Interpreting Prose

An author mixes several things in order to come up with an acceptable prose piece:

  • Settings: where the story takes place.
  • Plots: what happens in the story
  • Themes: what the moral of the story is.
  • Style: the way author presents his material.
  • Point of View: is first person, second person, etc.
  • Characters: who is in the story

Written pieces is are categorized as either fiction or non-fiction.

Fiction

Fiction can be novels, short stories, or poetry. Fiction is a story that is not true. Some fiction is based on true stories but the story has been fictionalized. Many television series are fictionalized but based on true events.

Non-fiction

Non-fiction is true. It can be short as in essays, biographies, or history stories. All dates and names in the non-fiction story are real dates and real people. The story is true and can be checked out by looking through history text. Biographies are stories of real peoples lives written by someone not the subject of the story. Autobiographies are written by an author about himself.

Characterization

Developing characters in both fiction and non-fiction is an art form. One knows if one has done this properly if the character comes to life on the page. Elements of physical completeness, physiological wholeness, and realness are characteristics of good character development. Characters should become real on the page. Dialog becomes important  as part of the development of good characters.

Elements of plot

The plot can take place in logical time order or it can take place out of logical order. One technique to use is called flashback, in this technique past events are presented first and present events last.

Parts of the plot

Exposition

Exposition refers to the background information and sets the stage for the storyline. It introduces setting, characters and conflict.

Conflict

Conflict is friction between main characters. They sometimes argue and are opposing forces for the plot to unfold. Most plots are centered around one of the following ideas:

  • Individual vs self - Inner struggles characters have while there trying to decide what to do
  • Individual vs another - disagreement between characters
  • Individual vs society - the individual struggles against the rules, conventions, or pressures of living with other people
  • Individual vs nature or other force - struggles against forces beyond his control such as disasters or evil

Another part of the plot is climax a point in the story when all the action reaches a crescendo pitch, and the action is at highest point. This is usually near the end of the story when the plot is about resolve itself. Mysteries have obvious climaxes. All of the clues suddenly come together and reader finds out the illusive "who done it?" Examples:

  • Perry Mason by Erle Stanley Gardner
  • Sherlock Homles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • M. Hercule Poirot by Agatha Christie
  • Sam Spade by Dashiell Hammett

Following the climax all lose ends are tied together and a resolution is reach and the conflict comes to the end. This is usually the end of the story. All of the conflicts resolved and the characters go with their lives.