There are basic components which make up what we know as literature. These are what are traditionally referred to as elements of literature. These should not be confused with techniques in literature. As a matter of fact, this section will look at the basic elements of literature in the dramatic genre and will show some contrast with what is called techniques in literature.

Elements of Literature: These refer to what actually forms part of literature. They refer to those basic components of literature of which if they are not there, it cannot be called literature. Just like we would say that oxygen and hydrogen are the basic elements of water, of which if they are absent, the substance called water cannot be said to be in existence. Therefore, for a work to be called literature, there are basic elements that must be presents. These are,

1.              Plot
2.              Characters
3.              Setting
4.              Dialogue
5.              Theme

Techniques in Literature: These refer to the different artistic approaches that literary waters choose in the course of their writing in order to get the desired effect. In the most simply way, literary technique is often referred to as writers’ craftsmanship. There are many techniques in literature and witters are at liberty to choose from them to enliven their art or better still create new ones.  The basic techniques include: Plotting: the techniques of creating plots; Characterization: the technique of creating characters; Narrative Techniques: Which has to do with the way a writer chooses to tell his/her story; Symbolism: The technique of creating symbols, et cetera.

Plot simply refers to all the events that happened in a story, in the order that its happened, with one event leading to the other, in that logical sequence. It can also be seen as a wholly interconnected system of event, deliberately selected and arranged for the purpose of fulfilling  a complex set of imaginative and theatrical purposes.

In order to understand what plot really entails, we should first recognize that a plot comprises everything that takes place in the imaginative world of the play. In other words, plot is not confined to what takes place on the stage (what is technically referred to as the scenario). Plot includes off-stage and on-stage action. Thus, if we wish to identify the plot of a play, we have to distinguish it from the scenario. The scenario embodies the plot and presents it to us but it is not itself the plot.

We can understand this distinction in the other way if we realized that in a plot, all the events are necessary arranged chronologically, whereas in a scenario, events are arranged dramatically – that is in an order that will create the greatest impact on the audience. In some cases, they may result in a non-chronological order.

Components of plot
The plot is made up of the following components, in the order that it is presented.

     1.   Exposition
This is where the basic characters and setting are revealed. In most cases the major conflict of the story, novel or script is also hinted at in the exposition, though smaller conflicts in the plot may be introduced later on. In a shorter work, the exposition happens within the first few paragraphs, while in a longer work such as a novel it may happen within the first few chapters. The narrative hook, or point in the story where the author truly catches the reader's attention, is often presented within the exposition.

     2.   Rising Action
Taking place within the first third of a story, novel or script, the rising action is also the part of the work where the conflict central to the plot is truly introduced. The main characters have been established and events begin to get complicated for them. They may take actions against the conflict though it will probably not be solved yet. This element of the plot is where excitement, tension and crisis are encountered.

      3.   Climax
This is the Hight of the story. The climax is the turning point of a story, novel or script. It is the moment where it seems like the main character is in danger or could even possibly fail at resolving the conflict. Depending on the kind of conflict being faced (man vs. man, man vs. self, man vs nature, etc.) the actions at this point in the work can be either physical or mental.

     4.   Falling Action
Taking place after the climax, the falling action includes events that will help to fully resolve the conflict. The results of actions that the main character has taken are presented as well as the results of decisions that have been made, whether good or bad for the character.

     5.   Resolution
The end of a story, novel or script includes the last plot element -- the resolution. It is here that loose ends are tied up, conflicts are concluded, outcomes are revealed, and a happy or sad ending takes place. As many of the final actions have already taken place, a resolution can be made up of just a summary of where the main character will end up in the future.

A character refers to an artistic creation in a work of art that is created to carry out actions. These creations may refer to a person, animal, object, phenomenon et cetera. A character may be entirely fictional or based on a real-life person, in which case the distinction of a "fictional" versus "real" character may be made. The technique or method of creating a character in writing is known as characterization.

Types of Characters
    1.   Round and flat Characters: This is often from the perspective of the writers’ creation. Flat characters are created as two-dimensional, in that they are relatively uncomplicated. By contrast, Round Characters are complex figures with many different characteristics, that undergo development, sometimes sufficiently to surprise the reader.

   2.   Dynamic and Static Characters: This is often for the perspective of action.  Dynamic characters are the ones that change over the course of the story, while static characters remain the same throughout the story.

    3.   Regular Characters: A regular, main or ongoing character is a character who appears in all or a majority of scenes, or in a significant chain of it. Regular characters may be both core and secondary ones.

    4.   A Recurring Character: Often and frequently appears from time to time during the play. Recurring characters often play major roles in more than one scene, sometimes being the main focus.

     5.   A guest character is one which is brought in only to carry out an action in a scene or scenes. Unlike regular characters, the guest ones do not need to be carefully incorporated into the storyline with all its ramifications: they create a piece of drama and then disappear without consequences to the narrative structure, unlike core characters, for which any significant conflict must be traced to during a considerable time.

Setting is an environment in which an event or story takes place. It can also refer to both the time and geographic location within a narrative or within a work of fiction. As a literary element, setting helps initiate the main backdrop and mood for a story. It has been referred to as story world or milieu by literary scholars. It includes the context (especially society) beyond the immediate surroundings of the story. It may provide information about placement and timing, such as New York, America, in the year 1820. Setting could be simply descriptive like a lonely cottage on a mountain. Social conditions, historical time, geographical locations, weather, immediate surroundings, and timing are all different aspects of setting.

Dialogue is a written or spoken conversational exchange between two or more people, and a literary and theatrical form that depicts such an exchange. Also, a dialogue can be seen as a literary element in which writers employ two or more characters to be engaged in conversation with each other. In literature, it is a conversational passage or a spoken or written exchange of conversation in a group or between two persons directed towards a subject.

We have the in inner dialogue, -- the characters speak to themselves and reveal their personalities. To use inner dialogue, writers employ literary techniques like stream of consciousness or dramatic monologue. Outer Dialogue – It is a simple conversation between two characters used in almost all types of fictional works.

Dialogue advances the plot of a narrative, and reveals the characters that cannot be understood otherwise. It presents an exposition of the background or the past events and creates the tone of a narrative. Its usage can also be seen in the modern literary works, where it colours the personalities of the characters, creates a conflict, highlights the vernacular and moves the storyline forward. Moreover, dialogue makes a literary piece interesting and alive, and gives enjoyable experience to the readers.


A theme is the central topic in a text. The most common contemporary understanding of theme is an idea or point that is central to a story, which can often be summed in a single word (e.g. love, death, betrayal). A theme may be exemplified by the actions, utterances, or thoughts of a character in a play. A story may have several themes. Along with plot, character, setting, and style, theme is considered one of the components of fiction.
How does one distinguish between minor themes and major themes? You must turn your attention to the central conflict of the story. The details of the events surrounding this central conflict contain the major themes of the story. Once you find one that seems to relate to almost everything in the story, you have located a central theme of the story.

Idiongo Ebong

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