Adapted from: A Sense of Belonging – Oxford University Press Australia
The plot is what happens in the story. It can range from the very simple, to very complicated. Simple plots usually depend on other factors to bring the story to life in the reader's mind. A simple example of a narrative plot is the introduction-rising action-climax-resolution model. Certain stories have expected story lines, while others are complex or have so many twists that the reader is caught by surprise or cannot expect what will happen next. There are also stories which end without an actual ending, leaving the reader to guess what actually happened.
Characterisation brings depth to the participants in a story, making them more relatable to the reader. Therefore, without characterisation, we are presented with characters in the story that we do not understand or relate to in the story. It is possible to get to know a character through actual physical description, dialogue or by the actions he/she does. Dialogue can include what a character has to say, and how he or she says it, as well as the conversation of others about this particular person. Actions cover all the unique ways a character does things, such as his/her movement, temperament, and reaction to different situations.
The theme is the main point or sometimes, moral of the story. Very often, a story also has more than one theme. A good author will not explain the theme or make it too obvious, but instead, will leave it to the readers to discover it for themselves.
Setting refers to the place and time in which the story occurs. Thus, we may have a quiet lake, a tropical jungle, a spacecraft a thousand years into the future or a bustling street in downtown Singapore. The setting can thus be used to create a mood to the action in the story.
Style refers to the manner in which the author tells the story, and the techniques he/she uses to convey that story to the reader. This aspect of writing is often ignored or avoided by students who are unfamiliar with what to look for in a story. There are several questions you can ask yourselves when reading what will help you identify and evaluate the style of a particular writer.
• Who is telling the story?
• What tense the story is written in?
• What sort of language is used?
• Does the writer use conventional grammar and punctuation? • Is the story told through narration or dialogue, or a combination of both? • How long are the sentences? What effect does this have on the story-telling? • Does the writer use imagery, metaphor, simile or symbolism? Techniques used by writers
Any of the following techniques may be used well or badly, depending on the skill of the writer:
• A ‘flashback’, which takes us into the past then after a while brings us smoothly and almost imperceptibly back to the present. This can be done by using a particular word or incident to trigger the character’s memory. • A common idea to act as a ‘link’ between paragraphs for easy continuity. • ‘Seeds’ of ideas which are planted early in a story, so that they can grow and come to fruition later. • The ‘twist in the tail’ or unexpected ending which deviates from the ‘seed’ planted earlier. • Dialogue, which can be a very valuable tool in characterisation. • Gestures, especially habitual ones, which can identify a character without the need for long descriptions. • Story told in a chronological order – logically, from beginning. • Story told in reverse order – starting from the end, then flashing back to beginning to show the reader how the story got there. • Repetition of a word or idea, which can be used deliberately to good effect. • The ‘slice of life’ story, which has no build-up and ends abruptly, leaving the reader to think about further possibilities. • Leaving a line between sections to indicate the...