Plot Elements

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Cynthia Vander Ven's picture

Use these Flashcards to learn your Plot Elements

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Setting: Environment

• physical location
• climate
• weather
• social/cultural surroundings

Setting: Time & Place

• Character's time of life
• The time of day
• Time of year
• Time period such as past, present, future, etc.

Setting: Geographical Location

• Beach or mountains
• Climate & weather
• Social or cultural aspects such as school, theater, meeting, club, etc.

Plot Devices: Backstory

Story that precedes events in the story being told – past events or background that add meaning to current circumstances.

Plot Devices: Cliffhanger

The narrative ends unresolved, to draw the audience back to a future episode for the resolution.

Plot Devices: Deus ex Machina (God in the Machine)

Resolving the primary conflict by a means unrelated to the story (e.g., a god appears and solves everything). Can frustrate the audience.

Plot Devices: Flashback

General term for altering time sequences, taking characters back to the beginning of the tale, for instance

Plot Devices: Foreshadowing

Implicit yet intentional efforts of an author to suggest events which have yet to take place in the process of narration.

Plot Devices: MacGuffin

A MacGuffin refers to some goal, desired object, or other motivator that the protagonist pursues, often with little or no narrative explanation as to why it is considered so important.

Plot Devices: Narrative Hook

Story Opening that "hooks" readers' attention so they will keep on reading.

Plot Devices: Plot Twist

Unexpected change ("twist") in the direction or expected outcome of the plot.

Plot Devices: Poetic Justice

Virtue ultimately rewarded, or vice punished, by an ironic twist of fate related to the character's own conduct

Plot Devices: Red Herring

Diverting attention away from an item of significance.

Plot Devices: Self-fulfilling Prophecy

Prediction that, by being made, makes itself come true.

Plot Devices: Unreliable Narrator

The narrator of the story is not sincere or introduces a bias in their narration and possibly misleads the reader, hiding or minimizing events, characters, or motivations.

CHARACTER: What is character?

Character is the mental, emotional, and social qualities to distinguish one entity from another (people, animals, spirits, robots, pieces of furniture, and other animated objects).

CHARACTER: What is Character Development?

Character development is the change that a character undergoes from the beginning of a story to the end.

CHARACTER: Characters can be:

Primary, secondary, minor, or main. The importance of a character to the story determines how fully the character is developed.


Other characters' comments
Author's comments
Unity of character and action


Protagonists are the main characters who create the action of the plot and engage readers, arousing their empathy and interest. The protagonist is often a hero or heroine of the story, as the whole plot moves around him or her.


Antagonists are the bad guys, or an opponent of the protagonist or the main character. The action in the story arises from a conflict between the protagonist and the antagonist. The antagonist can be a person, an inanimate object, an animal, or nature itself.


Round characters are those the reader/listener/viewer gets to know well. They have a variety of traits that make them believable. They are more realistic and demonstrate more depth in their personalities. They can make surprising or puzzling decisions and attract readers’ attention.


Flat characters are less well developed and have fewer or limited traits or belong to a group, class, or stereotype. A character foil is a minor character whose traits contrast with a main character.


Flat characters are less well developed and have fewer or limited traits or belong to a group, class, or stereotype. A character foil is a minor character whose traits contrast with a main character.

TYPES OF CHARACTERS: Anthropomorphic

Anthropomorphic characterization is the characterization of animals, inanimate objects, or natural phenomena as people. Skilled authors can use this to create fantasy even from stuffed toys (Winnie-the-Pooh). The characterizing of inanimate objects from tiny soldiers to trees and so on is represented in Hans Christian Andersen's works and the ballet The Nutcracker

TYPES OF CHARACTERS: Animal Characters

Animal characters in realism are best when the animals act only like animals as in The Incredible Journey.


A Confidante is someone in whom the main character confides. He or she reveals the central character’s thoughts, intentions, and personality traits; however, a confidante need not necessarily be a person. An animal can also be a confidante.

CHARACTER CHANGE: Dynamic Characters

Dynamic characters are rounded characters that change. This change in character or his/her outlook is permanent. That is why sometimes a dynamic character is also called a “developing character.”

CHARACTER CHANGE: Static (stock) Characters

Static (stock) characters are round or flat characters that do not change during the story. Even the events in a story or novel do not change character’s outlook, perceptions, habits, personality, or motivations.