How to Read Short Stories from your Exam Anthology

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Checklist: Elements of Literary Style


1. Sentence Structure  Are the sentences long or short?  Why do they change?Do they contain many subordinate clauses, or are they often fragments?

Are there any digressions or interruptions?

Is the word-order straightforward or unconventionally crafted?

2. Pace  Is the writing heavily descriptive, with emphasis on setting and atmosphere, or does it focus on action and plot movement?
3. Expansive/Economical Diction Is the writing tight and efficient, or elaborate and long-winded?When does the author use one or the other mode, and why?
4. Vocabulary  Are the words simple or fancy?  Are they technical, flowery, colloquial, cerebral, punning, obscure (and so on…)?
5. Figures of speech  Are there any metaphors, similes, or symbols?Are there any other uses of figurative language (personification, metonymy, and so on)?
6. Use of Dialogue  How often does dialogue tell the story?Do we see whole conversations or just fragments?

Does the conversation use slang or is it formal?  Does it appear natural or contrived?

Does the dialogue give a sense of pacing, of pauses, of the unsaid?

How much does it substitute for narration?

7. Point of View  Possibilities: first, second, third, omniscient, limited omniscient, multiple, inanimate, free indirect discourse.
8. Character development 


How does the author introduce characters, and how do we see their evolution in the story?  What is their function and motivation?What kinds of characters are they?  Full/round?  Stock characters?  Stereotypes?  Caricatures?
9. Tone  What is the author’s attitude?  What is the mood of the story?Does the author seem sarcastic?  Aggressive?  Wistful?  Pessimistic?  In love? Philosophically detached?  Hopeful?  Ironic?  Bitter?  (And so on…)

Whatever the tone, where is it visible in the narrative?

10. Word Color, Word Sound  How much does the language call attention to or depend on the quality of its sound, e.g. through alliteration, assonance, consonance, dissonance, rhythm, unusual word choice, and so on?
11. Paragraph / Chapter Structure  Are paragraphs very short, or are they enormous blocks running across many pages?Are the chapters short or long?  How many are there, how are they organized, and why is this important?
12. Time Sequencing / Chronology How has the author organized the chronology of events?  To what effect?  What is the work’s structural “rhythm”?
13. Allusions How and how often does the author refer to other texts, myths, symbols, famous figures, historical events, quotations, and so on?
14. Experimentation in Language Are there any unusual techniques, such as stream-of-consciousness, mixing styles and genres, unusual layout on the page, breaking rules of grammar and form, odd or unstable narrative perspectives, onomatopoeia, aporia, and so on?
15. Metafictional techniques Does the author call attention to his or her own process of narration?Are the narrator’s position, role, and thoughts as a storyteller mentioned explicitly in the text?  What function does this serve?

About Ms. N's Rhyme and Reason

Hi, In the beginning was the word. Hence begins the history of humankind, in all domains of evolution. The thriving of civilizations has depended on how articulate were their teachers- the ones who descended with the learned art to their offspring generations. This phenomenon of transmitting of genetic code of learning has been at the heart of my inspiration to teach. This art somehow has transformed into a mantra for me, and it has never ceased to amaze me. Although to become a perfect teacher one might take a lifetime, but if one tries to be perfect, one negates the reason to experiment and fail. Hence, I may have faltered in some of my approaches, but my aspiration has been to try rectifying the short-coming, to connect again with the subject-matter and my pupils, to demystify the intended outcome, to enthuse the learners again, and to keep the cycle going.
This entry was posted in A Level Literature in English, Course No.9695, For Teachers:The Art of Assisting Discovery, GCE O Level Literature in English, Paper 3, Stories of Ourselves and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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