Characteristics of Drama

Drama is a unique literary form because they are designed to be acted out on a stage before an audience. The word ‘drama’ comes from the Greek word ‘dran’ meaning to act or to do. As “literature in action,” drama brings a story to life before our eyes. Unlike most works of fiction that rely heavily on narration, the story of a play or drama is told through dialogue and action and is integrated with the setting that the audience observes-largely from scenery and props. Knowing about these elements can help you appreciate and discuss plays that you see and read.

Elements of Drama

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The major elements of a drama are as follows:
1. Characters:
Characteristics of Drama
Characters are the people in the play’s plot. Most plays have a round, major characters and flat, minor characters. The main characters are more important to a work and usually have a bigger part to play. Miranda from Shakespeare’s Tempest is an example of a main character. We learn much about her characteristics throughout the play, and she plays a big role in the reconciliation of the characters toward the end of the play.
On the other hand, minor characters are less important. An example of a minor character is Marcellus from the play ‘Hamlet,’ whose role is only to inform about Hamlet’s father’s ghost. We do not know nor do we need to know anything about his character or what happens to him thereafter. He just departs in peace.
Let’s take a look at the different characters.
Protagonist: The main character, usually the one who sets the action in motion.
Example: Hamlet is the protagonist in the play ‘Hamlet’.
Antagonist: The character that stands as rival to the protagonist is called the antagonist. He is the villain.
Example: Claudius is the major antagonist in the play ‘Hamlet’ as he contrasts sharply with the main character in the play.
Foil: A character whose traits contrast with those of another character. Writers use foil to emphasize differences between two characters. For example, a handsome but dull character might be a foil for one who is unattractive but dynamic. By using foil, authors call attention to the strengths or weaknesses of a main character.
Example: In Hamlet, the passionate and quick to action Laertes is a foil for the reflective Hamlet.
Confidant: A character that lends an ear and gives his input to usually the protagonist is a confidant. This type of character is most commonly a closest friend or trusted servant of the main character, who serves as a device for revealing the mind and intention of the main character. The confidant’s inputs are revealed only to the audience and not to the other characters in the play.
Example: In Hamlet, Horatio is the confidant.
Stock characters: A stereotypical character who is not developed as an individual but as a collection of traits and mannerisms supposedly shared by all members of a group. These characters are easily recognized by audience due to their recurrent appearance and familiar roles.
Example: A comic, a servant, a fool, a coward, a crooked stepmother, and wicked witch.
Each character is distinct from the other and must have their own peculiar personality, background, and beliefs. The mannerisms and use of language too may differ. The way the characters in the play are treated by the playwright is important to the outworking of the play.
2. Dialogue:
The words uttered by characters in a play forms a dialogue. The dialogue reveals the plot and characters of the play. What is spoken must be suitable to the situation and the role of the character.
Things that are said on stage may take on greater worth or typical qualities than the same things said in everyday speech. Good dramatic speech involves a proper construction of words spoken in the appropriate context. It also involves saying what is not uninviting or what is obvious straight away.
Good dialogue sheds light on the character speaking and the one spoken about, and aids in the furtherance of the plot.
Dialogue may take various forms:-
  • An exchange between two or more characters.
Titinius. These tidings will well comfort Cassius.
Messala. Where did you leave him?
Titinus. All disconsolate,
  With Pindarus his bondman, on this hill.
Messala. Is not that he lies upon the ground?
  • Soliloquy- A character that is typically alone on stage delivers a long speech which is called a soliloquy. Emotions and innermost thoughts of the character are revealed in a soliloquy.
[They exit. ANTONY remains.]
O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth,
That I am meek and gentle with these butchers!
Thou art the ruins of the noblest man
That ever lived in the tide of times.
  • Aside- This is spoken by a character to another character or to the audience but is not heard by the other characters on stage. Asides reveal what a character is thinking or feeling.
       Good friends, go in and taste some wine with me,
       And we (like friends) will straightway go together.
Brutus (aside) .
        That every like is not the same, O Caesar,
        The heart of Brutus earns to think upon.  [Exeunt.]
3. Plot:
The plot is events that occur in a story sequentially. Normally the introduction of the characters in the beginning of the play gives the audience an idea about what the plot maybe. This information will enlighten the audience as to why characters behave the way they do and an incident maybe expected to surface that will create a problem for the main characters.
As the action heightens, the characters encounter the problem and find themselves in trouble. The conflict in a plot may vary but nevertheless it forms the basis for the plot. The conflict leads the characters from one incident to another unfolding the plot and increasing the suspense and excitement of the reader or viewer.
The turning point of the plot is called the climax when the outcome of the conflict takes place. The climax takes several forms. It may be a revelation of information or it may be a decision or an action. It is the point where suspense no longer exists.
The plot is crucial for the success of a play.
4. Setting:
The setting and time in a play tell us where the story happened and the time it occurred.
The setting is very important because what usually happens in the play is influenced by it. Visual components of a setting maybe limited to a painted tree, a bridge, or a hut, or it could be more elaborate. Shifts in time and space are often indicated by the actors through their speech and movements.
In setting, the lighting plays an important role for it shows an illusion of time. Lighting also may be used to focus on an action or stress the importance of an event.
Costumes and props too are involved in setting. Costumes are used to portray a character’s profession, status, ethnicity, age and so on.
Props are items used by actors on stage to create an atmosphere of the play.  These can be simple writing materials, chairs and tables, flowers, thrones, blood-soaked clothes, blankets, and beds and so on.
The effect created by the setting creates the mood for a theatrical spectacle.
5. Stage directions:
An audience is prompted to react by the movements or positions of the actors in a play. It can build up tension, trigger laughter, or shift the focus of the audience to a different part of the stage.
To achieve this purpose, the writer communicates to the actors, director, and the rest of the crew in the play by means of stage directions.
He does this by means of short phrases, usually printed in italics and enclosed in parentheses or brackets. These directions describe the appearance and actions of characters as well as the sets, costumes, props, sound effects, and lighting effects.
Stage directions may also include the characters’ body language, facial expressions, and even the tone of voice. Comments or remarks about the surroundings and when a character enters or exits are also made in stage directions. Thus stage directions help us understand the feelings of the character and the mood of the story.
For movies and teleplays, camera instructions are provided.
HUCK. [Picks up a hard little sphere.] What’s this?
JIM. Must a been in there a long time to coat it over so.
[JIM cuts open the sphere and hands HUCK a coin.]
HUCK. It’s gold.
JIM. What sort of writing is that on it?
HUCK. Spanish…I think. This is a Spanish d’bloon, Jim, it’s priate gold!
Why I reckon this fish could be a hundred years old. Do you reckon so, Jim?
JIM. [Nodding.] He go along on the bottom. Eat the little ones. Get older and older and bigger and bigger. He here before people come maybe. Before this was a country. When there was nothing here but that big river…
[He grabs HUCK’s arm.]
6. Theme:
The theme actually tells what the play means. Rather stating what happens in the story, the theme deals with the main idea within the story. Theme has been described as the soul of the drama. The theme can either be clearly stated through dialogue or action or can be inferred from the entire performance. We shall conclude plot and theme in drama should compliment each other and should be synchronized to give a complete output.
General themes are:
i. conflict–between two individuals
ii. conflict between man and a supernatural power
iii. conflict between the man and himself

Structure of Drama

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Ancient Greek drama contained structural divisions and these gradually evolved to a five part structure in drama. By the 16th century, Five Act plays were the order of the day with any number of scenes in each act.

A traditional play thus came to be a Five Act Play. What was the structure followed here?

  • Exposition or introduction
  • Rising Action
  • Climax
  • Falling Action
  • Denouement or conclusion

Exposition: This is the introduction of the play which provides important background information about the characters, setting, and the conflict they face or are about to face. It may reveal an incident in a character’s past that has a bearing on the plot. The exposition leads the audience to follow through the rest of the story.

Rising action: This is the second characteristic in the structure of a drama. The plot moves forward with further twists and complications in the conflict and many sub-plots. The actions lead the audience toward high intensity, anticipation, and suspense.

Climax: The highest point of dramatic intensity and the most intense moment in the plot is the climax. The questions and mysteries are unraveled at this point. It is a turning point in the play for the protagonist where things from then on will either turn out better or worse for him depending on the kind of play it is.

Falling Action: This is the part where conflicts are more or less resolved and the play moves on to its end.

Denouement: This is the conclusion of the play where everything is better off than when it started, as in a comedy, or things are worse than when the play began, as in the case of a tragedy. Conflicts are resolved. Motives are clear. Final details are straightened up.

Let us examine Shakespeare’s ‘The Merchant of Venice’ and look at the characteristics that determine the structure of the play.

In the exposition or the introduction what do we learn?

We are introduced to the plot. Here we see at least two conflicts:

1) Between Shylock and Antonio (Scenes I and III)

2) Portia’s Marriage (Scene II)

These events give us an insight to the purpose of the events.

