Approaching prose fiction
Approaching prose fiction

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Approaching prose fiction


The revelation of character through techniques such as physical description, action, dialogue, interaction with other characters, and the depiction of thought, emotion and belief.
Describes a narrative in which multiple voices, perspectives or discourses are present and engage and interact with each other.
Speech between two or more characters in a narrative.
First person
Narration from the point of view of a character, often central to the plot, who refers to himself or herself as ‘I’. Such narrators can often be deliberately ‘unreliable’.
The point-of-view being narrated. The distinction between ‘who speaks’ and ‘who sees’. Thus, although the narrator ‘speaks’ the focaliser is the character through whose eyes and perceptions the narrative is described. In third-person narratives such as Pride and Prejudice the narrator is the user of the third-person perspective, while the focaliser is the centre of consciousness being represented.
Free indirect speech
Speech that is represented, rather than directly related. Extremely flexible form of prose discourse, between indirect narrative commentary and direct speech, giving the impression of combining the two. Examples: direct speech – He said: ‘I love her’ indirectspeech – He said that he loved her free indirect speech – He loved her.
The classification of literary works according to common elements of content, form, or technique.
The expression of a meaning contrary to the stated or ostensible one.
The description of the events and situations that make up a story as distinct from dialogue.
the ‘speaking voice’ of a narrative; the voice and perspective through which a narrative is told, often, particularly in first-person narratives, a character in the work.
Describes a third-person point of view that allows an author to convey external details, description and information while also enabling the revelation of characters' internal thoughts, emotions and motivations. Omniscient narrators are able to comment on as well as describe events and themes.
The arrangement of narrative events in a story, organised in such a way as to create interest and involvement for the reader and to establish and emphasise causality.
Point of view
The perspective from which a story is narrated. There are two major perspectives, first-person and third-person.
A style of writing that seeks to convey the impression of accurate recording of an actual way of life in a recognisable time and place. Closely associated with the rise of the novel in the nineteenth century as the most effective genre for representing contemporary life, society and attitudes.
The background of location(s) and historical time against which the characters and plot of a story are set.
‘Showing’ and ‘telling’:
Showing – more dramatic presentation of events and characters through use of direct speech, dialogue, etc., without the overt involvement of the narrator. Telling – the narrator describes what happens, what characters said, did, felt without directly relating it through dialogue.
A narrated sequence of events arranged chronologically.
The characteristic way in which a writer organises and expresses his or herself in writing; the combination of literary devices that a writer uses to communicate themes and narrative content.
Third person
A narrative perspective that does not belong to a specific character in the novel. Such narrators are often ‘omniscient’; they are all-knowing and are able to recount the story fully and reliably and are able to enter the consciousness of characters in order to reveal their thoughts, emotions, beliefs and motivations.

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371