Short Story Techniques
Flashback - A flashback (sometimes called an analepsis) is an interjected scene that takes the narrative back in time from the current point in the story. Flashbacks are often used to recount events that happened before the story's primary sequence of events to fill in crucial backstory.
Foreshadowing - Foreshadowing is a literary device in which a writer gives an advance hint of what is to come later in the story. Foreshadowing often appears at the beginning of a story, or a chapter, and helps the reader develop expectations about the coming events in a story.
Suspense - Suspense is the intense feeling that an audience goes through while waiting for the outcome of certain events. It basically leaves the reader holding their breath and wanting more information. The amount of intensity in a suspenseful moment is why it is hard to put a book down.
Symbolism - In literature, symbolism can take many forms, including: A figure of speech where an object, person, or situation has another meaning other than its literal meaning. The actions of a character, word, action, or event that have a deeper meaning in the context of the whole story.
Irony - There are three types of irony: verbal, situational and dramatic. Verbal irony occurs when a speaker's intention is the opposite of what he or she is saying. For example, a character stepping out into a hurricane and saying, “What nice weather we're having!”
Types of Conflict
Man vs. Self
"Man vs. Self" is the only true version of internal conflict you will find in literature. In this mode, the conflict takes place within the mind of the main character, and often involves the character making a decision between right and wrong, or other mixed emotions. However, this struggle could also exist in the form of a character battling mental illness.
Man vs. Man
"Man vs. Man" is probably the most common form of external conflict, and is also known as interpersonal conflict. This mode lies at the heart of all dramatic arts and places the struggle directly between the protagonist and the antagonist -- otherwise known as the good guy and the bad guy. In a man vs. man conflict, the protagonist wants something, and the antagonist obstructs the protagonist from getting what he wants.
Man vs. Society
This mode of external conflict occurs when the protagonist is placed at odds with a government or cultural tradition. This type of conflict applies to societal norms as well. For example, if a child gets in trouble with his parents for sneaking out of the house at night, he is in conflict with the societal tradition that children are expected to obey their parents.
Man vs. Nature
"Man vs. Nature" pits the main character against the forces of nature -- in the form of a natural disaster or a similarly dangerous situation -- and is often associated with literary naturalism, which hinges on the idea that nature is indifferent to humanity. Stephen Crane's short story, "The Open Boat," is a prime example, and demonstrates that the sea can cause shipwrecks easily and without regard for humanity.
Man vs. Machine
"Man vs. Machine" can mean that a person is in direct combat with robots, in the context of science fiction, or it could mean simply that technology stands in the way of the protagonist getting what she wants. In the science-fiction version, the same attributes of a man vs. man conflict apply. However, if a person struggles to keep a job that a new machine can do better, the physical struggle is against the machine, but the emotional struggle is against the society that breeds technology.
Man vs. Fate/Supernatural
"Man vs. Fate" exists in any story in which the protagonist is struggling against a god or gods. It is sometimes considered part of "Man vs. Self" when focused on an internal, moral struggle, but should be considered separate in the context of epics -- such as the "Iliad" and "Odyssey," in which the gods are present antagonists. "Man vs. the Supernatural" falls into a similar standard: If the protagonist is the only one witnessing supernatural acts, it could be considered "Man vs. Self." However, if it's certain that these supernatural powers are real, then the mode of conflict stands on its own.
Review the following short story plot graph: (you may also search the internet for other examples)
Think of an example of a short story/fairytale you know...does it follow the plot graph?
Read the following short stories and be prepared to discuss them. Take your time! Pay attention to the details and the writing style. Does the writing style seem odd to you? Does the style of writing remind you of something else you've read or a movie you've watched?
The Only Son
The Fall of the House of Usher
The Ransom of Red Chief
The Scarlet Ibis
RAFT is a writing strategy that helps students understand their roles as writers, the audience they will address, the varied formats for writing, and the topic they'll be writing about. By using this strategy, teachers encourage students to write creatively, to consider a topic from a different perspective, and to gain practice writing for different audiences.
Why use RAFT?
- It includes writing from different viewpoints.
- It helps students learn important writing skills such as audience, main idea, and organization.
- It teaches students to think creatively about writing by responding to the following prompts:
Role of the Writer: Who or what are you as the writer? A pilgrim? A soldier? The President?
Audience: To whom are you writing? A friend? Your teacher? Readers of a newspaper?
Format: In what format are you writing? A letter? A poem? A speech?
Topic and strong verb: What are you writing about? Why? What's the subject or the point?
- It can be used across various content areas
How to use RAFT
- Display a completed RAFT example on the overhead.
- Describe each of these using simple examples: role, audience, format, and topic. (It may be helpful to write the elements on chart paper or a bulletin board for future reference).
- Model how to write responses to the prompts, and discuss the key elements as a class. Teachers should keep this as simple and concise as possible for younger students.
- Have students practice responding to prompts individually, or in small groups. At first, it may be best to have all students react to the same prompt so the class can learn from varied responses.
RAFT Writing Template
Watch the following TEDTalks:
Ted Talk: ‘Is There a Real You?’
Ted Talk: ‘How Language Shapes the Way We Think’
Ted Talk: ‘The Danger of the Single Story’