We are introduced to the main characters of the play in the exposition. Some of them are,
  • Antonio
  • Bassanio
  • Gratiano
  • Shylock
  • Portia
  • Nerissa

There are two settings we are introduced to

1) Belmont’s sitting a very fancy and fairy ‘tailish’ place ideal for a comedy.

2) Venice that represents real life with traders and merchants ideal setting for a tragedy.

Rising Action: There are many obstacles that a protagonist must face when reaching his goal. In this play, we see that Antonio’s ships which are the only means by which he can pay Shylock’s debt, is reported lost in the sea.

Climax: This is a turning point in the play where changes may take place for better or worse. In this play, Portia comes to Antonio’s rescue to plead in his behalf by disguising herself as a man of law.

Falling Action: Shylock is given orders to give up all his possessions and convert to be a Christian. Portia and Nerissa convince their husbands to hand over their rings.

Denouement: The conclusion of the play shows that everything is in harmony. All return to Belmont and the couples are reconciled.


A story can be told in many ways. An author (writer of a story) makes a choice when selecting his/her narrator.
Let’s start with an interesting story.


Jessie tossed in bed. It was half past 3’0 clock. Sleep had eluded her. She kept thinking of Adam. “Oh! Will he ask me to the ball tomorrow?” she thought. She chuckled thinking of Adam holding her hands and dancing.
  • In the above story, someone indirectly tells us that Jessie is in love with Adam.
  • That someone is the narrator. Though he/she is not a character in the story, he/she knows all the details about the character (Jessie) and reveals them to us. Interesting, isn’t it?

What is a Narrator?

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A narrator-the character or author’s persona that tells a story-controls everything you know about the characters and the events. The narrator of a story may be a named character in the story or an outside observer.
Brian was a natural motivator. If an employee was having a bad day, Brian was there telling the employee how to look on the positive side of the situation.
This really made me curious and so I went up to Brian and asked him, “I don’t get it! You can’t be a positive person all the time. How do you do it?”
Brian replied, “Each morning I wake up and tell myself that I have two choices today: I can choose to be in a good mood or I can choose to be in a bad mood. And every day, I choose to be in a good mood. Each time something bad happens, I choose to learn from it.”
“Yeah, right, it’s not that easy,” I protested.

Ernie is a shy, mentally disabled man who moves to a group home when his mother dies. Jack becomes his friend and teaches him to garden. Jack also begins taking Ernie to breakfast at a restaurant across the street from a hardware store. When Ernie sees Dolores, the tough manager of the store, he falls in love with her. He begins leaving flowers in front of the store before it opens. Although Dolores doesn’t find who is giving her the flowers, they make her happy.

Can you figure out the difference between the two stories?
In the first story, the narrator (using the first-person pronoun I) is a character in the story. We can hear and see only what the narrator hears and sees.
In the second story, the narrator is an outside observer and plays no part in the story but can tell us what all the characters are thinking and feeling.
Narration is most often found in fiction, drama, and narrative poetry (such as epics and ballads), but it is also used in nonfiction works (such as biographies, essays, and newspaper stories).
In fiction, the narrator is the imagined voice conveying the story and is apart from the real author.

 “So he was going to fight a duel! There was no way to avoid it. How could he ever go through it? He wished to fight, it was his intention and firm resolution so to do, and yet, he felt, that in spite of all his effort of mind and all the tension of his will, he would not be able to preserve even the necessary force to go to the place of meeting. He tried to imagine the combat, his own attitude, and the position of his adversary.” – The Duel by Guy de Maupassant

In drama, the narrator is usually one who narrates a summary of events to the audience before or during a scene or an act.
Define Narrator
When we best understand the character in a story, such as the characters’ feelings and opinions or what the character perceives, to an extent that we can fully relate with the character, the writer then has made a good choice of narrator. The narrator’s choice of words and incidents tell us much about the personality and attitude of the narrator which in turn gives us the point of view of the story.
Some forms of narratives are biographies, short stories, and novels and in this context therefore all fiction may be viewed as narration. In a work of fiction, a writer’s choice of a narrator determines the point of view of the story.
Let’s discuss this in detail by reading the passage from ‘The Bet’ by Anton Chekhov.
The old banker remembered all this, and thought:
“To-morrow at twelve o’clock, he will regain his freedom. By our agreement, I thought to pay him two millions. If I do pay him, it is all over with me: I shall be utterly ruined.”
Fifteen years before, his millions had been beyond his reckoning; now he was afraid to ask himself which were greater, his debts or his assets. Desperate gambling on the Stock Exchange, wild speculation and the excitability which he could not get over even in advancing years, had by degrees led to the decline of his fortune and the proud, fearless, self-confident millionaire had become a banker of middling rank, trembling at every rise and fall in his investments. “Cursed bet!” muttered the old man, clutching his head in despair “Why didn’t the man die? He is only forty now. He will take my last penny from me, he will marry, will enjoy life, will gamble on the Exchange; while I shall look at him with envy like a beggar, and hear from him every day the same sentence: ‘I am indebted to you for the happiness of my life, let me help you!’ No, it is too much! The one means of being saved from bankruptcy and disgrace is the death of that man!”
It struck three o’clock, the banker listened; everyone was asleep in the house and nothing could be heard outside but the rustling of the chilled trees. Trying to make no noise, he took from a fireproof safe the key of the door which had not been opened for fifteen years, put on his overcoat, and went out of the house.
  • This is an excerpt from a short story. The narrator is outside the story and knows everything about the characters and their problems.
  • This all-knowing narrator tells us about the past, the present, and the future of the characters. This voice also reports on the innermost thoughts and feelings of the characters.
  • Through the narrator’s voice, we come to know that “the banker feels anxious about losing a bet”.
For many students and scholars one of the most interesting things is how a story is told.
  • What is the narrative point of view?
  • Is the narration omniscient, essentially the point of view of the author?
  • If not, who is the narrator?
  • What is the narrator’s relationship to the story?
  • What is the narrator’s understanding of the story?
  • How much does the narrator really know?
Appreciating how, or by whom, a story is told is often essential to understanding its meaning.

Types of Narrators

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Who and what sort of person (young or old, rich or poor, educated or illiterate) narrates a story affect its tone, characterization, plot, and also the credibility of a text. The credibility of a text is how believable the story is for the reader.
An author’s/writer’s choice of a narrator determines the point of view of the story-the narrators’ relationship to the story. The three ways of narrating a story are:
Types of Narrators
First Person Narrative

In a story with the first-person narrative, the story is usually told by one of the characters, and is narrated from the “I” point of view. The First person narrator explicitly refers to himself/herself using the pronouns “I” (referred to as the first-person singular) and/or “We” (the first-person plural).


First person singular ⇒ As I walked on the streets, I remembered her harsh words and how upset Pat had been. But it was all over between them and now Shelly was mine. I felt a strange sense of triumph.
First person plural ⇒ A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner, we come across the word “us” in the narration of the story, indicating that the narrator is speaking on behalf of the whole town residents.
A first person narrator
  • Is a witness or participant in the events of a story.
  • Tells us only what he/she thinks or experiences and also his/her view of the other characters in the story.
  • May or may not be the main character in a story.
For example,
In ‘Gulliver’s Travels,’ Gulliver is the narrator and the protagonist.
Whereas in ‘Sherlock Holmes’, Dr. Watson is the narrator but he is not the main character. He is very close to the main character and is privy to Holmes’ thoughts and actions.
In first-person narration, either the central character or another directly involved in the action tells the story. We become familiar with the narrator, but we can know only what this person observes. All of our information about the story comes from this narrator, who may be unreliable because a first person narrator may or may not be objective, honest, or perceptive.
In the novel “Catcher in the Rye” by J. D. Salinger, the protagonist Holden Caulfield is the narrator of the novel.
Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” is also told in the first person. Nick Carraway (not a protagonist) is the narrator of the novel.
  • In each of these works, the fundamental meaning of the novel becomes apparent only when the readers understand the character of the narrator.
  • In each of these works, the narrator experiences and what he learns about himself and the world are the novel’s most important themes.
However, some first-person narrators can report what they learn from others or there may be multiple first–person narrators that enable us to understand the events, the thoughts and feelings of a character from various points of view.
Multiple narrators ⇒ “The Sound and the Fury” by Faulkner is told from different point of view by different narrators.
  • Benjy – narrator of the first section
  • Quentin – narrator of the second section
  • Jason – narrator of the third section
Modes of First-person narratives include:
  • The observer-narrator that is the narrator is outside the main story.
For Example: Mr. Lockwood in Wuthering Heights.
  • Autobiography that is detached where the narrator looks back on long-past events.
  • Multiple narrators, that is, first-person accounts by several different characters.
  • Interior monologue where the narrator describes the story as a memory.
  • Dramatic monologue where the narrator tells the story without any major interruption.
  • Letters or diary where the events are written down by the narrator as they happen.
Let us now examine how the choice of the narrator in ‘Great Expectations’ by Charles Dickens affects the credibility of the text.
Pip is both the protagonist and the narrator, who tells the story in his own voice and from his own memory. The first-person narrative is used in the entire novel but in retrospective form where Pip looks back at his life many years later. This retrospect viewpoint makes the main character unreliable as he cannot remember everything that happened. Also Pip loses some credibility as some part of the novel is told from a childhood point of view.
For example, in the church graveyard, Pip makes the convict sound like an actual inhumane monster, and this seems to be overly exaggerated.
However, writing in the first person form has enabled in capturing the interest of the reader by involving the reader in many ways.
For example, we are immersed in the theme from the beginning when Pip realizes that he does not belong to the upper class as his uncle but is among the lower classes of society.
Hence we may see Pip as unreliable, but the result of getting across to us the theme we can identify with, that the attaining of wealth need not necessarily lead to happiness is accomplished. And ‘Great Expectations’ remains a valuable and intriguing novel.
Authors may also use first-person narration to achieve an ironic or satiric effect.

