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Home > English > Close reading texts and techniques > Novels and short stories


Novels and short stories

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Examples of novels and short stories

Let's look in more detail atsome examples of extracts from novels or short stories

Example 1

This passage is an extract form a novel set in Russia in 1905. It describes a childhood experience of an encounter with death.

Asya pulled on her coat and boots, closed the pantry door and slipped away before anyone saw her disappear. Her breath streamed through her muffler and rose up into the birch branches above her head. The icicles on the eaves shed a steady stream of drops into the piled snow banks on either side of the banks: clumps of snow slid off the branches of the firs and subsided to the ground with a hiss; the upper most branches of the birches sighed and cracked in the wind. She skipped down the hundred and twenty six wooden steps to the boat house singing to herself.

Example 2.

The passage which follows is an extract from a novel, part of which is set in Glasgow. It describes a boy's first day at a secondary school and depicts his feelings about the teachers, the subjects taught and one other pupil.

A lank young teacher led them into the classroom. The girls sat in desks to his right, the boys to the left, and he faced them with hands on hips leaning forward fromthe waist. He said, "My name is Maxwell. I'm your form teacher. You come to me first period each day to have the class register called and to bring reasons for having been absent or late. They'd better be good reasons. I'm also your Latin teacher." He stared at them a while, then said, "I'm new to teaching. Just as I'm your first senior secondary school teacher, you are my first senior secondary school class. We're starting together, you see, and I think wed better decide here and now to start well. You do right by me and I'll do right by you. But if we quarrel about anything you're going to suffer. Not me." He stared at them brightly and the frightened class stared back. He had a craggy face with a rugged nose, trimmed red moustache and broad lips.

Here's a closer look at some of the features you should be able to spot

  • The first thing you should notice is that you are told that the extract is taken from a novel, so don't forget to read the introduction at the top of the page!
  • You should also spot that characters are introduced. Mr Maxwell is a "lank young teacher". Asya is a child, she "skipped" along "singing to herself".
  • The setting is described clearly in the Asya story: "The icicles on the eaves shed a steady stream of drops into the piled snowbanks".
  • The story in both extracts is told in the 3rd person : "A lank young teacher led them into the classroom". "Asya pulled on her coat and boots.... Her breath streamed through her muffler".
  • Language in both extracts is used imaginatively. Did you notice the sound effects used in " clumps of snow slid off ... and subsided to the ground with a hiss"? Did you spot the vivid description in "He had a craggy face with a rugged nose, trimmed red moustache and broad lips."? Both these examples show language being used to create strong impressions of the people or places in the story.
  • The writer makes use of a number of examples of figurative language such as onomatopoeia "…clumps of snow slid off ... and subsided to the ground with a hiss" and personification “…the uppermost branches of the birches sighed.” These help bring the writing to life by creating vivid images, and are a good indicator of the the writer’s skill with words.

Can you spot any other features of this type of writing which we've not pointed out for you, or some more examples of the ones above?


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Novelist Malorie Blackman.

Class Clips

Authors such as Keith Grey and Malorie Blackman give tips on making your writing interesting.

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