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Analysing Fiction Texts

By Brentyn, published on 21/12/2018 Blog > Academia > School English > GCSE English Language: Analysing Fiction Texts

“That’s what fiction is for. It’s for getting at the truth when the truth isn’t sufficient for the truth.” -Tim O’Brien

Well written fictitious novels, novellas, and short stories have entertained humankind for centuries. The brief moments of listening or reading adventurous tales have helped disheartened people escape from their sad realities.

The power of literature has always been prevalent and shows no signs in decreasing. 

Students in secondary school have the option to learn more about the magic of fictitious literature in a GCSE subject.

Therefore, without further ado, Superprof is here to demonstrate the first topic, analysing fiction texts, of the English Language GCSE Physics Syllabus from the AQA exam board to students who desire a future career as an author or merely love acquiring more knowledge about the English language.

Fiction Text Types

writing stories Works of fiction include short stories, novellas and novels. (Source: pixabay)

Fiction is the complete opposite of non-fiction texts and is writing that is far from the truth. The writer creates a fabricated story that has some parts that may be true and based on past life experiences. In addition, fictitious works of writing are imaginative, daring and adventurous.

The best writers of fiction are creative and use literary devices to the best of their abilities.

Literary experts well know that there are different types of fiction: prose, poetry and drama, and it is important to note that within each category of fiction there are different genres.

Let’s use the example of prose fiction. Three distinct genres can be observed in prose fiction such as science fiction, historical fiction, and romance fiction.

When thinking of science fiction novels many remember George Orwell’s 1984 and recognise it as a classic in this genre. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell and The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory are outstanding examples of historical fiction. As for romance fiction, it would be a great mistake to not include the marvellous novels of Jane Austen such as Pride and Prejudice.

Some of the most deservingly celebrated authors of fiction from the past two centuries include Margaret Attwood, Ian McEwan, and Andrea Levy. 

During this section of the analysing fiction texts, students learnt that prose fiction could be expressed in distinct forms such as a novel, a novella or a short story. Their length usually defines the texts.

For example, short stories explain the premise of a tale in a few thousand words, novellas are not divided into chapters but are in between short stories and novels and, finally, books have chapters and are a relatively new form of literature.

Setting

When studying literature, it is essential to understand the setting. The setting is the place and time used within the text. It may be in the past, present or future, a certain time of day, a particular time of year, a specific geographic location such as a city or country and a type of place or event.

The setting is an essential part of how a text achieves its effect. The location and description of a place or the time of day creates a mood for readers and echoes the theme. When writing a fictitious piece of writing, authors think about the importance of historical context so that the reader may make assumptions and judgements.

When reading novels to determine the setting of a story, students learn to become analytical and quick to find words, descriptions, parts of speech and comparisons that could give away the period or place. 

Themes

What’s the main idea or meaning that runs through a text directly and indirectly? Well, simply put, it’s the theme.

Looking closely at language choice, setting and characters can be great fun in order to uncover the underlying theme of the short story or novel. Theme-finding requires investigation and careful research. However, there are common themes used in fiction, such as:

  • Power,
  • Love,
  • Money,
  • Death,
  • Appearance and Reality,
  • Heroism,
  • Technology in society,
  • Friendship.

One of the easiest ways to identify themes is through motifs which are the repeated images or ideas that help develop a theme. The word motif is from the French language and means pattern.

Therefore, readers are precisely looking for a pattern that continually occurs in the piece of literature they are analysing. 

On some examinations, only extracts of a novel or short story are given to help identify the theme. Hence, readers have to look closely at the language choices to work out the themes.

In this section of the analysing fiction texts of the GCSE English Language Syllabus, students are encouraged to dig deeper and do more than merely identifying the main themes. Looking at how themes relate to each other and conflicting ideas will enrich the entire exploration of themes.

Deeper themes that can be analysed include conflict, family, love, power, place, and nature. 

Writing about themes in literature is inevitable in secondary school. Therefore, to correctly examine an extract to determine its theme certain questions need to be asked. Some questions include the following:

  • How does the language choice suggest a theme?
  • How do the characters in the extract of the story represent the theme?
  • Which events help to develop the themes in the extract?

The previously mentioned questions are just a few examples to ask yourself when examining the theme in an extract.

Characterisation and Narrative Voice

different personalities The contrasts and contradictions between characters can tell the reader a lot about the theme of the story. (Source: pixabay)

The characterisation is the way a writer creates a new character and makes them believable. When reading a short story or novel, it is effortless to become attached to the characters and treat them as real people. Attachment to characters is accomplished as a result of the author using specific language to bring the characters to life.

The things a character does, what they say, what they look like and what they own paints a very vivid description in our minds.

When reading pieces of writing, it is very important to think about how the characters interact with each other since this could suggest some important themes or ideas in the text. Looking for the contrasts and contradictions between characters or within a character is invaluable. Some of the most typical contrasts between characters include the following:

  • Characters who think versus those who feel,
  • Sociable characters versus those who are more solitary,
  • Characters who talk versus those who act.