Mark Twain’s masterpiece, Huckleberry Finn, is told by Huck himself. Through the morally naïve observations of Huck, Twain satirizes the evils of slavery, fraud, hypocrisy, and virtually other kind of corrupt human behavior.

Second Person Narrative:
You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this at this time of the morning. But here you are, and you cannot say the terrain is entirely unfamiliar, although the details are fuzzy. You are at a nightclub talking to a girl with a shaved head. The club is either Heartbreak or the Lizard Lounge.
– Bright Lights Big City by J. Mclnerney
This is an example of second-person narrative where the narrator uses the pronoun ‘You’.
  • The Second person narrative is rarely used in American literature.
  • The narrator relates the story to another character and does this through that character’s point of view.
  • The narrator hardly ever conveys information directly to the reader as a character in the story.
Third Person Narrative:
An author of the story decides how much the narrator knows about the people and events in the story. In a third-person narrative, the narrator only describes the events and characters not as a participant in the story but as an unspecified entity who conveys the story without being involved in it. The narrator refers to the character as narrative ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘it’, or ‘they’.
A third person narrator can be
  • objective or subjective
  • omniscient or limited
Third Person Objective:
Narration in the third-person objective does not tell us about the internal feelings or thoughts about a character but reports only what can be observed. This type of narration is used by journalists who report only facts in their articles from only one fixed perspective.
Though we are unaware of what a character may be thinking in a third-person narrative, the character’s words, behavior, and body language help us to come to the right conclusion about him.

He ordered a bunch of red roses to be sent to Joan. Joan couldn’t stop smiling when she received the roses.

Third Person Subjective:
Narration in the third-person subjective describes events as seen through the eyes of a certain character or characters and hence we are able to relate and interpret events from that perspective.

He remembered Joan telling him how much she loved roses and just the thought of her smile thrilled him. So, he ordered a bunch of red roses to be sent to her.

Third Person Limited:
In the third-person limited narrative, the narrator, who plays no part in the story, zooms in on the thoughts and feelings of only one character. From this point of view, we observe the action through the eyes of only one of the characters in the story, and anything that the character cannot perceive is excluded from the narrative or else the point of view is broken.
Hence the narrative in the third-person limited is also called, ‘over the shoulder’ perspective.

In “The Cold Equations” by Tom Godwin, we know the pilot’s thoughts and feelings, but the emotions of the young stowaway are revealed only through her words and pilot’s observations.

Third Person Omniscient:
In the third-person omniscient (all-knowing), the narrator plays no part in the story, but can tell us the innermost thoughts and feelings of all the characters. The narrator is aware of the past, the present, and the future of the characters. He also has knowledge about events occurring simultaneously in different places. The omniscient is a familiar point of view: we have heard it in the fairy tales since we were young.
This kind of narrative works well with stories that have large settings or complex plots and conveying multiple view points of the story becomes necessary.
In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, the narrator passes from time to time to share personal feelings with the reader.
Is one form of narrative better than the other forms?
Although the choice of third-person narrator is widely used and second-person narrator is rarely used, one is not better than the other. It is dependent on the kind of story and the tone in which the story must be set and most importantly the skill of the writer.


Directions: Read the descriptions of the texts. Look for details that reveal the genre. Write the genre and subgenre on the lines and write a sentence explaining your answer.

  1. The Hard Way Outby Terry Vaughn

In this novel, Brian struggles with living at his Aunt’s house and sharing a room with his cousin while dealing with the grief of having lost both of his parents in a tragic car accident. Basketball is his only escape, but after geting benched for low progress report grades, Brian’ world shatters. Does he have it in him to turn around his grades? Will Brian come to peace with his emotions? Can anyone help him?

Genre: ___________________________________

Subgenre: _________________________________

Explain your Answer



  1. Newton’s Lawby Morton Mallon

After a mostly unsuccessful life of studying and practicing the nano-transportation sciences, Professor Melton stumbles upon a major breakthrough on April 20th, 2042: he discovers a way to transport particles at light-speed across fixed distances, thereby allowing him to teleport from one location to another. But Professor Melton soon discovers that there is no such thing as a free lunch. He learns that the body ages relative to the distance travelled, not just the time, in effect causing a teleporting body to age very rapidly. Can Melton solve this problem before his time is up?

Genre: ___________________________________

Subgenre: _________________________________

Explain your Answer



  1. Intermediate Math Problems for Studentsby M. Colwell

This workbook text explains how to perform basic mathematical operations, like double-digit addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. It also explains fractions and decimals..

Genre: ___________________________________

Subgenre: _________________________________

Explain your Answer




  1. “If a Tree Falls” adapted by Stan Tanner

This is the very short story of a buck that was admiring his horns in the water’s reflection and feeling bad about his skinny legs. When a hunter tries to kill him, his big horns get stuck in some tree branches, but his skinny legs manage to pull him free. The moral is that what is truly valuable is often unappreciated.

Genre: ___________________________________

Subgenre: _________________________________

Explain your Answer



  1. The Tinfoil Keyby Rob Burnside

When young Ian Bradley accidently switches suitcases with an intergalactic space explorer at a coffee shop, he ends up going on the trip of a lifetime. Now that he’s left holding the bag, Ian must deliver it to the light scientists on Gamma Outpost 9 in time, and every life-form in the galaxy is unknowingly depending on the success of his efforts.

Genre: ___________________________________

Subgenre: ________________________________

Explain your Answer



  1. Seeing More, Being Moreby Fletch Carpenter


“Dr. Fletch,” gives readers a dose of hard medicine, arguing that most peoples’ problems are caused by themselves. Fletch teaches readers to solve such problems as bullying, insecurity, and relationship troubles with a three-step strategy: letting go of ego, seeing the objective reality, and finding tangible roles. Some readers find Carpenter’s ideas to be refreshing. Others are offended.


Genre: ___________________________________

Subgenre: _________________________________

Explain your Answer




  1. Bronze Starby Irwin Keene

World War II has been hard for Mama Conner. Her husband and three sons have been away at war and Mama Conner was left to keep the house together, raise money, and provide for Baby Maple. The mood in the town darkens suddenly when her neighbor Betsy loses one of her loved ones in battle. At Mama Conner’s ladies club, several upstanding ladies of the town are on edge after hearing a garbled news report announcing that a man from their town was lost in battle, but as the man’s name went unheard, the women are left to speculate as to whom will be the most affected. This novel ends in a surprising twist.


Genre: ___________________________________

Subgenre: _________________________________

Explain your Answer




  1. “Rapunzel” adapted by Craig Hooper

Once upon a time a young girl named Rapunzel was running an errand for her mother when an evil witch caught her and imprisoned her in the tower of a castle. After years in the tower, Rapunzel grew long, beautiful hair. Having seen nobody but the evil witch her whole life, Rapunzel is very lonely until one day a prince wanders by and climbs up her hair. The witch doesn’t like this and action ensues, but eventually the prince and Rapunzel live happily every after.


Genre: ___________________________________

Subgenre: _________________________________


Explain your Answer








A Beginner’s Guide to the Basic Elements of Poetry

Poetry is often described as ‘literature in metrical form’ or ‘compositions forming rhythmic lines’. It has a set of specific features that differentiate it from other forms of literature very clearly. It is not necessary that all the elements are always employed in every poem that is penned. However, the presence of at least two of these elements is noted in most poems. For example, a lot of poets choose to write “blank verses” which are poems that lack rhyme. However, a blank verse does have a set rhythm and meter pattern that is followed. Now, a “free verse” will neither have rhyme or rhythm, but these verses are usually opulent in other elements like metaphors, symbols and spectacular word images. So, poetry writing offers a lot of scope for experimentation when it comes to choosing literary elements or devices as per the needs of the poet.
A stanza is to a poem what a paragraph is to a piece of prosaic writing – a fixed number of lines of verse forming a single unit of a poem. A poem is usually composed of multiple stanzas that are separated from each other an empty line in between. Usually, all stanzas are made up of equal number of lines in a single poem. However, there are many examples of poems where this approach has been majorly deviated from. A poem may have a combination stanzas that have varying number of lines.
Based on the number of lines present in a stanza, they are assigned different names. They are:

~ A “couplet” is a stanza that has only 2 lines.

~ A “tercet” is composed of 3 lines.

~ A “quatrain” consists of 4 lines.

