Your Study Guides and Strategies starts here!

Fiction reveals truths
that reality obscures
Jessamyn West 1903 - 84
American Quaker author

Reading and research series

Reading fiction

Many types of fiction give us great reading pleasure:
novels and short stories can be historic, westerns, science fiction, thrillers, romance, horror, etc. The following can provide a framework for discussing these in book clubs and for writing book reports.

Point of view: test your knowlege (narrator and character types)
An author creates a person to tell the story, and this person is the narrator.
The narrator delivers the point of view of the story.
Multiple narrators of the story can also present multiple points of view.

A first person narrator
uses the pronoun "I" to tell the story, and can be either a major or minor character.
It may be easier for a reader to relate to a story told in a first person account.

A subjective narrator is generally unreliable
because he/she is in the story,
and can only speak to his/her experience within it.

A second person narrator
uses the pronoun "you" and is not used very often since it makes the reader a participant in the story (and you, as reader, may be reluctant to be in the action!).

A third person narrator
uses the pronoun "he" or "she" and does not take part in the story.

An objective narrator is an observer
and describes or interprets thoughts, feelings, motivations, of the characters. Details such as setting, scenes, and what was said is stronger with an objective observer

An omniscient (omniscient = all knowing) narrator has access to all
the actions and thoughts within fiction

A limited narrator has a restricted view of events,
and doesn't "know" the whole story

Questions:

  • How much does the narrator know?
    Does he or she know everything, including the thoughts, feelings, motivations, etc. or present just limited information?
    Do you (the reader) know more?
  • Time?
    Do events take place "now" (verbs in the present tense)?
    or in the past (verbs are in the past tense)?
    Are past recollections fresh, or distant, and maybe hazy?
  • Is the narrator a participant in, or a witness to, the action?
    Is the story second-hand, related "as told to" the narrator?
    Think of yourself telling someone something that happened:
    How much of the event do you know, and how does that affect the story?
  • Why is the story being told, and why now?
    What is the motivation?

Character types in fiction
Characters are the people of a story, or the opposing forces.

A protagonist or hero/heroine is the central character of the story.
An antagonist is the counterpart to the protagonist
Tension between the protagonist and antagonist creates the story.
Speech, thoughts, actions, appearance, desires, and relationships reveal characters, and each undergoes development and/or change as the story unfolds.
Static characters are role players, and may not “develop.”

Questions:

  • Can the protagonist and antagonist be the same person?
  • Can events or situations act as an antagonist?
  • How do your characters speak? How does it affect the dialogue?
  • What effect has the social class of the characters?

Environment
Environment consists of the time, place, and mood of a story.

  • How does the setting affect the story?
    Are the situations happy, unhappy, mysterious, joyful, what?
  • Where does the story take place: in nature, in a city, within a room?
    How does location affect the story?
  • How is emotion created?
    Is it dramatic at the outset, or build in intensity?
    Maybe the effect is to maintain a certain evenness throughout: creating its own type of tension?
  • How would you change the setting of a story to change it?

Reading and research series

Reading critically | Prereading strategies | SQ3R reading method |
KWL reading method | Marking & underlining | Reading difficult material | Interpretive reading | Reading essays | Reading fiction | Narrator/character types |
Speed and comprehension | Researching on the Internet | Evaluating websites |
Organizing research: computers | Organizing research: note cards