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Elements of Fiction

Different Elements of Fiction That Make a Good Book GREAT

To put simply, fictional literature is of imaginary stories. The elements of fiction include plot, theme, characters, diction, imagery, audience, etc. to structure the literature. Let's discuss these elements in this Penlighten article.
Penlighten Staff
Last Updated: Mar 12, 2018
Ernest Hemingway's Nobel Prize winning book, 'The Old Man and the Sea', is based on the theme of allegory wherein the old fisherman, Santiago symbolized the central role of Jesus Christ from the Christian mythology. We wonder how the old fisherman spent 84 days without catching a single fish in the wide sea, voyaging alone. Sea and its limitless features made the novel full of life. On the 85th day, he caught a big marlin. For the next three days and three nights, he tried to protect it from sharks. The sharks attacked on the fish, due to the smell of blood spurted out from its wounds. At the end, the old man reached village with the skeleton of the marlin. When the villagers saw the big skeleton of the fish (that no one saw in their life), they came to know how brave that old man would be! The story revealed the old man's bravery and optimism in the harsh old age. The novel had a well-structured plot, lively characters, imagery of the sea, town and shack of the old man, with numerous point of views. Moral of this story is "A man can be destroyed, but not defeated".

Wondering how Ernest Hemingway created this fiction that holds your curiosity throughout the play? Well, fiction is one of the types of literature that includes novels, prose, poems, short stories, and dramas. Fiction is a prose narrative, established on imagination. A complete work involves how a writer organizes his ideas, the points he covers, has he used any techniques such as foreshadowing, symbolism, and allegory (e.g. Shakespearean dramas like Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, etc.) to keep the interest of its readers or audience till end?

How does the poetic deviation method make William Wordsworth's poem a melody? Yes, there are lots of factors that help decide the flow of the whole story or poem. Well, such methods are found in literary language. A successful fiction story may make a reader feel strongly identified with one of its unique characters even in real life, too. Let's respond to the above questions with the help of these elements:

Elements of Fiction

Plot
The story revolves around the plot. A plot contains incidents composed of many parts. The sequence begins with an exposition (background), grows in the conflict (rising actions, between two forces, protagonist or antagonist), reaches to the climax (peak of the story in the middle) and, ends with resolution (victory, defeat, sad ending or happy ending). Plato's concept of plot is based on place, time, and manner.

Setting
The actual place where the story takes place is the setting. Basically, the setting depends on the theme and choice of the places a writer has in his mind. Generally a story sets in a house, jungle, palace, or workplace, etc. It can be set in different places according to the sequence of events in the plot. What would you say to the writer if he doesn't say anything about the place or the time of his work? Doesn't he stand to be universal and gives us readers to guess it so.

Theme
What fiction author wants to convey through his creative piece is 'theme', main idea of the story. Sometimes, there are more than one theme. The main theme supports the subject and the moral of the narrative, which the reader indirectly comes across in a play. Love, revenge, historic, political, picturesque, and allegory are some of the themes used in fictions. E.g. Robert Burns' 'My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose' poem signifies love theme.

Character
There are several types of characters you can use while writing a fiction, but two main ways of presenting a character is direct and indirect. Direct presentation follows in theatrical plays; while in an indirect presentation, characters' words, actions, and feelings are shown in indirect way, with the help of imagery, figure of speech, soliloquy, etc.

Other character types found in a narrative fiction are round, flat, dynamic, and static character. If short novel or story has 2-3 characters, there you will encounter with two opposite characters, protagonist (hero, the main character of the story) and antagonist (villain). We will also see minor and foil characters play a vital role in the fiction.

Imagery, Symbolism, and Structure
"One image opens with lots of ideas" - This technique is the easiest way to express more than what you have said in a story. Imagery of horror, war, or festival in the book develops visualization of the location (in the plot) in the reader's mind.

Symbolism is an abstract idea represented by an object, thing or character. Most of you must be knowing figurative language types i.e. simile and metaphor. e.g. 'red color' is symbol of love; in contrast, it reflects danger and strong passion as well.

Structure is all about how a story has been plotted. If you've read Shakespearean dramas, they are structured into 3 to 5 acts and each act subdivided into 3 to 5 scenes. Sometimes each act starts with a prologue and the whole story ends with an epilogue. In the Post-modernism, writers not tend to follow such sequence. They use different places as their plot structure or use a prologue to describe all the characters of their plays, followed by POVs.

Point of View (POV)
The story presents the point of view of the narrator. Who is the narrator of the story? Is it writer himself or the character introduces other characters in the story? A narrator can be presented either objective or subjective ways; nowadays many fictions have multiple narrators. The point of view can be presented in different forms:

First-person point of view: I, me, we - like the author or a character within the story.
Second-person point of view: You - that includes readers. This form is rarely used.
Third-person point of view: He, she, it or Imaginary (or omniscient figures, god-like persons, fairytale creatures, etc.)

Language Diction
Language diction refers to the choice of words used by the author. Every culture, all over the world, has its own literature. An author can use simple, complex, or ornamental language. To the next level, readers will appreciate how the author has used foregrounding, figures of speech or amalgam of styles in their writing. In poetry, rhyme, rhythm, tone (rising and falling), deviation, and exaggeration methods are used.

Audience or Readers
The passive listeners/audience (in a drama) or readers (in a novel, poem or short story) are important factors in a narration, as the entire story unfolds. The true success of an author's work can be considered the attention or influence or impact it leaves on its reader. In the same way, active participation of the audience indicates the success of the play.

Though few of them have mentioned only six major elements of literature as plot, character, point of view, style, theme, and setting; the term 'elements of literature' cannot be accomplished by eliminating the rest of the elements to it, that we have mentioned above. Of course, it's a wide term and study has revealed few more elements get added to it at the course of time. So adding more and comprehended elements of fiction will surely add knowledge to your study.

Fictional literature is as a creative piece of narration, should be well-structured, planned sequentially, and at the same time appealing enough for readers. You must be knowing that drama, poem, novel, and short stories are totally different from non-fiction literature like biography, essay, diary, journal, etc. Thus, elements of fiction, when used by the author to his story's best advantage, succeed in getting unending appreciation of his/her readers.