~ A “cinquain” has 5 lines.

~ A “sestet” comprises 6 lines.

~ A “sonnet” is an entire poem with exactly 14 lines.
Example of A Couplet
“True wit is nature to advantage dress’d;
What oft was thought, but ne’er so well express’d.” – From Alexander Pope’s “An Essay on Criticism”
Examples of A Tercet
“furu ike ya
kawazu tobikomu
mizu no oto” – Haiku by Matsuo Bashō

roughly translating to:

“An old silent pond…
A frog jumps into the pond,
splash! Silence again.”
A Quatrain

“The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea,
The plowman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.” – From Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”
Example of A Cinquain
With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp’d, break from the trees
And fall.” – From Crapsey’s “November Night”
Example of A Sestat
“It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of ANNABEL LEE;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.” – From Edgar Allan Poe’s “Annabel Lee”
Example of A Sonnet
“When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide,
Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide;
“Doth God exact day-labor, light denied?”
I fondly ask; but Patience to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is Kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er land and ocean without rest;
They also serve who only stand and wait.”” – John Milton’s “On His Blindness”
Rhyme and Rhyme Scheme
Rhyming in poetry is one convention that makes this form of literature recognizably different from prose and drama. Even in this age when free verses are quite popular, rhyme in poesy is what renders it poetic. A very unique quality of rhyme in poetry is that it has the ability to provide a systematic flow to a bundle of thoughts that may seem absolutely chaotic if put together otherwise.
A rhyme smoothens out the rough edges and abrupt protrusions. This element can be simplistically defined as the similarity in the sounds of two or more lines. In poetry, this is generally achieved by using similar sounding words at the end of lines.

“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.”
Here, ‘wall’ and ‘fall’ sound alike by virtue of the similitude in their vowel sounds and so does ‘men’ and ‘again’. Only the initial consonant sound differs. It would be interesting to note at this point that words like ‘wall’ and ‘fall’ that rhyme without an effort are called true rhymes; slant rhymes are those words that do rhyme but with a little effort and some poetic licenses being granted. ‘Men’ and ‘again’ is a good instance of slant rhyme usage.
The function of a rhyme extends beyond giving poetry its identity. It helps give structure to all the themes that a poet wishes to cover in a particular peace. When 2 lines, which may or may not be consecutive to each other, rhyme, it mostly indicates a cohesive thematic bond between them.

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;”
In these lines from Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”, the highlights words clearly rhyme with one another. If you skip the second line, and go on to read the first, third and the fourth lines one after the other, they will make complete sense to you. This is simply because the poet deviated from the basic point a tad with the second line right after what he said in the first. The second line is parenthetical in nature, almost like an aside. The word ‘both’ does not rhyme with either ‘wood’, ‘stood’ or ‘could’, at least not very obviously. Here the rhyme scheme was devised in a manner where the reader is enabled to establish the direct link between certain lines of expression and trace the continuity. The deviation was very intentional. Now, this is often the case but not always. In this very stanza itself, you will see that ‘both’ rhymes with ‘undergrowth’, but there isn’t a direct link between these two lines.

That brings us to just another purpose of rhyme. When you have the repetition of a sound at least twice in a poem, it serves the purpose of clubbing a certain thought expressed in a single stanza together so that the poet can move on to a different but related line of thought in the next stanza. So, when Frost rhymed the second line with the fifth one in this stanza, his purpose of portraying this verse as a unified whole was served. He would then move on from what he saw in the first stanza to what he did and why in the second – a clear albeit small departure from the first point.
Both the functions stated above stand true for rhyme deviations opted for in the various stanzas of a single poem as well. That is where the rhyme scheme comes in. Take the first two stanzas from Robert Browning’s “The Last Ride Together”.

“I said–Then, dearest, since ’tis so, (a)
Since now at length my fate I know, (a)
Since nothing all my love avails, (b)
Since all, my life seemed meant for, fails, (b)
Since this was written and needs must be– (c)
My whole heart rises up to bless (d)
Your name in pride and thankfulness! (d)
Take back the hope you gave–I claim (e)
Only a memory of the same, (e)
–And this beside, if you will not blame, (e)
Your leave for one more last ride with me. (c)

My mistress bent that brow of hers; (f)
Those deep dark eyes where pride demurs (f)
When pity would be softening through, (g)
Fixed me a breathing-while or two (g)
With life or death in the balance: right! (h)
The blood replenished me again; (i)
My last thought was at least not vain: (i)
I and my mistress, side by side (j)
Shall be together, breathe and ride, (j)
So, one day more am I deified. (j)
Who knows but the world may end tonight? (h)”
The rhyme scheme follows the same pattern in both the stanzas, the fifth and the eleventh lines rhyming. But, see the alphabets next to each line – aabbcddeeec and ffgghiijjjh. The frequency and order of the occurrence of alphabets match in both the stanzas, but the alphabets in the two stanzas do not match!

Lastly, there are cases when rhyming words exist in a single line itself. In such a case, it’s called middle or internal rhyme. For instance, take these line from “Don’t Fence Me In” written by Cole Porter:

“Just turn me loose let me straddle my old saddle,
Underneath the western skies,
On my cayuse let me wander over yonder,
‘Til I see the mountains rise.”
Once you know the scheme a poet has chosen to use, you’ll be able to analyze and comprehend why he has used the scheme he has.
Rhythm and Meter
The primary thing to keep in mind here is that ‘rhyme’ and ‘rhythm’ are not the same at all. Rhythm is basically the pattern in which a poet chooses to sequence the stressed and unstressed syllables in every line of a poem, for the creation of oral patterns.
The three factors that help determine the rhythm in a poem are:

~ The total number of syllables present in each line.
~ The total count of accented (stressed) syllables in each line.
~ The tally of recurring patterns of two or three syllables – stressed and unstressed – clubbed in every line.

Each recurring pattern is individually called a foot. And a number of feet, on identification, can tell us the systematic rhythm or the meter that a poem follows.

In poetry, a stressed syllable is tagged with a “/” and an unstressed one is marked with a “U”. There are various types of foot and they are named accordingly.

One foot: Monometer
Two feet: Dimeter
Three feet: Trimeter
Four feet: Tetrameter
Five feet: Pentameter
Six feet: Hexameter

And there are five different types of constant beat patterns that the feet can occur in:

Iamb (Iambic) – One weak syllable followed by one accented syllable.
Trochee (Trochaic) – One accented syllable followed by one weak syllable.
Anapæst (Anapæstic) – Two weak syllables followed by one accented syllable.
Dactyl (Dactylic) – One accented syllable followed by two weak syllables.
Spondee (Spondaic) – Two consecutive accented syllables. This can usually be found at the end of a line.
(The upper-cased portions are indicative of the stressed or prominently lifted syllables)
A Iambic Pentameter
“Nor FRIENDS | nor FOES, | to ME | welCOME | you ARE:
Things PAST | redRESS | are NOW | with ME | past CARE.” – From William Shakespeare’s “Richard II” (Act II, Scene 3)
A Trochaic Tetrameter
“SHOULD you | ASK me, | WHENCE these | STORies?
WHENCE these | LEGends | AND tra | Ditions,
WITH the | ODours | OF the | FORest,
WITH the | DEW and | DAMP of | MEAdows,” – From Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “The Song of Hiawatha”
An Anapæstic Hexameter
“The imMOR | tal deSIRE | of imMOR | tals we SAW | in their FAC | es and SIGHED.” – From W. B. Yeats’s “The Wanderings of Oisin”
A Dactylic or Heroic Hexameter
“THIS is the | FORest prim- | Eval. The | MURmuring | PINES and the | HEM locks” – From Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Evangeline”
A Spondee
“Arma vir | Umque can | O, TroI | aE quI | prImus ab | OrIs”
dactyl |dactyl | spondee|spondee|dactyl | spondee – From Vergil’s “Aeneid”

Alliteration is the repetition of a particular consonant or a vowel sound in the initial stressed syllables of a series of words or phrases in close succession.
“I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet.”
– From Robert Frost’s “Acquainted with the Night

“Fly o’er waste fens and windy fields.”
– From Alfred Tennyson’s “Sir Galahad”

“Behemoth, biggest born of earth, upheaved His vastness”
– From John Milton’s “Paradise Lost: The Seventh Book”

“For the sky and the sea, and the sea and the sky.”
– From Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancyent Marinere”

This element is not used in every poem. But, when used, it is basically employed because lines with alliteration roll of the tongue in a manner that accentuates the beauty of the thought expressed. It adds to the rhythm of the poetry in ways very pleasing for the reading.
Simply put, a simile is a direct comparison drawn between two concepts, objects, or people using a verb like ‘resembles’ or connectives such as ‘like’, ‘as’ or ‘than’.
“O my Luve’s like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June;
O my Luve’s like the melodie
That’s sweetly play’d in tune.”
In “My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose” by Robert Burns, the poet uses two similes in the very first stanza itself. First, he compares his love for his beloved to a freshly blossomed red rose to express how perfect it is, untainted in any way. Second, he compares his feelings to a soulful melody that is played to perfection. In both cases, the poet has tried to stress on how the inherent purity and beauty of his love renders it perfect.

