A Storytime Cheat Sheet for ELA Teachers

In your writing class, you probably spend a good deal of time reading and discussing literature. From Shakespeare to Harper Lee, there’s a never-ending spring of amazing works to dig into. Of course, your students probably also spend plenty of time writing about these poems and stories. Although there’s plenty of resources on the Internet for the elements of a story, we wanted to be sure you have some of the major ones all in one place. This way, your students can refer to them quickly and easily, especially for getting a good example or two.

Protagonist and Antagonist – the Protagonist is the primary character who acts as the focal point of the story and the plot. Examples might be Hamlet or even Harry Potter. While often the antagonist acts as the main opposition to the protagonist. However, the antagonist can also be a group or even an abstract idea. For examples, think of villains like Captain Hook or Darth Vader.

Hero and Antihero – With the rise of the antihero in 20th Century literature, it’s worth noting these two terms. While the hero is fairly understood, the antihero is a bit different. Unlike a hero, an antihero might not possess the good qualities we normally associate with a hero. Examples might include Holden Caulfield and even James Bond.

Plot and Subplot – these are the events that occur within the story and relate to each other. The main plot is the primary events, while the subplot is the side story that might run alongside the plot. An example of a plot is a grand quest or journey, while a subplot might be the events surrounding an escape by secondary characters to return to the journey.

Conflict and Climax – the conflict is the pull and push from more than one incompatible goal with the story, while the climax is the point when the tension between the conflict is greatest before a resolution. A conflict might include a person’s ideals versus society’s. On the other hand, a climax is the punchline of a joke.

Point of View – First-person, second-person, and third-person are the points of view the story is told in. First-person has a narrator who tells us the story, like in The Sun Also Rises. Second-person is when the narrator identifies “you” throughout the story, like in many of your favorite songs. While third-person is the most detached and told by an outside narrator looking in, who likely isn’t part of the story like in Brave New World or Lord of the Flies

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