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Structure of a Novel

Plays, Non-fiction autobiographies and Short Stories can also share these functions.

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Summary Of Plot, Theme, Characters and Setting


Here are two versions of the meaning of each term – think about them in terms of your literature!

  1. Plot
    • How did the story begin?
    • Did it "hook" you in to the story? How?
    • What happened?
    • What happened first? next? last? etc.
    • Was there a crisis or a complication?
    • What was the problem?
    • How was the problem / conflict resolved?
  2. Setting
    • Where did the story take place?
    • Why is the setting important?
    • Can you picture the setting in your mind?
    • When did the story take place?
    • What words were used to describe a particular setting?
  3. Characterisation
    • Who were the main characters?
    • What do you think they looked like?
    • What words were used to describe each character?
    • How would you describe the nature of each character?
    • What incident or event happened which required the character to take a particular action?
    • How do the characters change during the story?
    • What do we learn from these changes?


Every novel has the same basic features or structure:


(i) The Plot which is defined as "a set of units of narrative that make a single pattern of events, complete in itself." A good plot is credible and firmly based on sound characterisation and which provides an effective background and atmosphere for the story.


(ii) The Characters who provide the credibility for the plot and the actions involved. They need to be believable and acceptable to the reader within the framework of the story.


(iii) The Setting or background for the action. The setting involves both time and place so that the plot and the characters can develop in situations that are credible, at least within the structure of the story. The setting also involves atmosphere or the mood of the novel. Novels can have settings that are: happy, horrific, sad, calm and awe inspiring depending on the atmosphere the writer needs to make the plot work.


(iv) The Theme or reason for the telling of the story. It is the theme that gives meaning to the story.


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