A Guide for the
Study of Fiction
Is the story bare (limited in events) or crowded?
How are the parts connected?
plot logical? That is, do events
occur naturally on the basis of cause and effect or do they seem to arise
without any basis in fact?
Does the author want consistency or fragmentation?
Do you see any artificial event contrived solely for effect?
How does the action build toward a climax?
Do the events of the story lead logically to an inevitable result?
1. Is the character socially motivated or do his words and actions derive from an inner mystery?
the character consistent?
he an individual or a type? Is he flat or round?
he function as the protagonist, the antagonist, a confidant(e), or a foil?
does the author develop his character?
Is the method dramatic, expository, or both?
Does he probe internally or describe externally?
Does he work through contrast or comparison?
Is the character identified through a symbol?
the character static or developing?
the conflicts the result of a struggle with inner demons or with social forces?
is the motivation for the character’s actions?
How does the author’s view
of the character reveal his view of the world?
Could the setting be transferred without changing the matter and manner
of the story?
What does the setting contribute? Could
it be eliminated?
To what extent is the setting embedded in the plot and theme?
What character qualities are derived from that particular setting and no
How does the setting help you come to some conclusions about the story?
Can you sense or feel an atmosphere capable of definition?
Does the mood help you understand the characters?
Does the mood generate ideas about the theme?
In what ways does the author create the mood?
Is it through Images? Language?
1. What means does the author use to express the theme? Does he speak in his own voice? Does he sum up the meaning at the beginning or end of the story? Does he use a spokesman—either through the narrator’s exposition or through objective dramatization?
theme embodied in the dramatization and deduced by the reader?
exposition, action, dialogue, images, stylistic devices, symbols contribute
to the reader's understanding of the
Omniscient—Does the narrator editorialize (make asides, interpret behavior,
comment on action, address the reader)?
Does the narrator remain objective,
refraining from comment?
First Person—Is “I” a major character, a minor character, an observer, or
a second-hand conveyor of
If “I” is a witness, does he or she serve as an accurate observer or is his or her view colored by a lack of knowledge, his own prejudices, his own character weakness, etc.?
Modified or limited omniscient (stream of experience)—Through what
character’s eyes is the story viewed? How
does this view affect the information given to the reader?
Does the author use sense perception to dramatize the story?
Are the thought processes revealed through the stream of consciousness
technique, through paraphrase, or through indirect mental discourse?
Objective—Does the author refrain from making asides, commenting on action?
Does the narrator serve as a reporter, not as an interpreter?
Would everything in the story be discernible to any observant individual
who witnesses the event?
the author make the reason for telling the story credible?
does the author make of imagery?
How do the images contribute to the
mood, to the theme? Do they
contribute to character delineation? Do
they heighten the
emotional effect? Do they help
bring the reader in as an active
does the author make of symbols? How
do they operate on the
leads the reader to identify a particular word as a symbol?
interpretation carry through the entire story without contradiction?
symbol a conventional one with universally accepted meaning or should it
be termed a “private” one?
symbol a simple one, easily discernible to the reader and possibly used on
one occasion only?
symbol a complex one, suggesting whole areas of meaning with the
possibility of diverse interpretations and emotional responses?
the symbol heighten emotional responses, extend the meaning, or
act as a unifying device?
author make use of ironical statements?
What function do they perform in the story?
Are the statements made by a character or by the narrator? Does the irony operate by understatement, overstatement, or
by some other means?
author employ dramatic irony? What discrepancy between reality and
appearance is concealed from the
characters? How does the author
reveal the truth to the
reader? Are any of the characters
also aware of the truth? Are
the uninformed characters
ever enlightened? If so, does the
lead to changes in character, behavior, etc.?
If the characters remain unaware
of the irony, what does this situation
contribute to the over-all effect of the story?
situation ironical to both the reader and the characters?
How is the truth
Although unforeseen, what logic is inherent in the irony?
statements and scenes, previously accepted at face value, become ironical?