Checklist for Getting the Most from Reading

When reading literature in English, there are many questions to ask in order to get the most from the experience. When reading fiction, isn’t it a total experience? What are the elements that make up a story that whisk the reader away to another place and time?

Elements of Fiction

  1. Conflict and expectations from title.
  2. Plot.
  3. Narrator and tense
  4. Characters.
  5. Setting.
  6. How does the story make the reader feel and how does it do this.
  7. Theme and meaning.

Why even consider this? It is easier to understand another person’s work of fiction if you consider how that author dealt with these elements. In college writing, sometimes students will need to write about stories or novels and consider these elements. In discussing a work with others, it is virtually impossible to have any kind of meaningful conversation about it without touching upon these elements. In writing reviews about books for others to read, analyzing the different elements make reviews meatier.


This is a humorous short story written by my husband. He graciously allowed me to post it to this blog in the interests of higher education. It is protected by copyright and available at

The first step in studying a story is to read it carefully and simply enjoy it. After that, questions can be asked to provide greater insight.


  1. What do you expect?
  2. What happens in the story?
  3. How is the story narrated?
  4. Who are the characters?
  5. What is the setting of the story?
  6. What do you notice about how the story is written?
  7. What does the story mean?


After the questions have been asked, there shall be answers. These are your own answers, and there cannot be a “wrong” answer. It is up to the reader’s interpretation. That’s you. It is more important to respond to these questions than it is to express like or dislike at this time. If you don’t know what the standards are, how can you possibly make an intelligent judgement?

Anyway, this is a little more difficult than reading your favorite magazine without analyzing the craft behind it, but studying this way will help you read your favorite magazine with a whole new perspective. You might enjoy it even more because writing is a beautiful art.

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