are secrets kept by the residents of Chicken Hill, the run-down neighborhood where Jews and Black people live with compassion on society's margins.
What Woodworth said: "What resonated with us about this book is a wild and teaming cast of characters. That McBride can hold all of these different characters … you're invested in their lives. You’re part of this neighborhood. As a reader, you feel like you live in this neighborhood. You know the characters' hopes, dreams and secrets. I think to be able to do that as a writer takes exceptional ability."
2. 'The Berry Pickers' by Amanda Peters
What it's about: In 1962, a 4-year-old Mi'kmaq girl vanishes after traveling with her family from Nova Scotia to Maine to pick blueberries. Her brother Joe, 6 at the time she disappears, is the last to see her and is haunted by her disappearance for years to come. In Maine, a girl named Norma is raised in an affluent home with an emotionally distant father and an overprotective mother. She has dreams that feel like memories and spends decades unraveling what that means.
What Gelman said: "This really reminded me of Celeste Ng's first book 'Everything I Never Told You.' Not in theme, but in feeling. It’s a very quiet and beautifully written book. It's about what happens when there's a lie that fractures a family, that fractures people and the repercussions of that lie. The book is sad, but the end is hopeful and happy. It's so exciting, and I want to see what else Peters is going to do."
3. 'The Art Thief: A True Story of Love, Crime, and a Dangerous Obsession' by Michael Finkel
What it's about: This true story of French master thief Stéphane Breitwieser is brought to the page spectacularly by the author of "The Stranger in the Woods." In less than a decade, Breitwieser carried out more than 200 heists in European museums and cathedrals with the help of his girlfriend. The riveting story examines not only how Breitwieser pulled off his crimes, but why he never tried to sell any of the loot, instead keeping his treasures in a single room where he could admire them.
What Woodworth said: "This book reads like fiction. It is the wild and crazy true story of this man who stole $2 billion worth of art. He was doing it in a really basic way. He would chuck art out the window, or put it in his girlfriend's purse. He is a complete character and he got away with it for so long. You're riding shotgun with this conman."
4. 'Fourth Wing' by Rebecca Yarros
What it's about: Twenty-year-old Violet Sorrengail's world is turned upside down after she's denied a life in the quiet Scribe Quadrant and forced into being a candidate dragon rider. Despite her fragile disposition, her mother, an elite commanding general, pushes her into Basgiath War College, where she uses her wit to battle fellow cadets, dragons and secretive leaders. A TV series based on the novel, part of Yarros' "The Empyrean" books from Entangled Publishing, is in the works at Amazon MGM Studios, according to Variety .
What Gelman said: "It’s ‘Hunger Games' meets 'Game of Thrones' meets '50 Shades of Grey.' You get the life and death element where young people are killing each other to survive, with the dragons and the fantasy … and plenty of steamy sex. Throughout the story, there are plenty of cliffhangers. It's very unexpected. I finished that book not fully trusting where the characters were at the end and who was on the side of good and evil."
5. 'King: A Life' by Jonathan Eig
What it's about: Nominated for the National Book Award (the winners for which will be announced Nov. 15, after this story went to press), Eig's biography of America's modern-day founding father is the first major work to include recently declassified FBI files. Through exhaustive research, Eig paints a portrait of a man who "demanded peaceful protest for his movement but was rarely at peace with himself," according to its publisher. Universal Pictures optioned the rights to adapt Eig's biography of King, with Steven Spielberg producing the biopic and Chris Rock in talks to direct.
What Woodworth said: "There’s a line at the end of this book that talks about in hallowing Martin Luther King Jr. we've also hollowed him out as a society. What this book does is shows you the man and how he actually was: A human being with flaws; with his own kind of vices; with radical ideas. It's definitive, too, in looking at all these FBI documents and how Hoover was really going after him and what that did to his psyche."
6. 'Wellness' by Nathan Hill
What it's about: The bestselling author of "The Nix," Hill returns with a novel about reconciling who we hope to become with the reality of adulthood. Jack and Elizabeth meet as college students in the '90s Chicago art scene, two kindred spirits brought together in the gritty underground. Twenty years later, with kids and a home in the suburbs, they struggle to recognize themselves and each other. Can they find their way back to each other, or will their love be collateral damage to unfulfilled ambitions and dysfunctional families?
What Gelman said: "The first half of the book, I was laughing out loud. Then in the second half, I was crying. The book just has so many emotional strings. I saw myself in the zillennial (people on the cusp of millennials and Gen Z) overparenting … like going to farmers markets and making sure you get the right croissant. That part made me laugh. But there's so much history and sadness behind the people and how they get to where they are. And so many people can relate to relationships and how they change over time."
