Plot is the sequence of related events in a work of literature. It may be simple or complex, and it includes what characters do, think, and say. The word first used by Aristotle for plot in Poetics was mythos (origin of the word myth). According to Aristotle, plot was the "soul of tragedy": its "first principle." The general structure of plot is as follows:
Exposition: gives information about settings and characters Conflict: struggle between characters or forces (ideas, actions, desires, wills, goals, etc.) that brings about action internal conflict: occurs within an individual external conflict: when an individual struggles against an outside force (an animal, a force of nature, another character, etc.)
Complications: new conflicts or setbacks for the main character Climax: decisive turning point in a narrative; the "high point," or moment of greatest intensity rising action: leads up to the climax falling action: occurs after the climax (between the climax and resolution)
Denouement: the resolution; the aftermath or outcome of the plot; how things are settled in the end
Suspense: curiosity about the plot's outcome; makes us want to know what happens next Foreshadowing: technique in which an author plants clues about what will happen next Detective story: story in which the plot consists of solving a mystery; Edgar Allan Poe's "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" is recognized as the first American detective story Flashback: a scene that interrupts the action to show an event that happened earlier Epiphany: a moment of understanding, insight, or revelation experienced by a character concerning what is happening to him or her Tall Tale: story in which the plot contains wild exaggerations, vivid settings, the use of dialect, and a "hero" with superhuman characteristics Plot manipulation: occurs when an author overuses chance or coincidence; in other words, the outcome of the plot is not justified by the situations or characters involved in the story (the author is "manipulating" the events); one method of plot manipulation is deus ex machina (literally "god from the machine"), a technique by which Greek dramatists would have a god or goddess descend from heaven at the last possible moment to rescue the main character from an impossible situation (This was accomplished in Greek theater by use of a stage machine) Chronological order: the narration of events in the order they occur in time Stream of consciousness: a writing style that attempts to imitate the natural flow of a character's thoughts, feelings, memories, and mental images as the character experiences them; the term was first applied to the human mind by William James in Principles of Psychology; James Joyce, Katherine Anne Porter, and William Faulkner are among the authors most closely associated with this technique
A character is a person (or animal or natural force presented as a person) in a work of literature. Characterization is the way an author presents a character. An author using direct characterization makes statements about the characters and tells us what characters are like. In indirect characterization, the author lets us draw our own conclusions about a character based on what the character says or does, how he or she is dressed, or what other characters think about him or her. When characters speak directly to one another, they engage in dialogue. To be convincing, characters should be consistent in behavior, clearly motivated (we must understand the reasons characters talk and act as they do), and believable in their actions. Below are some character types. Protagonist: the main character in a work of literature Antagonist: a character or force opposing the protagonist; not necessarily a villain or "bad guy" Foil: a type of antagonist that offsets the protagonist or other characters by comparison or by...
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