“The Least You Should Know About Any Work of Fiction” Worksheet

  1. Identify the protagonist in 3-5 sentences, describe his/her life situation and basic personality, and then state his/her problem and/or primary motivation. What is the central idea, need, or problem that drives the protagonist? How does the protagonist change by the end of the story? What have they learned?
  2. Identify the antagonist(s) in 3-5 sentences, describe his/her/its basic situation and qualities, and then state his/her/its main motivation. What is the central idea, need, or problem that drives the antagonist? Remember that antagonists are not always characters, though, and that many stories feature more than one antagonist. Finally, explain how the antagonist’s drive interacts with the protagonist’s motivation, thus establishing the central conflict of the work.
  3. In no more than 3-5 sentences, summarize the plot. Include enough of the deeper level to show all that’s at stake for the protagonist and to suggest how he/she does or doesn’t change by the end of the work.
  4. Describe the conflict in less than 50 words. What is at stake? What are people fighting over? What is the problem? Remember that there is always a problem in literature. The human condition—the subject of all literature—is about problems.
  5. Identify the one scene or line or chapter or stanza that is the climax of the story. What are the moments of crisis, or scenes, that lead up to the climax? Describe each scene/chapter in a couple of words, then briefly chart the “rising” structure of the work.
  6. Write 3-5 sentences which describe the importance of setting in the work you are analyzing.
  7. Write 3-5 sentences on the connotation of important images, metaphors or symbols in the work. How does this connotation enrich your understanding of the work as a whole?
  8. Write 3-5 sentences on important historical or cultural background that might enrich your understanding of the work. Connect the historical or cultural information to the development of the story.
  9. Write 3-5 sentences about the story’s themes. What world or life view is the author expressing? How do you know? What is his/her message about these themes?

Sample Solution