Module Five: The Plot – Expanding the Theme

Module Five: The Plot – Expanding the Theme

Module two dealt with the analysis of a short story or novel. This module pin-points the basic elements of the story. Refer to it as you work through the next module.


In module three, we gave examples of various patterns which could be used as the structure of the novel. The first pattern we gave is, by far, the most common and easiest to use. In the next two modules, we provide a formula based on this structure.


A Suggested Formula (I)


To be decided initially:

  • The predominant or over-riding emotion

If one emotion is not to be predominant, which are the main ones? Limit yourself to two or, at the most, three. There are many emotions. Fear will be predominant in a thriller, anger in the case of the righting of wrongs, romantic love in a romance, curiosity in the case of a crime novel, pity when the main character is fighting against all odds. There are, of course, many more.


  • Main character(s)

Either one or two key characters, or a group, or society: if a society is chosen, a character to represent the whole must be created.


  • Aim/Ambition

Is the driving force or ambition of the chosen character(s)/group compatible with the emotion in 1)? For example, if anger at injustice is chosen, the main character’s aim must be to right the wrong.


  • Setting

The circumstance, occasion, era (past present or future) must be decided.


  • Any hidden meaning

This aspect is symbolic – never expressed directly but indirectly. Module one and two deal with this.



Write a description of the main character(s) in about 200-300 words. In addition to their physical appearance, explain their habits, likes and dislikes, and strengths and weaknesses. Research these characters: take note of people you know who are similar to them, observe mannerisms and make notes on their basic culture or fundamental beliefs.


Research the country, era, society and circumstances of the story. What is eaten, worn, used for transport and done for relaxation? What are their dwellings and their political leanings? Is there a strong cultural identity? (Make as many notes as you think necessary.)


Is the aim/ambition of the key character(s) realistic? Give reasons to support your conclusions. The reasons will arise from the personality of the character, the cultural setting, the plot and the resources available to the character.