Fiction Essay Vocab List

A list of possible fiction essay vocab terms. Remember, you’re tasked with using at least two of these twice each in order to fulfill the expectation. In using your chosen term, you just have to include it within your language, no need to define the term (but that is okay as well).

Plot arc
Exposition (expositional dialogue; expositional content)
In media res
Character Motivation
Internal conflict
External conflict
Main character
Round character / Dynamic character
Flat character / Static character
Geographic setting
Historical setting
Physical setting
Symbolism (symbol; symbolic)
Parallel (parallel meaning; parallel conflict)
Narrative point of view
Point of View
First-person POV
Third-person POV
Third-person general
Third-person limited
Third-person omniscient


How to Summarize a Short Story’s Plot

When summarizing the majority or entire plot of a story, oftentimes appearing in the introduction of a literary analysis, it’s not necessary to include parenthetical documentation after each sentence. Instead, one should reference the author name and story title early in the paragraph, and then reference the author name a few more times during the summary. That ensures that readers are keenly aware that the writer is using a summary of the stated story written by the stated author.

Here’s a link to the IVCC Stylebook page that further explains MLA style summary and paraphrase citations.

Some aspects of the below example are misrepresented in order to provide a better example for the scenario of an ENG 1002 essay.

Plot Summary Example (no parenthetical documentation:

Written by Jennifer Lee, “Frozen is a short story about two sisters struggling to connect despite a childhood secret that is keeping them apart. Lee creates a symbolic setting for the sisters, a castle where both are isolated from loving connection, but only Elsa understands the true reason for their isolation. Ana eventually helps Elsa learn that love is more powerful than magical power, and Ana is rewarded with the sisterly connection she had been seeking for so long. Lee’s characters are royals in a magical, fairy-tale world, but their emotional disconnect from each other can be a stand-in for the emotional barrier social media places between the social interactions of modern individuals.

Notice how continued use of the author name keeps this summary from being considered plagiarism. And with a full plot-summary, most instructors don’t expect you to include the page numbers. If, however, you’re summarizing a short section, pages number may be necessary.

Guided Freewrite Exercise

This exercise is used in my ENG 1002 course to draw out better understanding of a choice short story; however, the intended outcome of this exercise can be used in other ways such as narrowing down a research topic, considering poetry/drama selections, or considering classical or contemporary novels. Here is the fall 2018 version of this exercise:

Using the short story you believe you’ll use for your Fiction Essay assignment, please consider the following:

  1. Think about the biographical information you know about the author. Does that information inform your interpretation or assumptions about the story? How does that information provide cultural context? If you don’t know biographical information, do you think some research could help you better understand the story; how and why? 
  2. What are the main character’s two most prominent character traits? Think of a moment in the story that showcases each of those traits.

  3. Explore the character’s motivations and fears. Think of a moment in the story that showcases those feelings.
  4. The chosen outcome or ending of a story is usually a meaningful moment for authors in that it can either inspire readers to question the outcome or consider the outcome’s impact on the main character(s). Examine how the ending of the story could have been different, and how a different outcome could change the meaning of the story. Note how your conclusions often lead to a meaning or interpretation of the story.
  5. Unlike the title of Disney’s Aladdin that’s simply the name of the main character, Disney’s Frozen helps clarify or define Elsa’s emotional state as well as her relationship with her sister, the only important person in her life. None of the story options has a title that functions like Aladdin‘s, so does the title of your short story add more meaning to the story or define the main meaning of the story? Explore your thoughts and/or isolate a moment in the story that supports your thoughts.

  6. Based on your current freewrite and understanding of the story, what element of storytelling do you believe will be the most explored/discusses aspect of the story; or in other words, what element(s) do you think is most important to the story?