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Reading a Story for Its Elements


1 Reading a Story for Its Elements Literature: Craft & Voice Chapter 1 Craft A writer creates a story out of material he or she has observed in the world and from ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Reading a Story for Its Elements

Reading a Story for Its Elements
  • Literature Craft Voice
  • Chapter 1

  • Your job as a writer of fiction is not to
    present an ideal world but to try to present the
    world that you see and hear around you.
  • John Updike

  • A writer creates a story out of material he or
    she has observed in the world and from incidents
    or feelings or moods in his or her own life.
  • But the result will not hold up well if the
    writer lacks a firm grasp of craft. Craft is
    conscious artistry.

Quotations on Writing
  • A writer is a person for whom writing is more
    difficult than it is for other people." Thomas
  • "There are three rules for writing the novel.
    Unfortunately, no one knows what they are." W.
    Somerset Maugham
  • "There is no great writing, only great
    rewriting." Justice Louis Brandeis
  • "I have made this letter longer, because I have
    not had the time to make it shorter." Blaise
  • All writing is rewriting. Ernest Hemingway

  • As a noun, craft refers to the elements that
    comprise a story.
  • As a verb, craft refers to the process of making
    or fashioning a story out of those elements.

Authors work hard to develop their craft.
Writing seldom comes easily even to professional
Elements of Fiction
  • Craft involves the authors use of the following
    major elements of fiction
  • Plot the artful arrangement of incidents in a
  • Character the depiction of human beings (and
    non-humans) within a story.
  • Setting the time and place of the story.
  • Point of View the perspective from which the
    story is told.

Elements of Fiction
  • Tone the implied attitude of the author toward
    the subject and characters of a work.
  • Style the characteristic way in which a writer
    uses language, tone, and other literary devices
    and elements.
  • Symbol the events and objects in a story that
    transcend literal interpretation.
  • Theme the central ideas of the literary work,
    its underlying meanings.

Types of Short Fiction
  • Parables stories that teach lessons through an
    implied moral, usually of a religious or
    spiritual nature. Jesus taught in parables.
  • Fables brief stories that explicitly state
    their moral, and frequently feature animals as
    characters to satirize failings of human nature
    or character. Aesops fables have endured for
    over 2500 years.
  • Tales narrate strange or fabulous happenings in
    a direct and swift manner, without detailed
    characterization and usually without intent to

Types of Short Fiction
  • Modern Short Story The modern short story
    developed in the nineteenth century,
  • presented detailed representations of everyday
  • included more elaborate and dramatic scenes with
    generally more dialogue,
  • and was more concerned with revelation of
  • Poe, Hawthorne, and Chekhov are important early

  • In walks these three girls in nothing but bathing

Discussion Questions
  • How does A P function as a historical
    document? Consider how the narrator performs his
    job as cashier, the dress code, the items for
    sale, the A P itself, and the Cold War
  • How is Sammys predicament very human? Is he a
    convincing nineteen-year old?

  • Is Sammys action heroic?
  • Whether heroic or not, is his action offensive or
    belittling to women?

Discussion Questions
  • Is Sammy full of teenage angst? Does he have an
  • Is he a rebel without a cause?
  • When Sammy quits in protest over their needless
    humiliation, does he act from mostly pure motives
    or does he want to impress the girls?
  • Is it this sincere sympathy that leads Sammy to
    quit in spontaneous protest?

Discussion Questions
  • Is Sammy sexist? Certainly, he sees the girls as
    sex objects, and he does dehumanize them, even
    after he says he feels sorry for them.
  • Do the girls need Sammys defense? Would they be
    able to handle such a situation on their own, if
    men would let them?
  • Is Sammy really a rebel or is he just embracing
    the values of a male-dominated culture when he
    defends the girls?
  • Would Sammy have quit if Lengel had reprimanded
    three males for shopping shirtless and shoeless?

Story of an Hour
  • Inspiration Kate Chopins father died in a
    work-related accident when she was very young.
    The event may have inspired The Story of an
  • Point of View
  • Chopin presents the story in the third person,
    but the narrative voice looks most often, but not
    exclusively, into the consciousness of Louise

Questions to Consider
  • Consider how this perspective influences the
    theme of the story.
  • By looking into primarily Mrs. Mallards
    thoughts, does the story become a kind of
    feminist text?
  • One that concerns itself with the opportunities
    available for women in the late nineteenth
    century? (Remember, this story was written some
    twenty-five years before women were allowed to

The Mallards Marriage
  • If one were to ask Mr. Mallard if he and his wife
    were happily married, how do you think each would
  • Mr. Mallard and the couples friends and family
    believe the marriage to be happy. But Mrs.
    Mallard is decidedly unhappy. The day before the
    story takes place she had thought with a shudder
    that life may be long.
  • What accounts for the discrepancy between what
    Mrs. Mallard feels and what everyone else
    perceives about the marriage?