7. 'The Covenant of Water' by Abraham Verghese
What it's about: Bestselling author Verghese ("Cutting for Stone") returns with a generation-spanning story set in Kerala, located on South India's Malabar Coast, between 1900 and 1977. At its center is a family where at least one person dies by drowning in every generation – and in Kerala, water is everywhere. At the center of the family is matriarch Big Ammachi, literally "Big Mother," who, at age 12 while grieving the death of her father, is sent to marry a 40-year-old man. Her life is full of joy and triumph, hardship and loss, faith and love.
What Woodworth said: "Verghese is so good at getting into the nitty gritty of his characters, of their hopes and dreams. As with 'Cutting for Stone,' there's such a medical element of this book. He renders all of his characters with such delicate nuance as to who they are and what they're striving for. It's 700 pages or something like that, but you don't want to leave it. If that book went on and on, I would be so happy."
More: Ann Napolitano’s 'Hello Beautiful' tops Amazon’s 10 best books of the year so far
8. 'Holly' by Stephen King
What it's about: The master of horror's latest detective outing sees fan-favorite private eye Holly take center stage. But "Holly" isn't exactly a normal whodunit because the villains are introduced in the first chapter: Rodney and Emily Harris are elderly semi-retired academics and what they’ve been doing in their basement in secret for several years is downright hellish. In his review, USA TODAY's Brian Truitt wrote , that the book "satisfies as a fitfully freaky thriller, a solid exploration of the title character as a soulful beacon of hope, and a reminder of how important it is to answer that call when it comes."
What Gelman said: "I think people kind of pigeonhole (King) into horror, but he really works through different genres. Holly is really a hero. What the older couple does is horrific, but it is also incredibly entertaining. The storytelling is just so good. He's so good and so versatile. It’s amazing."
9. 'Elon Musk' by Walter Isaacson
What it's about: Isaacson, who wrote the "Steve Jobs" biography that was adapted into a 2015 biopic starring Michael Fassbender as the Apple co-founder, is back with an in-depth study of another billionaire tech visionary. He followed Musk for two years, going to meetings and talking to his family, friends, co-workers and adversaries. The result aims to answer the question: Are the demons that drive Musk essential to driving innovation? A big-screen adaptation of Isaacson's latest is rumored to be in the works from director Darren Aronofsky ("The Whale") and indie studio A24, according to Puck news company .
What Woodworth said: "Walter Isaacson is one of the best biographers working today. His ability to present these titans of industry, their nuance, genius and their wild ways. He did that so well in this book. It offered a really balanced portrait of this, in some ways, maniacal person. To present figures in history as the people who they are, and not just who they are on X or in the news. There's so much more to the making of these people and the way they're viewed."
10. 'Small Mercies' by Dennis Lehane
What it's about: In Boston in the summer of 1974, amid a wave of violence set off by the city's desegregation of its public schools, a white teen girl disappears, and a young Black man is found dead. The girl's mother, Mary Pat Fennessy, embarks on a desperate search for her daughter in the housing projects of "Southie," an Irish American enclave, and gets on the wrong side of Marty Butler, chieftain of the Irish mob.
What Gelman said: "Dennis Lehane is well known as this Irish crime thriller writer. In this book, he takes a moment in history and inserts a story into it. It takes place at the beginning of the busing of Black and white students into high schools in the Boston area. There's a murder mystery at the center, and it's surrounded by this thing that's going on in America. The mom … is hellbent on finding out what happened and getting revenge."
Russia destroys almost all Ukrainian literature on occupied territories
Posted: November 14, 2023 | Last updated: November 14, 2023
Russia continues to destroy the Ukrainian language and literature within the occupied territories, according to the National Resistance Center.
In the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, almost no Ukrainian literature is left in local libraries.
"Representatives of the occupation administrations are responsible for the destruction of literature. In particular, employees of “education departments”. The occupiers report directly to the Russian Ministry of Education," the statement says.
Occupiers label Ukrainian books as "extremist literature," including those printed between 1994 and 2021.
At the same time, in 2023, Russians brought about 2.5 million Russian books to the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine.
Recently, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Verkhovna Rada, Dmytro Lubinets, reported that Russians are trying to "re-educate" Ukrainian children on the temporarily occupied territories through the militarization of education and the spread of propaganda in schools.
Russians regularly push the younger generation in the occupied territories to engage in expansionist activities. Recently, it became known that Russians were forcing children in the temporarily occupied territories to weave camouflage nets.
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