Another very good example of a poem with profuse usage of similes is Christina Georgina Rossetti’s “A Birthday”.

“MY heart is like a singing bird
Whose nest is in a water’d shoot;
My heart is like an apple-tree
Whose boughs are bent with thick-set fruit;
My heart is like a rainbow shell
That paddles in a halcyon sea;
My heart is gladder than all these,
Because my love is come to me.”
Metaphor is an indirect parallel drawn between two completely unrelated things. It is a comparison, yes, but metaphors do not use the connectives ‘like’, ‘as’ and ‘than’. A metaphor usually has more layers and depth than a simile which in the resemblance is usually more linear. Any metaphor can also have multiple interpretations depending on how complicated the poet chooses to make it.

“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune–without the words,
And never stops at all,”
In Emily Dickinson’s poem “Hope”, the poetess describes hope in the form of a bird. Like a bird sings at times whether it is happy and sad, similarly, hope springs eternal in the mind of man. Like a dismal bird chooses to vent its grief through a wordless tune, hope soothes always soothes the battered, morbid soul of a grieving man in order to replenish ebbing vitality. One may not know where is hope springs from, just like the unknown words to the tune a bird sings, but its present is always felt by man in times of happiness and sorrow.
The figurative painting of a vivid picture in the mind of a reader with words is imagery. This element is most exploited in descriptive poem where the poet has the scope to use ornate adjectives, lofty language and an exquisitely elaborate canvas to give wings to his imagination. Of course, this scope is primarily offered by the dynamic nature of a descriptive poem.
In Samuel Coleridge’s deft description the gardens in Xanadu in his poem “Kubla Khan: or, A Vision in a Dream” is an appropriate instance of imagery usage.

“So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And here were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.”
Since imagery can be used to appeal to each of the five human senses, there are five different kinds of it that has been used by poets over the ages. They are:

Auditory imagery
Gustatory imagery
Olfactory imagery
Tactile imagery
Visual imagery
The presentation of a tangible object that actually represents an abstract or intangible concept or idea is symbolism. A symbol can be presented to the readers in the form of a character, an object strategically placed in the narrative, a word or phrase, or even a place. A symbol is mostly subtle in nature or at least never blatantly explained. Symbols are mostly multi-layered in nature and can be interpreted differently by different people. Over the years, owing to repeated usage, some objects have acquired one particular value that is usually associated with them, like the apple is usually seen as a symbol of seduction and sensuality (the forbidden fruit association), the loss and regrowth of leaves in a tree has come to be seen as the circle of life, the raven is indicative of imminent death and so on. However, none of these associations must be considered to be absolute or taken for granted by a reader as the presentation of these very objects can change massively depending on the context of poems.

“Ah Sun-flower! weary of time,
Who countest the steps of the Sun:
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
Where the travellers journey is done.”

Here, William Blake uses sunflowers to represent human beings who yearn to escape to a higher spiritual plane but are unable to do so for they are shackled by a material existence, just like the flowers which can only look up to the sun expectantly but are deeply rooted to the earth in this lifetime. This, however, is only one of the interpretations of this particular poem. The sunflowers symbolism has been read in different ways by different literary experts.
All these elements of poetry are fluid tools at his disposal of a poet that he can bend and customize in order to convey his ideas most effectively.





Figurative Language Worksheet 1

 Directions: Read the lines of poetry.  Slashes represent line breaks.  Figure out which technique is being used: simile, metaphor, hyperbole, or personification.  In the boxes, explain how you figured out your answer.  It is possible that more than one technique is being used.  If you can, explain each.


  1. Like burnt-out torches by a sick man’s bed

Which technique is being used?


Simile, Metaphor, Personification, or Hyperbole

How do you figure?

(write a sentence explaining your answer)





  1. Drip—hiss—drip—hiss fall the raindrops / on the oaken log which burns, and steams,
    and smokes the ceiling beams.  / Drip—hiss—the rain never stops.

Which technique is being used?


Simile, Metaphor, Personification, or Hyperbole

How do you figure?

(write a sentence explaining your answer)





  1. When the stars threw down their spears, / And water’d heaven with their tears,

Which technique is being used?


Simile, Metaphor, Personification, or Hyperbole

How do you figure?

(write a sentence explaining your answer)





  1. The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,

The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,

Which technique is being used?


Simile, Metaphor, Personification, or Hyperbole

How do you figure?

(write a sentence explaining your answer)







  1. I do not care to talk to you although / Your speech evokes a thousand sympathies,

Which technique is being used? __________________________________________________________________________________

Simile, Metaphor, Personification, or Hyperbole

How do you figure?

(write a sentence explaining your answer)


  1. The sun was shining on the sea, / Shining with all his might:

Which technique is being used? __________________________________________________________________________________

Simile, Metaphor, Personification, or Hyperbole

How do you figure?

(write a sentence explaining your answer)


  1. The leaves are little yellow fish / swimming in the river.

Which technique is being used? __________________________________________________________________________________

Simile, Metaphor, Personification, or Hyperbole

How do you figure?

(write a sentence explaining your answer)


  1. The old clock down in the parlor / Like a sleepless mourner grieves,

Which technique is being used? __________________________________________________________________________________

Simile, Metaphor, Personification, or Hyperbole

How do you figure?

(write a sentence explaining your answer)


  1. By the lakes that thus outspread / Their lone waters, lone and dead / Their sad waters, sad and chilly

Which technique is being used? __________________________________________________________________________________

Simile, Metaphor, Personification, or Hyperbole

How do you figure?

(write a sentence explaining your answer)


  1. Fame is a bee. / It has a song — / It has a sting —

Which technique is being used? __________________________________________________________________________________

Simile, Metaphor, Personification, or Hyperbole

How do you figure?

(write a sentence explaining your answer)


Element of Fiction

The First Element of Fiction: Character

In many ways, characters are the foundation for the entire work. Is there conflict? That’s going to involve the emotional and mental condition of your characters. Have you chosen a point of view? That’s you following specific characters as you tell the story. Your characters are the people through whom your reader experiences the tale, and the trick is to make those fictional characters feel completely real.

  • You’ll need to know their backstory. This doesn’t mean your reader needs to know it, but your understanding of your character’s history is crucial for how and why your character responds to things.
  • You’ll need at least a rudimentary grasp of psychology. You and I have both read books which annoyed us because the characters just didn’t feel “real.” Often, this is because basic psychology was ignored, and the characters behaved in a way that made no sense for human beings.
  • You’ll need to understand the power of the character arc. Your character should not be the same at the end of the story as in the beginning. They change, and their growth is a key aspect of your story’s momentum.

If your characters are flat, your readers will have trouble empathizing. But if your characters feel real and relatable, then your readers will eat your story up. Understanding what your characters do and say (and how other characters respond to them) helps to paint the fullest possible picture of your fictional creation.

The Second Element of Fiction: Plot

One small aside: plenty of folks would start this list with plot, not character. Both are fine. Your characters live inside your plot, but your plot revolves around your characters. I just put plot second in this list because when I write, my plot follows my characters, rather than the other way around. If you do it differently, there’s nothing to fear: you’re still right! (I could say “write,” but you might click the back button.)

Plot is like blueprints. Your plot, its connections, and its structure determine the way you shape your story. It includes the order in which your characters face things. It’s the organized structure, the thing that will end up in an outline on Wikipedia (with spoiler alerts, of course).

Generally, “plot” as a concept is split into five parts:

  1. Exposition or introduction, which establishes characters and setting.
  2. Rising action, which reveals the conflict. Now that your characters are established (along with some sense of what their “normal” looks like), you throw in the wrench and raise the stakes.
  3. Now comes the climax, also known as the turning point. This should be the greatest moment of tension in your story; everything is critical, with emotion and interest peaked. This is make-or-break, the moment when things matter the most.
  4. After that comes falling action, when things start to wind down. All that tension is actively being resolved. Your reader has a deep need for that resolution in this section, so make sure that when you “fix” the problems, you address the issues you’ve been carefully setting up.
  5. Finally, we have resolution. Don’t let the word fool you: this ending isn’t necessarily happy or sad. It means everything has been solved, and your conclusion arrives at the place where all the events of the plot have strongly led. It feels final, or at least, final enough that the reader can put the book down without flipping back through the pages to see if they missed something. Again, this doesn’t require a happy ending. It does require a satisfying one, even if you mean to continue in a sequel. If you’ve left any knots still tied, you’d better have a good reason why—and better make sure your reader has a clue that the answers are coming soon.

Before we move on, I want to circle back and remind you that you need conflict in your story. A lot of authors struggle with this since conflict is by nature deeply uncomfortable. However, every really good story has some kind of conflict—even if that conflict is purely an internal struggle with a heavy emotion.

Extra: If you want to dive deeper into writing an effective plot, I suggest reading the 5 Elements of Storytelling and What Is Plot?

The Third Element of Fiction: Setting

Setting is one of my personal favorite elements. This includes the physical location (real or invented) and the social environment of the story (including chronology, culture, institutions, etc.).

