5 Literary Elements


Character
Characters are the people, animals, or objects that act and speak in the story.

  • Protagonist: the main character that the story is mainly about (all the events center around this person)
  • Antagonist: the person/people or thing that is causing problems for the protagonist


Setting
Setting is the environment in which the story takes place. This could include WHERE (place), WHEN (time period), or even a SOCIETY'S RULES.

Conflict
Conflict is the main problem that the protagonist faces and tries to resolve, or fix. This could include:
  • External conflict: when the problem is caused by an outside force (NOT by the protagonist)
    • Person vs. person
    • Person vs. nature
    • Person vs. society

  • Internal conflict: when the conflict has to do with a problem that is within (inside) the protagonist
    • Person vs. self


Theme
Theme is the central idea(s) or main message(s) in a literary work. the theme is what the author wants readers to learn or realize. It is NOT something that is stated; it is the reader's job to figure it out!

The theme of a book is sometimes hard to find, but it helps to think about the following questions:
  • Does the protagonist learn/discover something throughout the novel? (Oftentimes what the protagonist learns is what the authors wants the readers to learn.)
  • How is the main conflict resolved? (Who wins the conflict is sometimes the writer's way of telling readers who is right/what is better.)

Remember that themes are universal, which means that they are generally true for everyone. Therefore, themes should NOT be too specific to a character or a book; the statement should be true and applicable to other people/situations as well.


Point of View
Who is telling the story. There are 3 common types:

  • First person: when the narrator is a character IN the story and only knows what that character knows, thinks, and feels. The narration includes words like “I,” “we,” “us,” and “our.”

  • Third person limited: when the narrator is NOT a character in the story and only knows the thoughts and feelings of ONE character. The narration includes the characters’ names and words like, “he,” “she,” “them,” and “they.”

  • Third person omniscient: when the narrator is NOT a character in the story and knows the thoughts and feelings of TWO OR MORE characters. The narration includes the characters’ names and words like, “he,” “she,” “them,” and “they.”


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If you would like to download this information, along with a Venn diagram that clarifies the difference between third person limited and third person omniscient, please click on the icon below: