Guide to understanding! Literature

First of all

Take notes. Add in examples and any other wording that will help you remember this information. It s important!


We ll cover:  



Protagonist and antagonist





The order of events of a story.

The plot of any story has five (basic) parts.

The plot of a story can be visualized as a . . . .

Plot Triangle


The beginning of a story.

It will introduce:  




Rising action  

Once the characters have a setting, and a conflict is established, then everything can get going. This is where the plot gets interesting. Sometimes, the exposition of the story is boring. But the rising action is, well, action-y and fun.

Conflict becomes clear.

There are usually several events in the rising action.


The turning point. Something happens that changes the course of the story. The main character cannot turn back. Things will either turn out good or bad from here (and depending on the type of story, you should be able to tell what s going to happen).

Falling Action  

Characters deal with the effects of the post-climax story.

The fall-out, in other words, from the climax.

There may be several events in the falling action.

There is usually a confrontation that will decide the outcome of the conflict. Sometimes there is a moment of final suspense (like a sword fight or wizard battle or, um, something).


The end of the story.

Conflicts have been resolved.

Victory or defeat? Happiness or sadness?

Loose ends are tied up and the story leaves you with a sense of closure.

Plot conclusion  

While all five elements of the plot triangle can be basically applied to all stories, for some stories it does not work. The conflict can often be resolved in the climax of the story. Sometimes there is very little resolution. It s, in other words, a flexible triangle. But you can (and will) identify each different aspect of the triangle in the stories we will read.


There are only two things you have to remember for setting:  



That s it. It s time AND place.

The time may be specific (August 16th at 2:00 p.m.) or general ( once upon a time ). Or even . . .


The main character in a story. This can mean the good guy or the hero, but it doesn t have to. A protagonist can be evil, mean, bad, wicked, whatever. As long as the plot revolves around him or her, then he or she is the protagonist. Can you think of any movie or genre of movie where a bad guy or villain is the protagonist?


The character or force that is in opposition to the protagonist. In other words whoever or whatever the protagonist is in conflict with. Notice how it says character or force. Can you think of a movie or story where the protagonist is matched up against an antagonist that is not a person?


Two main types. External conflict: struggle between a character and another character, the setting or something else. Internal conflict: struggle between a character and himself. (Usually this is an emotional struggle inside the character.)


It s how we get to know a character.

There are two main types.

Direct Characterization

Two ways this is done. The author describes a character s physical appearance. (ex: Larry was nine feet tall and had blue hair. ) The author makes direct comments about the character. (ex: Larry was a jerk and everyone hated him. )


Your judgement of character s personality based on his or her speech, thoughts, feelings or actions. (EX: Frank watched Jimmy get punched in the gut. He laughed and laughed and laughed at Jimmy s pain.) Your judgement of a character s personality based on the speech, thoughts, feelings or actions of other characters. (EX: Frank walked on stage. The audience booed wildly.)

Character development

How a character changes from the beginning of the story to the end. Realize, not all characters change over the course of a story.

Character types  

Round character: many traits; fully developed; usually a main character. Dynamic character: changes (usually emotionally) over the course of the story.

Flat character: one-dimensional.

Static character: does not change.

Stock character: a stereotype.

Lit Terms assignment

Write two paragraphs (p.19R) utilizing three of the lit terms you were given today.  

One must be a type of conflict and another must be one type of characterization.


Character who is the opposite of another character.

This does not mean protagonist and antagonist.

It usually means characters who have opposite traits of each other. Happy vs. sad. Serious vs. silly. Etc.


The main idea of a story. What is it that the author of the story wanted you to learn or understand?


 When information is

revealed that let s us know what will happen later in the play.

Next section!   In this section we re going to cover

figurative language.   Figurative language is the use of language

in a non-literal sense.   It means that the words are being

manipulated for an artistic purpose.   Words and phrases may not mean what it

looks like they should or they mean more than what they look like.

Alliteration  The repetition of the same consonant sound at the beginning of multiple words.   Consonants are letters that aren t

vowels.   Most tongue twisters use

alliteration. Can you name one?

Allusion   Referring to another story.   Most allusions are either:

Biblical; mythological; historical.   The verb allude means to refer

to.   Please note: this is allusion, not


Big difference!

Hyperbole  hi-per-bowl-ee  Exaggeration.  You ever been so

hungry that you could eat a horse?

Imagery  Language that relates

to the five senses.  Creates an image in

your brain space.

Metaphor  Compares two things

without using like or as  Life is a box of


oxymoron  Two words side-by-side

that are opposites.  used for dramatic

effect or humor.

PERSONIFICATION  Giving human qualities

to inanimate or nonhuman things

PUN  Joke on the multiple

meanings of a word or words that sound the same.

SIMILE  Compares two things

using like or as  How about this one?  Life is like a box of


Some student sample similes   He was as tall as a six-foot, three-inch tree.   She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that

sound a dog makes just before it throws up.   Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.   Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.   John and Mary had never met. They were like two

hummingbirds who had also never met.

Symbol (symbolism)  When one thing

represents something else.  In figurative language,

symbols often reveal important clues to the theme of the story.

Irony   There s a couple of different types of irony

we re going to look at.   But, basically, all irony is when something

unexpected happens.

verbal irony   say one thing but mean the complete

opposite.   you know this better as . . .   sarcasm.

Situational Irony

  an unexpected twist in the plot.

Dramatic Irony

  When the audience/reader knows something

about what s going to happen or has happened in the story that the characters in the story don t.

Last section

This section is going to focus on how a writer chooses the words she uses and how an author uses words to manipulate the reader s emotions.

Point of View (POV)  

Three basic kinds.  

1st person: story is told by one of the characters in the story. (I woke up this morning. I was hungry.) 3rd person limited: story is told by a narrator but only follows one character around. (Sarah woke up this morning. Sarah was hungry.) 3rd person omniscient: story is told by a narrator and follows multiple characters around. (Sarah woke up this morning. On the other side of town, Jim woke up.)


The attitude a writer takes toward the subject about which she is writing. Is the writer hostile toward the main character? Is the writer sympathetic toward the main character? Angry, hopeful, humorous, ironic? Etc.


The emotion of a story. Is it scary or silly? Happy or sad? Serious or angry? Etc.

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