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Short Story Terminology

1. SettingThe time, place, climate and era in which the events in a narrative occur.
2. Characterizationthe process by which a writer creates a character.
Direct characterizationwhen the writer tells us explicitly about the characters
nature and motivation.
Indirect characterizationwhen the writer shows a character acting and being
acted upon, so that the reader can infer the characters nature and motivation.
Dynamic charactera character who undergoes a significant psychological
change over the course of the narrative.
Round character (or realistic character)a believably human character, one
who is seen to be as complex and consistently real as any person in actual life.
Static charactera character who does not undergo a significant psychological
change over the course of a narrative.
Flat charactera character that is not well-developed (the opposite of a round
Stock charactera stereotypical character, a standard and easily recognized
functionary in the action of a narrative.
3. Symbolan object, person, situation, action or some other item which has a literal
meaning in the story, but which suggests or represents other meanings as well. It is
usually something concrete standing for something abstract.
4. Point of view
Omniscientuses the third person. The author is all-knowing; she or he may tell
us what the characters are thinking or feeling, interpret their behaviour, and
comment on the storys significance.
Limited omniscientuses the third person, but the story is told from the
viewpoint of only some characters or only one character in the story. The author
may tell us what these particular characters see, hear, think and feel, but does not
do this for all characters.
First personthe author tells the story from the point of view of one person.
Pronouns such as I, me, we, and us are used.
Objectivethe author records what is seen and heard, but does not comment,
interpret or enter into a characters mind.
5. Plotthe sequence of events of which a story is composed.
Expositionestablishes a storys characters and their dispositions, and reveals
the storys setting and general situation.
Initial incidentthe incident in the story that starts the conflict.
Rising actiona series of incidents that raises the level of conflict in a story, thus
increasing tension.
Climaxthe point of the story where the conflict reaches its highest point.
Falling actionjust after the climax, but before the resolution.

Resolution (or dnouement)the point in the story where the conflict is

Conclusionestablishes the general mood and situation at the end of the story.
6. Conflicta struggle between opposing forces which provides interest and suspense.
Person vs. persona person is in conflict with another person (or group of
Person vs. selfa person is in conflict with herself or himself (sometimes
referred to as an internal conflict.
Person vs. environmenta person is in conflict with nature or an aspect of
Person vs. supernaturala person is in conflict with a special or unusual power
or force.
7. Moodthe dominant feeling of a work. Mood is often developed through
descriptions of settings.
8. Tonethe implied attitude of the writer or persona toward his subject matter or
9. Themethe main message imparted by a text. In other words, what the writer is
trying to express through her or his work.
10. Foreshadowingthe careful inclusion by an author of hints or clues about what is
yet to come in a story.
11. Flashbackthe setting of the story suddenly jumps back in time. The story then
usually resumes at its previous point.
12. Protagonistthe character the story follows most closely.
13. Antagonistthe force (often a person) that creates obstacles for the protagonist.