Monthly Archives: April 2012

Narrative Technique

Scenic Technique. Resembles a movie or play in its manner of presentation. We are close to the actions in both a spatial and temporal sense. The author presents actions that take a few seconds to perform in a passage that takes few seconds to read. Scenic techniques used at the beginning of a novel are more likely to capture a reader’s attention at once because they are concrete and vivid.

Panoramic technique. Physical setting is highly generalized; narrative summary of events of a long period of time compressed into a single paragraph. Panoramic technique at the beginning of a novel often has the advantage of clarity. The reader knows where he/she is in time and space and has a definite point of departure for action that will follow. Panoramic technique is economical. Author can get necessary exposition out of the way and concentrate on the story’s dramatic events. Both scenic and panoramic techniques are combined in most novels. Shifting techniques can prevent monotony in the structure of the story. Author must emphasize certain things (scenic technique) and de-emphasize ofther things (panoramic technique). Panorama can serve a transition function between more important scenes.

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Point of view

Point of View means that the story is told through the eyes and mouth of a certain person; the story can change considerably, depending on who is telling it.

First person narrator. Story is told from the inside; narrator is a participant in the action. Narrator is often the protagonist or minor character; we see only what he/she sees, in the way that he/she sees it.Advantage:  first person narrator has immediacy and a sense of life. Disadvantage:  the author may be frustrated in that he/she can only include things that the narrator would be expected to know; also, we are locked within the mind of the narrator.

Third person narrator. Usually a nameless narrator who can be identified with the author. Omniscient narrator:  godlike narrator; he/she can enter character’s minds and know everything that is going on, past, present, and future. Advantage:  very natural technique; author is, after all, omniscient regarding his work. Disadvantage:  unlifelike; narrator knows and tells all; is truly a convention of literature.

Viewpoint character:  third person narration that is limited to the point of view of one character in the novel; may be a protagonist or a minor character.

Objective viewpoint:  limited narrative, like a drama; narrator can only describe words and actions that can be seen objectively and cannot get into character’s thoughts.

Combination of narrative techniques is possible in a novel.

Tense of narration is important; action narrated in the present can be more dramatic than past tense narration.

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Style and literary standards. All writers have a style, but not all styles are good. Whether a style is good or bad largely depends on whether it is appropriate to the work. What does the style lend to the work as a whole? Style should work with other elements to produce a final unity. Style is the author’s personal expression. It reveals his/her way of perceiving experience and organizing  perceptions. Style includes the author’s choice of words as well as arrangement of words into phrases, sentences, and paragraphs. Elements of style:  diction, imagery, and syntax.

Diction: the author’s choice of words and their effect on the total work. Denotative meaning:  the literal meaning of a word. Connotative meaning:  suggestions and associations resulting from a word or group of words. Several words may have the same denotation, while differing significantly in their connotation. Is a writer’s style basically denotative or connotative?

Imagery:  the evocation of a sensory experience through words.

  • Literal images:  Suggest no change or extension in the meaning of a word; supply specific, concrete details.
  • Figurative images, or figures of speech; similes and metaphors
  • Recurrent images:  Repetitions of the same or similar images throughout a work can reinforce an effect that the author is trying to create.
  • Symbols:  The author’s attempts to represent areas of human experience that ordinary language cannot express;  the symbol evokes a concrete, objective reality while suggesting a level of meaning beyond that reality.
  • Archetypal image:  concept of Carl Jung.  There are images and symbols that are universal, existing from one culture to another, that always have the same meaning.
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Tone is the author’s attitude towards the subject
In literature, the author’s style and treatment of the subject reflect his/her attitude about the subject as well as an attitude towards the audience.
Components of tone:
Understatement:  casual or light treatment of the subject, it has two effects
shows that the author does not take a subject seriously
calls upon the moral indignation of the reader because the subject does not seem to be taken seriously.
Irony:  a discrepancy between what is stated and what is suggested; saying one thing and meaning another.
Hyperbole:  the opposite of understatement; exaggeration used for rhetorical effect: may be dramatic heightening.
The middle style:  style used by most authors, lying between understatement and hyperbole; presents an accurate picture of things as they are.
Failures in tone
Sentimentality:  author attempts to impose upon the material a greater emotional burden than it can comfortably bear.
Inhibition:  author’s failure to give due emotional weight to his material.
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Types of Setting:

Neutral setting: the setting is not important, just a place where the action takes place.

Spiritual setting: the values embodied in the physical setting; there is no easy relationship between physical setting and moral values.  

Dynamic setting: the setting may take on the role of a character.

Elements of a setting:

Geography (topography, scenery, interiors, etc.)

Occupation and lifestyle of characters


Religious, intellectual, and moral environment

Functions of a setting:

Setting as a methaphor: the setting projects the internal state of the characters or a pervasive spiritual atmosphere.

Atmosphere: a mood or emotional aura suggested by the setting and helping to establish the reader’s expectations.

Setting as the dominant element:

Time, especially in historical novels

Place, regionalist or local color novels (spiritual as well as geographical)

Setting should lend unity to the novel: What does it contribute?


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Online for Babies 1

Learning online

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