I love setting because, in many ways, it’s like a character. No, your setting doesn’t have feelings, but your characters are forced to interact with it everywhere they go and in everything they do. Your setting actually develops who your characters are.

It determines, among other things:

  • The skills they’ve developed to survive
  • The tools they’ll have (weapons, money, clothing, transportation)
  • The cultural norms for communication (speech, body language, and relative rules for communication between genders, classes, and more)
  • The presuppositions your character brings into the story (religion, psychology, philosophy, educational assumptions, all of which have a lot to do with the way your characters respond to stimuli)

When designing your setting, it’s a good idea to have some idea how it all works. What’s the weather like? How does the economy function? Do they use money? Where does pancake batter come fruom?

Are you copying a historical culture? (And if you are, I highly advise looking for something that isn’t European. Mix it up! The world is a glorious patchwork of variety.)

Your characters have to swim through this world, so have fun with this. Creating your setting (also known as world-building) can be one of the most exciting parts of writing.

The Fourth Element of Fiction: Point-of-View

This is a fun and tricky tool to work with. POV determines things like tense and how much the reader gets to see. There’s first-person (I, my), second-person (you, your), and third-person/narrator (she, hers). There’s present tense (I see/she sees), past tense, (I saw/she saw), and even that cockamamie future tense nobody uses (I will see/she will see).

It’s the combination of these things that create an effective POV. So how do you choose?

It all depends on (1) the particular feel you’re going for and (2) how much your reader needs to see.

  • What feel are you going for? There’s a reason different genres often to use different POVs.
    • Urban fantasy, for example, is almost always first-person past-tense, because they’re going for the feel of a person telling you an exciting thing that happened. There’s an intimate, immediate feel that goes with this close-up-and-personal viewpoint, like seeing the fist come right for your face.
    • On the other hand, literary fiction usually uses third-person. The reason is simple: literary fiction usually has a much broader scope than urban fantasy and so needs to be able to take the reader to a bird’s-eye view, usually seeing through multiple characters. The pace is often a little slower, but the impact can be deeply powerful, and tends to explore consequences.
  • How much does your reader need to see?
    • Is it essential that the reader sees things happening outside your protagonist’s point of view? Do they need to see things your protagonist does not see, or hear things your protagonist does not hear? Then you need third-person POV.
    • Do you actually need the reader to discover things at the same pace as your protagonist? Do you want your reader to waffle and rage with your protagonist, seeking for answers? Then first-person might be better.

Variety is the spice of life, and you have the joy of mixing and matching as you need.

  • Want third-person present tense? (She turns and sees him, and wonders if unexpected encounters can stop one’s heart.)
  • Want first-person past tense? (I turned and saw him, and found myself wondering if unexpected encounters could stop my heart.)
  • Want second-person future tense? (You will turn and see him, and you will wonder if the unexpected encounter will stop your heart.)

Study up on how these work, and you have a whole new set of tools to play with.

The Fifth Element of Fiction: Theme

Theme is a hidden element, but incredibly important: in essence, theme is what your story is REALLY about.

The plot is the outward details, e.g., “A son stands to inherit his father’s vast business empire, but only if he can prove himself to be a responsible adult by the age of 25.” Theme would be what it’s really about, e.g., “Growing up requires choices.” Or, “‘Family’ means more than wealth.” If you’re really good, you can even use a one-word theme, like love, truth, adulthood, etc.

Yes, all fictional books have themes, even if it wasn’t intentional. Even authors who aren’t aware of theme use it—personal beliefs on how the world works (or should work) always flavor the story.

The tricky thing about theme is it should rarely be bluntly stated in your work; the moment you do, your work slides into the “preachy” category. Of course, sometimes, you want folks to know what the purpose is up front, but if you can manage to make it subtle—to get that point across without ever frankly stating it—your readers will actually take it to heart a lot more deeply.

Think about it. Simply reading about something like statistics on autism might make you think, but entering into the story of a character struggling with it (such as The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime) can do a lot more to help you really feel and understand the challenges and cultural barriers faced.  Effective stories are written by authors who knew the theme. What’s yours?

Some personal examples:

  • My first book, The Sundered, is about growing up and realizing you’ve been lied to.
  • My first novelette, The Christmas Dragon, carries the theme that running away doesn’t solve problems.
  • My second novelette, Strings, is about the choice—and cost—of heroism.

However, in all three books, I do what I can to make sure that readers don’t feel “moralized” at. Instead, I want the reader to emotionally arrive at these conclusions alongside the protagonists.

Effective stories are written by authors who know their theme. What’s yours? (Need help choosing one? Check this out: When Choosing Themes, Write What You Don’t Know.)

By the way, this “theme” concept has some nifty corollaries. A symbol, for example, shows up to represent individual details within the story (e.g., glass breaking at the moment a friendship fails), and a motif is a narrative element that shows up repeatedly throughout the tale (e.g., “Quote the Raven, ‘Nevermore’”). Read more here: The Difference Between Symbol and Motif.

The Sixth Element of Fiction: Style

Style is awesome. Style is needed. Style is the thing that makes your work stand out from everybody else’s, because in essence, it’s your “voice.”

You develop style by working on technique. Your syntax, word choices, and tone all contribute to this. Your style can demonstrate not only your voice as a writer, but is crucial to indicating details about your story and characters. Style shows accent and dialect, character intelligence and observation; it shows the underlying humor or drama of your piece. Your style is your unique flavor, and developing it will not only take your entire writing career, but is also one of the most rewarding activities as a writer.

Developing your writing style takes work; there are no short-cuts for this, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun.

  • Read a lot. The more variety you pour into yourself, the more ingredients you’ll have to cook with as you develop your style. Read books from different countries, different genders, different cultures. Read everything and learn as you go.
  • Write a lot. No writing is ever wasted. Practice, practice, and practice some more—and spend time reading your work out loud. (That last step can be embarrassing, but it’s really helpful.)
  • Listen. Listen to people. Listen to conversations. Tone is a crucial component of style, and you’ll need to learn how to convey that in your work—but you can’t convey it if you don’t know what it sounds like.

Final Thoughts on the Six Elements of Fiction

I know what you’re thinking: this seems like a lot. And you’re right, it is; however, if you’re an avid reader, I think you’ll find you’re already familiar with most of these concepts. The great stories you know and love all use them, and if you are passionate about your story, incorporating theme will not be as hard as it might seem.




When Gertrude Grew Great

Gertrude was just an average kid with an average life.  She lived in an average sized house in an average neighborhood in a totally typical town.  At home, she helped out just enough to slide by.  At school, she did just enough homework to stay out of trouble.  She had straight ‘C’s in all of her classes.

One day Gertrude’s teacher, Mr. Mister, stopped her after class.  “Gertrude,” he said, “I know that you can do better.  I’ve seen the work you do in class, and some of it is amazing… way better than ‘C’ work.”  Gertrude knew that there were moments when she did try a little harder than what everyone expected, like when she put extra elbow grease into some of the dishes to make them really sparkle; or, when she took extra time with her handwriting on a few problems of her homework to make it look fancy.  But she just didn’t have confidence in herself.  She didn’t really believe that she could change; in fact, she was scared by the thought of having the power to become whatever she wanted.  She had done just enough to get by for so long that being mediocre was her lifestyle.  She stopped listening to Mr. Mister about half way through and just nodded her head until he stopped.  Then, she walked out at an average pace.

That night, Gertrude had a dream.  It was ten years into the future and she was still living with her mom in her average neighborhood.  She could not find an average job, because even the average jobs were filled by above-average workers: people who did more than what was expected of them.  Gertrude loved her mom, but she wanted more for herself.  She wanted her own place, her own life.  A voice spoke in the dream: “The present is nothing more than the outcome of the choices made in the past.  The future will only be the results of the choices we make today.”  Gertrude began crying average sized tears, because she knew that she helped shape the world in which she lived, and the choices she made produced the options she had.  She woke up with her pillow wet.

Gertrude was relieved to be back in middle school.  She took a little more care in getting herself ready that morning, and she looked better than normal.  She tried harder in school, and she felt smarter than usual.  She helped more around the house, and she felt better than typical.  Soon the pattern of success replaced the pattern of mediocrity, and Gertrude became great at everything.  Sure, there were still lots of things that Gertrude struggled with, but just trying her best made her feel better when she didn’t succeed, and Gertrude even became great at failing by learning from her mistakes.

Ten years later, Gertrude lived in an average sized house in an average neighborhood in a totally typical town. She was just the average adult, working much harder than average to earn an average living.  But her happiness was above average, because her life was hers.  She still visited with her mom quite a bit.  But when she was done, she was happy to go to her own house.  Gertrude was living the great life.


“When Gertrude Grew Great”


  1. Author’s Purpose: entertain                               inform                                     persuade

Why did the author write this?

  1. Genre: ____________________________ Subgenre: ______________________________

Ex: Nonfiction, fiction, or folklore                                          Ex: Autobiography, science fiction, fable, informational writing, etc.