After acquiring a basic understanding of contrasts and contradictions, students grasp information about the different types of narrative voice. Before writing their short story or novel, a writer spends time considering what kind of narrative voice will be used because this can have a significant effect on the story and the reader’s response.

First person, second person, third person and third person omniscient are the most commonly used narrative voices. Going through examples and excerpts of narrative voices help students carefully pinpoint the differences.

During the English Language GCSE subject, students analyse many excerpts to identify characterisation in fictitious writings. 

Language and Structure

The language, which is words and phrases, and the structure, which is the order of ideas in a text, are methods used in works of fiction to create compelling characters, setting, narratives and themes.

When talking about language in prose fiction, there are many things that readers can look for such as:

  • Literary techniques that are known as similies and metaphors,
  • Language techniques such as hyperbole or terms of address,
  • Types of words used in the text such as adjectives, nouns or verbs.

Words in a text can be understood as a denotation, definition from a dictionary, and connotation, the ideas that they link.

It is also wise for pupils to look for any patterns in the language chosen by the writer. These patterns are crucial because they may suggest deeper themes or meanings that are not too obvious.

Literary techniques or literary devices that were briefly mentioned in the fiction text types subheading of this article are used to add depth and colour to literature. Excellent pieces of writing are filled with effective literary techniques.

Some of the most commonly used literary techniques include metaphor, simile, personification, motif, repetition and alliteration just to name a few. 

The structure of fiction texts can refer to the order of words and ideas within a sentence, a paragraph, an extract or a whole document. It is indispensable to think about how the reader responds to the structure of the text.

Repetition, connectives, sentence types, sentence length, paragraph length and change of tense are all some structural devices within prose fiction.

Fictional narratives often fit broadly into typical stages such as exposition, crisis point or climax and resolution. Extracts are presented to grasp a further understanding of these stages.

Annotating Texts

Annotating is not a word frequently heard in many people’s vocabulary. Nevertheless, it is an essential part of the English Language GCSE subject and it refers to the moment when you add notes or comments to a text. This can also include underlining or circling specific words.

For example, to better understand, let’s say you were focusing on setting, you would circle or underline all the words and phrases used to describe that place. Closely annotating texts is an extremely effective way to practice analysing a work of fiction.

If you are in exams and want to quickly annotate texts, here are a few suggestions to follow:

  • Use abbreviations for longer words,
  • Notes should be legible and functional not pretty,
  • Use marks that you will later understand,
  • Be selective of what you are annotating.

Over-annotating the text to the point that you can no longer read it is a major faux pas!

Instead of cluttering your page with too many notes, there are certain things to look for when annotating. The structure and pattern, language and literary techniques, characterisation and voice and themes and ideas are all worth annotating.

Read more about preparing for your English exams.

Responding to a Fiction Text

responding to a text When responding to a fiction text, paragraphs should contain connectives and at least one main point.  (Source: pixabay)

When responding to a fiction text, readers are asked to focus on a particular area. In a complete response, you should show how language and structure create meaning.

A handy tip is to focus your writing on HOW the writer has used specific techniques to create meaning, rather than WHAT the text is saying or WHO it is about. The HOW is crucial, WHAT and WHO are secondary and non-essential.

Exam questions that focus on responding to a fiction text may include the following:

  • Characters,
  • Narrative voice,
  • Themes and ideas,
  • Language,
  • Structure,
  • The effect on the reader.

Understanding the question goes a long way in selecting the correct answer. It is essential for students to take their time and comprehend what they are being asked to do.

Each paragraph should contain at least one main point. Paragraphs potentially contain:

  • A link to the focus of the question,
  • Some solid evidence from the extract that supports your answer,
  • A discussion of the evidence and links to all further evidence.

Paragraphs should contain connectives such as firstly, on the other hand, similarly, in contrast, however, or finally. The previously mentioned connectives are used to improve the quality of the writing style. Also, it is of the utmost importance to vary your structure depending on your ideas and how you choose to link your thoughts together.

To effectively support your points, you need to use quotations and examples. All of the quotations used should be kept short and to the point. A few well-chosen words from the text has more of a powerful impact that copying out massive chunks from the text.

Making the most of quotations and embedding quotations is learnt by students exploring this section of the English Language GCSE subject.

Students undergoing or considering the GCSE English Langauge Syllabus need all the help they can get to ensure victorious marks on assessments. Sample exam questions and potential answers are priceless gifts that are examined after each topic of this GCSE subject that guarantee success.

The stories and extracts you read on assessments in this topic may be fiction, but your impending triumph is 100% non-fiction!

To successfully accomplish the English Language GCSE, there are various topics that must be considered such as effectively comparing texts, writing fiction and non-fiction pieces of writing, and speaking and listening.

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