Elements of Fiction
Understanding and Writing About Literature
Every story has the elements of fiction whether it is a short story, a novel, a play, a movie, or even a television sit-com. The story you told your husband at dinner last night probably had these elements as well.
And your child, even if he has not formally studied the elements of fiction, has already internalized many of the elements of fiction merely from exposure to stories, television, books, and drama. When it is time to introduce the literary terms of character, plot, climax, setting, conflict, and point of view, be sure to connect the ideas to the stories he already knows.
It's not hard to understand the elements of fiction, and a strong foundation in these elements is the cornerstone of writing literary analysis or even just a simpler book report. Furthermore, competence with literary elements is always part of reading scope and sequence charts for most all grade levels.
Introducing the Elements of Fiction
Plot, Setting, and Character
Like anything you teach, keeping concepts in context is important. So I suggest you introduce the elements of fiction in relation to a book you've recently read with your children. Here is how I first formally introduced my daughter, then 10 years old and in fifth grade, to the elements of fiction.
At the recommendation of a fellow homeschool mom, I bought Writing A Great Book Report from Weekly Reader Publishing at Currclick. (At $5, I thought I really couldn't lose!) I like that it's an e book so that I can reprint another copy of the pages for use a second or third time.
It turned out to be a great step by step introduction to the elements of fiction and a guide for writing a book report. My daughter really enjoyed working through the pages, making notes about her novel Bud, Not Buddy. Let's Write A Great Book Report includes character, setting, and plot. No other elements of fiction are mentioned, so it is an easy first activity.
NOTE: If your child has already been writing about the elements of literature, you may find this resource too simplistic. I used it as a first time exposure and it was very easy to work through. Be sure to check the preview at Currclick to make sure this is just right for your child's level. It is designed for 3rd - 4th grade.
The Elements of Fiction - Compared to Vegetable Soup
When I taught eighth grade language arts in a public school, I came up with this visual aid to help my students remember the various elements of fiction. The first letter of each element is also the first letter of an ingredient in vegetable soup.
C - Carrot/Character
P - Pepper/Plot
S - Salt/Setting
T - Tomato/Theme
P - Potato/Point of View
C - Corn/ Conflict
Just like good vegetable soup has lots of different ingredients, literature is full of the ingredients of fiction. You can use the printables here, or have your child make her own like my daughter did.
Cards or Banners
For the entire set of elements of fiction soup-themed printables click HERE. It includes the pages pictured above and below plus many more.
flashcards, labels, or minibooks & notebooking pages
Elements of Literature Printables - Prewriting, Book Report Forms, and More
Here is a variety of free printables that can complement your study of the elements of fiction.
- Book Report Template
A nice format for helping students write a book report essay. Includes character, setting, conflict, evaluation,theme, and plot.
- Graphic Organizer: Story Map
Use this Scholastic freebie to help students identify key elements that make up a story: characters, setting, problem, and solution.
- Story Maps Download! - Early Bird Homeschool
Five favorite story maps and flap books, perfect for early elementary age, but even older students can use these as graphic organizers for writing book reports or as a refresher!
- Plot Diagram
Outlines the five parts of plot with definitions and then a blank form to fill in. Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, Resolution.
- Literary Elements Posters
Two options of design -- stripes and apples. These PDFs are really large and really attractive. Right click to save. Consider printing them 4 per page and using a paper brad to make a reference minibook.
- Graphic Organizers for Reading
Lots of reading graphic organizers with story maps that are great for recording plot, character, setting, theme, and so on.
- Free Point of View Notebooking Page and Minibook Template
Here is a great PDF with two point of view options -- a notebooking page plus a split matchbook.
- Book Report Forms from ABCTeach
A wide variety of layouts and levels.(The top half are free; the bottom half are for paid subscribers.)
Literary Elements - Activities for plot, setting, character, theme, conflict, point of view, and more.
Implementing the Independent Reading Management Kit
I gave the book to my daughter as she started reading a new novel -- Don't You Know There's a War On? by Avi --and assigned her
one activity from each of these sections: setting, plot, character and theme
her choice of one activity from either point of view or conflict.
Activity One: Setting
First my daughter chose a setting activity from the choices. She created a (time) travel packet for the setting of her book. The packet included a detailed map, a brochure for a hotel, notices about possible blackouts, ration cards, and movie tickets.
Each item in the packet was based on facts learned from the book, and in looking over her work, I realized that not only was she outlining the setting of the book, but she was also including a lot of historical fact from the time period of World War 2.
Activity Two: Theme
For theme, my daughter chose to create a jigsaw puzzle that states the theme.
Activity Three: Point of View
Sprite chose to re-write a scene in the book from the perspective of another character.
Activity Four: Character
This is a reproducible page from the Scholastic book. She made a report card on the main character, Howie.
with literary analysis
Once your child has a good grasp of the main elements of fiction and can discuss them in relation to a specific novel, you can go deeper with some of these ideas and resources.
Start with a quality reference such as the or this free Write Source 2000glossary of literary terms (suitable for middle school).
Deepen your understanding of CHARACTER by learning about these types of characters:
Learn how to write a character analysis.
Using this Character Traits Graphic Organizer may be helpful in the process.
Or better yet, Make your own customized character graphic organizer with these simple directions.
Take your understanding of PLOT farther by diagramming:
- rising action
Online Helps for Elements of Fiction
If your child benefits from online activities, try these links for kid-friendly learning experiences.
- Interactives: Elements of a Story
An interactive introduction to the elements of fiction: setting, character, sequence, exposition, conflict, climax, and resolution. Uses the familiar story of Cinderella as a beginning point. Designed for grades 2-5. Includes both instruction and onl
- Read, Write, Think: The Elements of Fiction
Designed for grades 6-12, this interactive tool is an updated version of the Story Map. The tool includes a set of graphic organizers designed to assist teachers and students in prewriting and postreading activities, focusing on the key elements of c
- Read, Write, Think: The Elements of Fiction
This online interactive Story Map is a set of graphic organizers that focus on the key elements of character, setting, conflict, and resolution development. There is the option to print your work to use later. Designed for grades K-12.
Here you will find directions for creating foldables relevant to the elements of fiction: Story Elements Layered Look Book Guide Directions Point of View Looking In Both Windows Plot Graphic