  1. Narrator’s Point of View: ______________________________________________________

1st-person, 2nd-person, 3rd-person objective, 3rd-person limited, or 3rd-person omniscient


4 & 5. Summarize the text:

Five key events from beginning, middle, & end.












  1. Exposition
  1. Setting:__________________________________________________________________________

When and where does the story take place?     

  1. Conflict: _________________________________________________________________________

Describe the conflict in the story.

  1. Rising Action: List some events that occur before the climax.
  1. _______________________________________________________________________________
  1. _______________________________________________________________________________





The turning point



Falling Action: List some events that occur after the climax.

  1. _______________________________________________________________________________
  1. _______________________________________________________________________________




When the conflict is solved




The Five Main Genres of Literature

Literature is a broad term that encompasses almost everything we read, see, and hear. It helps to be able to break it down into categories, for ease of understanding and analysis. Here are 5 genres of literature commonly taught in the classroom, with explanations and examples.

  • Categorizing Literature

    The 5 Main Genres of LiteratureBack in ancient Greece, literature was divided into two main categories: tragedy and comedy. Nowadays the list of possible types and genres of literature can seem endless. But it is still possible to narrow down the vast amount of literature available into a few basic groups.

    The five genres of literature students should be familiar with are Poetry, Drama, Prose, Nonfiction, and Media—each of which is explained in more detail below. You’ll see some overlap between genres; for example prose is a broader term that includes both drama and non-fiction. At the end of this article we’ll also touch on a couple of narrower but still important literary categories.


    This is often considered the oldest form of literature. Before writing was invented, oral stories were commonly put into some sort of poetic form to make them easier to remember and recite. Poetry today is usually written down, but is still sometimes performed.

    A lot of people think of rhymes and counting syllables and lines when they think of poetry, and some poems certainly follow strict forms. But other types of poetry are so free-form that they lack any rhymes or common patterns. There are even kinds of poetry that cross genre lines, such as prose poetry. In general, though, a text is a poem when it has some sort of meter or rhythm, and when it focuses on the way the syllables, words, and phrases sound when put together. Poems are heavy in imagery and metaphor, and are often made up of fragments and phrases rather than complete, grammatically correct sentences. And poetry is nearly always written in stanzas and lines, creating a unique look on the page.

    Poetry as experienced in the classroom is usually one of three types. There are the shorter, more modern poems, spanning anything from a few lines to a few pages. Often these are collected in books of poems by a single author or by a variety of writers. Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven,” is one of the most commonly taught poems of this type. Then there are the classical, formulaic poems of Shakespeare’s time, such as the blank verse and the sonnet. And finally there are the ancient, epic poems transcribed from oral stories. These long, complex poems resemble novels, such as Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey.

  • Prose

    Once you know what poetry is, it’s easy to define prose. Prose can be defined as any kind of written text that isn’t poetry (which means drama, discussed below, is technically a type of prose). The most typical varieties of prose are novels and short stories, while other types include letters, diaries, journals, and non-fiction (also discussed below). Prose is written in complete sentences and organized in paragraphs. Instead of focusing on sound, which is what poetry does, prose tends to focus on plot and characters.

    Prose is the type of literature read most often in English classrooms. Any novel or short story falls into this category, from Jane Eyre to Twilight and from “A Sound of Thunder” to “The Crucible.” Like poetry, prose is broken down into a large number of other sub-genres. Some of these genres revolve around the structure of the text, such as novellas, biographies, and memoirs, and others are based on the subject matter, like romances, fantasies, and mysteries.


    Any text meant to be performed rather than read can be considered drama (unless it’s a poem meant to be performed, of course). In layman’s terms, dramas are usually called plays. When written down the bulk of a drama is dialogue, with periodic stage directions such as “he looks away angrily.” Of all the genres of literature discussed in this article, drama is the one given the least time in most classrooms. And often when drama is taught, it’s only read the same way you might read a novel. Since dramas are meant to be acted out in front of an audience, it’s hard to fully appreciate them when looking only at pages of text. Students respond best to dramas, and grasp their mechanics more fully, when exposed to film or theater versions or encouraged to read aloud or act out scenes during class.

    The dramas most commonly taught in classrooms are definitely those written by the bard. Shakespeare’s plays are challenging, but rewarding when approached with a little effort and a critical mindset. Popular choices from his repertoire include Hamlet, Taming of the Shrew, and Romeo and Juliet, among others. Older Greek plays are also taught fairly often, especially Sophocles’ Antigone. And any good drama unit should include more modern plays for comparison, such as Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman.


    Poetry and drama both belong to the broader category of fiction—texts that feature events and characters that have been made up. Then there is non-fiction, a vast category that is a type of prose and includes many different sub-genres. Non-fiction can be creative, such as the personal essay, or factual, such as the scientific paper. Sometimes the purpose of non-fiction is to tell a story (hence the autobiography), but most of the time the purpose is to pass on information and educate the reader about certain facts, ideas, and/or issues.

    Some genres of non-fiction include histories, textbooks, travel books, newspapers, self-help books, and literary criticism. A full list of non-fiction types would be at least as long as this entire article. But the varieties most often used in the classroom are textbooks, literary criticism, and essays of various sorts. Most of what students practice writing in the classroom is the non-fiction essay, from factual to personal to persuasive. And non-fiction is often used to support and expand students’ understanding of fiction texts—after reading Hamlet students might read critical articles about the play and historical information about the time period and/or the life of Shakespeare.


    The newest type of literature that has been defined as a distinct genre is media. This categorization was created to encompass the many new and important kinds of texts in our society today, such as movies and films, websites, commercials, billboards, and radio programs. Any work that doesn’t exist primarily as a written text can probably be considered media, particularly if it relies on recently developed technologies. Media literature can serve a wide variety of purposes—among other things it can educate, entertain, advertise, and/or persuade.

    More and more educators are coming to recognize the importance of teaching media in the classroom. Students are likely to be exposed to far more of this type of literature than anything else throughout their lives, so it makes sense to teach them how to be critical and active consumers of media. Internet literacy is a growing field, for example, since the skills required to understand and use online information differ in important ways from the skills required to analyze printed information. Teaching media literacy is also a great way for educators to help students become participants in their own culture, through lessons on creating their own websites or home movies or commercials.

    These are far from the only important genres of literature. Here are a few more that are sometimes used in classrooms:

    Oral Literature: The oldest type of literature, and the foundation on which culture was built. Now most oral texts have been written down, of course, and are usually taught in the form of epic poems or plays or folk tales.

    Folklore/Folk Tales/Fables: A distinction is often made between regular prose and folklore. Most folk tales were originally oral literature, and are short stories meant to pass on a particular lesson or moral. They often have a timeless quality, dealing with common human concerns that are just as relevant to us today, while still being products of a very specific culture and time period.

    Graphic Novels and Comic Books: It used to be that most educators saw comic books as the lowest form of literature, not suitable or valuable for children. But times have changed, and many teachers have come to realize that comic books and the more modern graphic novels are both appealing to kids and are a valid form of literature in their own right.

  • Some Resources

    Literary Genres” by the California Board of Education

    Literary Genre, Mode, and Style” at The Victorian Web

    Helping Children Understand Literary Genres” by Carl B. Smith

Sentence Patterns


“Sentence patterns” is just another way talk about the way a sentence is put together; the order of the elements in the sentence; sentence construction. Some sources say there are six English sentence patterns; some say eight. A few sources list even more. Here are the ones we feel are the most common, and the easiest to recognize:

1.  Subject + Verb (S-V)

This is the simplest kind of sentence.  It consists of a subject, a verb, and possibly some adjectives, adverbs,  or prepositional phrases.  There are no direct objects, indirect objects, or complements.

  • Abraham speaks fluently.  (subject, verb, adverb)

  • Many of the class members write well in class.  (subject, verb, adverbs) (The “complete” subject is “Many of the class members”–a noun phrase.)

2.  Verb + Subject (V-S)

Sentences in English usually have the subject come first, followed by the verb. But when a sentence begins with there is, there was, there are, there were, the verb comes first, followed by the subject. The word There is never a subject!

  • There is a strange shadow in the woods.  (verb, subject–the complete subject is the noun phrase a strange shadow, adverb)

  • There were no leftovers after the buffet.  (verb, subject, adverb)

3.  Subject + Verb + Direct Object (S-V-DO)

  • Andrew composes music.  (subject, verb, direct object.)

  • Matthew helps others in several English practice rooms.  (subject, verb, direct object, adverb)

  • Helen tells jokes to make people smile.  (subject, verb, direct object, adverb)

4.  Subject + Verb + Complement (S-V-SC)

A complement is a word or group of words that describe or rename the subject. Complements follow a linking verb.  There are two kinds of subject complements:  1) predicate nominative, which is a noun or pronoun that renames or classifies the subject of the sentence and 2) predicate adjective, which is an adjective that describes the subject of the sentence.