The Mallards Marriage
  • Mr. Mallard is a decent man. Mrs. Mallard thinks
    of his kind, tender hands and his face that
    had never looked save with love upon her, and
    wonders, however briefly, about her monstrous
  • She had a comfortable home and he cared for her.
    The marriage had all the trappings of what the
    culture would consider a happy marriage.
  • What is lacking is the opportunity for Mrs.
    Mallards self-fulfillment.

Louise Mallards Epiphany
  • As with many stories, The Story of an Hour
    builds to the protagonists epiphany, or moment
    of sudden realization.
  • Read closely the passages leading to Mrs.
    Mallards epiphany, which is inspired by the new
    spring life outside her window. Note how the
    sounds, sights, and scents of spring arouse Mrs.
    Mallards senses and how her bosom rose and fell
  • She then realizes that with her husbands death
    her life is her own and that she will have a
    long procession of years to come that would
    belong to her absolutely, and that she was now
    Free! Body and soul free! She felt the very
    elixir of life through that open window.
  • Her joy was short-lived, however. When her
    presumably dead husband arrives home, Louise dies
    from a heart attack.

Discussion Questions
  • The first sentence says that she has heart
    trouble? Is this trouble only physical?
  • The final sentence reads, When the doctors came
    they said she had died of heart disease of joy
    that kills. What is ironic about this

An Ounce of Cure
  • In An Ounce of Cure, Alice Munro presents a
    defining moment in her narrators life.

When I say I was expecting extravagant results,
I do not mean that I was expecting this.
Point of View
  • It is clear to the reader from the consistent use
    of past tense, the level of vocabulary, and the
    mention of key events (first dance, college) that
    the narrator is looking back to her somewhat
    distant past.

As a result, the narrator can tell her story with
playfulness, self-deprecation, detachment, and
even fondness.
Although the incident caused her genuine pain at
the time, she has long since come to terms with
  • Consider how the narrator reports the devastating
    aftermath of her evening at the Berrymans.
  • She was ostracized but uses humorous metaphors to
    downplay her pain. She reports rumors playfully
    rather than bitterly.
  • Her final sentence reveals that she has even had
    the last laugh over Martin Collingwood.
  • Throughout the story, the narrator keeps the tone
    light and playful, never letting the painful
    parts of the experience dominate.

The Narrator
  • The narrator seems to be a somewhat typical
    teenage girl who, after being spurned by her
    boyfriend, takes drastic actions to dramatize her
    crisis. She enjoys her self-inflicted misery,
    the self pity, and the attention it brings her
    from friends like Joyce.
  • The breakup makes the narrator feel older, more
    mature, as if she has now experienced a depth of
    suffering that links her with tragic film or
    stage heroines. Before her greatest scene, she
    describes the uncluttered space in the Berryman
    home to be like a stage.
  • Consider her melodramatic actions leading up to
    her drunkenness she plays a sad record, sits in
    the dark, notices the street light, the partially
    drawn curtains, and gives up her soul for dead.
  • Do you sympathize and empathize with the
    narrator? Are you reminded of a moment of folly
    in your own life?

Significance of the Events
  • The story is significant to the narrator for
    several reasons
  • The episode is one of those revealing and
    embarrassing moments in teenage life when we are
    forced to confront how unsophisticated and how
    self-absorbed we are, or, put another way, when
    reality intrudes upon our delusions of self.
  • On another level, the incident may have brought
    the narrator closer to her mother, who, in a
    crowded household, might not have always been as
    watchful over her daughter as she might have
    consider the narrators confession about the
    aspirin, which was a mistake.

For Further Consideration
  • 1. Short stories often focus on a defining moment
    in a characters life. Explain what the
    protagonists of A P, The Story of an Hour,
    and An Ounce of Cure come to realize about
    themselves and their cultures?
  • 2. How does setting function in each of these
    stories to reveal character?
  • 3. Rewrite a portion of one of the stories from a
    different point of view. For A P, you may
    write from Sammys perspective twenty years after
    the event for The Story of an Hour,
    Josephines perspective, and for Ounce of Cure,
    the narrators perspective only days after her