  • Mother looks tired.  (subject, verb, complement–predicate adjective)

  • Some students in the class are engineers.  (the noun phrase Some students in the class is the complete subject, verb, complement–predicate nominative)

  • The men are handsome, the women are clever, and the children are above-average. (compound sentence of three independent clauses, so three subjects, three verbs, threecomplements–all predicate adjectives)

5.  Subject + Verb + Indirect Object + Direct Object (S-V-IO-DO)

An indirect object tells for whom or to whom. If the indirect object comes after the direct object (in a prepositional phrase “to ________” or “for _______”), the sentence pattern is shown as S-V-DO-IO.  Pronouns are usually used as indirect objects (but not always).

  • I sent her a birthday present.  (subject, verb, indirect object, direct object)

  • Jay gave his dog a bone.  (subject, verb, indirect object, direct object)

  • Granny left Gary all of her money.  (subject, verb, indirect object, direct object)

  • Granny gave every last asset to Gary. (subject, verb, direct object, indirect object in a prepositional phrase)

6.  Subject + Verb + Direct Object + Object Complement (S-V-DO-OC)

This pattern isn’t as common as the others, but it is used.  An object complement is a word or group of words that renames, describes, or classifies the direct object.  Object complements are nouns or adjectives and follow the object.

  • Debbie left the window open during the rain storm.  (subject, verb, direct object, object complement, adverb)

  • The class picked Susie class representative.  (subject, verb, direct object, object complement)

What Are the Different Parts of a Sentence?

The five main parts of a sentence are:

  • Subject
  • Predicate
  • Clause
  • Phrase
  • Modifier



In general, the subject refers to the part of the sentence which tells whom or what the sentence is addressing. The subject is going to be either a noun or a noun phrase.

For example, “Kelly walked down the street.” Kelly is the subject, because she is the actor, or subject, in the sentence.

There are a few different types of subjects. The underlined word is the subject.

  • Simple subject: Kate is a thin girl.
  • Full subject: Jeffrey’s poem about his mother made the class cry.
  • Compound subject: Paul and Tommy joined the soccer team at the same time.


Let us return to our example “Kelly walked down the street.” In this sentence, “walked” is the predicate because it is the verb that tells us what Kelly is doing. A sentence can have just a subject and a predicate. For example, you could just say “Kelly walked” and you have a complete sentence.

Here are the types of predicates.

  • Simple predicate: Harry ate his apple.
  • Full predicate: The mouse slowly ran towards the food.
  • Compound predicate: She both laughed and cried at the film.


A clause is usually some sort of additional information to the sentence. We could say “They like ice cream.” However, we could also say “They like ice cream on hot days.” “They like ice cream” can stand by itself, but “on hot days” adds something extra to the sentence. Therefore, “on hot days” is a clause.

There are two different types of clauses:

  • Dependent clauses – “On hot days” is an example of a dependent clause because it could not stand by itself as a sentence.
  • Independent clauses – “Paul washed the dishes, but he didn’t want to.” “He didn’t want to” could be a sentence by itself; however, here it is connected to the larger sentence.


A phrase is sort of like a dependent clause. It is a group of words that cannot stand alone as a sentence, but it can be used to add something to a sentence. There are a few different types of phrases:

  • A noun phrase acts as a noun. For example, “the hungry cat” is a noun phrase.
  • An adjective phrase modifies a noun. The child playing hopscotch was happy.
  • An adverb phrase begins with a preposition and acts as an adverb. “On a hot day” from earlier is an example.
  • A prepositional phrase is made up of a preposition, its objects, and its modifiers. The house on the corner was old.


As you can see from above, there are many different types of ways to add additional information to a sentence. All of these examples are known under the general category of modifiers.


Parts of Speech

In the English language, words can be considered as the smallest elements that have distinctive meanings. Based on their use and functions, words are categorized into several types or parts of speech. This article will offer definitions and examples for the 8 major parts of speech in English grammar:  noun, pronoun, verb, adverb, adjective,conjunction, preposition, and interjection.


1. Noun

This part of a speech refers to words that are used to name persons, things, animals, places, ideas, or events. Nouns are the simplest among the 8 parts of speech, which is why they are the first ones taught to students in primary school.


  • Tom Hanks is very versatile.
  • The italicized noun refers to a name of a person.
  • Dogs can be extremely cute.
  • In this example, the italicized word is considered a noun because it names an animal.
  • It is my birthday.
  • The word “birthday” is a noun which refers to an event.

There are different types of nouns namely:

  • Proper– proper nouns always start with a capital letter and refers to specific names of persons, places, or things.
  • Examples: Volkswagen Beetle, Shakey’s Pizza, Game of Thrones
  • Common– common nouns are the opposite of proper nouns. These are just generic names of persons, things, or places.
  • Examples: car, pizza parlor, TV series
  • Concrete– this kind refers to nouns which you can perceive through your five senses.
  • Examples: folder, sand, board
  • Abstract- unlike concrete nouns, abstract nouns are those which you can’t perceive through your five senses.
  • Examples: happiness, grudge, bravery
  • Count– it refers to anything that is countable, and has a singular and plural form.
  • Examples:  kitten, video, ball
  • Mass– this is the opposite of count nouns. Mass nouns are also called non-countable nouns, and they need to have “counters” to quantify them.
  • Examples of Counters: kilo, cup, meter
  • Examples of Mass Nouns: rice, flour, garter
  • Collective– refers to a group of persons, animals, or things.
  • Example: faculty (group of teachers), class (group of students), pride (group of lions)

This great list of nouns can help you explore more nouns.

2. Pronoun

A pronoun is a part of a speech which functions as a replacement for a noun. Some examples of pronouns are: I, it, he, she, mine, his, hers, we, they, theirs, and ours.

Sample Sentences:

  • Janice is a very stubborn child. She just stared at me and when I told her to stop.
  • The largest slice is mine.
  • We are number one.

The italicized words in the sentences above are the pronouns in the sentence.

3.  Adjective

This part of  a speech is used to describe a noun or a pronoun. Adjectives can specify the quality, the size, and the number of nouns or pronouns.

Use this link to get a list of adjectives.

Sample Sentences:

  • The carvings are intricate.
  • The italicized word describes the appearance of the noun “carvings.”
  • I have two hamsters.
  • The italicized word “two,” is an adjective which describes the number of the noun “hamsters.”
  • Wow! That doughnut is huge!
  • The italicized word is an adjective which describes the size of the noun “doughnut.”

4. Verb

This is the most important part of a speech, for without a verb, a sentence would not exist. Simply put, this is a word that shows an action (physical or mental) or state of being of the subject in a sentence.

Examples of “State of Being Verbs” : am, is, was, are, and were

Sample Sentences:

  • As usual, the Stormtroopers missed their shot.
  • The italicized word expresses the action of the subject “Stormtroopers.”
  • They are always prepared in emergencies.
  • The verb “are” refers to the state of being of the pronoun “they,” which is the subject in the sentence.

5. Adverb

Just like adjectives, adverbs are also used to describe words, but the difference is that adverbs describe adjectives, verbs, or another adverb.

The different types of adverbs are:

  • Adverb of Manner– this refers to how something happens or how an action is done.
  • Example: Annie danced gracefully.
  • The word “gracefully” tells how Annie danced.
  • Adverb of Time- this states “when” something happens or “when” it is done.
  • Example: She came yesterday.
  • The italicized word tells when she “came.”
  • Adverb of Place– this tells something about “where” something happens or ”where” something is done.
  • Example:  Of course, I looked everywhere!
  • The adverb “everywhere” tells where I “looked.”
  • Adverb of Degree– this states the intensity or the degree to which a specific thing happens or is done.
  • Example: The child is very talented.
  • The italicized adverb answers the question, “To what degree is the child talented?”

6. Preposition

This part of a speech basically refers to words that specify location or a location in time.

Examples of Prepositions: above, below, throughout, outside, before, near, and since

Sample Sentences:

  • Micah is hiding under the bed.
  • The italicized preposition introduces the prepositional phrase “under the bed,” and tells where Micah is hiding.
  • During the game, the audience never stopped cheering for their team.
  • The italicized preposition introduces the prepositional phrase “during the game,” and tells when the audience cheered.

7. Conjunction

The conjunction is a part of a speech which joins words, phrases, or clauses together.

Examples of Conjunctions:  and, yet, but, for, nor, or, and so

Sample Sentences:

  • This cup of tea is delicious and very soothing.
  • Kiyoko has to start all over again because she didn’t follow the professor’s instructions.
  • Homer always wanted to join the play, but he didn’t have the guts to audition.

The italicized words in the sentences above are some examples of conjunctions.

8. Interjection

This part of a speech refers to words which express emotions. Since interjections are commonly used to convey strong emotions, they are usually followed by an exclamation point.

Examples of Interjections:


Sample Sentences:

  • Ouch! That must have hurt.
  • Hurray, we won!
  • Hey! I said enough!

The bold words attached to the main sentences above are some examples of interjections.

Final Thoughts

You must familiarize yourself with the different parts of speech discussed in this article because they are among the most fundamental concepts that you will encounter throughout your study of grammar. An in-depth knowledge of this topic will not only make you a better writer, but an effective communicator as well.


Part of Speech Overview