top of page

Things to track while you're reading

When I read a book on my own, I can take my time reading it, and I allow myself to simply be immersed within the story. As an English Literature major, that wasn't something I could do while I was in college. When I read a book, I had to track several aspects of the story in order to participate in class discussions. However, there are always so many things happening within a story that it's challenging to pinpoint what to focus on. Here is a list of five of the main aspects of a story to track while you're reading.

1. The protagonist

The word "protagonist" refers to the main character in a story. As you read, take notes on what you learn about the main character. What is his background? What type of person is she at the beginning of the story, and how does that stay the same or change by the end? What are his strengths and weaknesses? How does she interact with other characters? What is the author trying to say through this character? There wouldn't be a story without a main character, so it's important to track the main character's progression as you read!

2. The antagonist

While the protagonist is the main character of a story, the antagonist is the character or group of characters that opposes the protagonist. As you pay attention to the protagonist, keep an eye on the antagonist as well. What motives does she have against the protagonist? What key similarities and differences exist between the protagonist and the antagonist? How does the antagonist develop as a character throughout the story? What is the author trying to say through him? Understanding the relationship between the protagonist and the antagonist will also help you discover the themes in the story (read #5!).

3. The setting

Stories always take place at a certain point in time and at a certain location - these are the aspects of a story that make up the setting. (If you need help identifying the setting of a story, check out my video on setting here!) The "when" of a story can refer to a specific date or a season or a general time in a character's life (ie: childhood). The "where" of a story can refer to a building or a country or a general area (ie: by the sea). Note, however, that the setting doesn't have to remain the same throughout a story - there can be multiple points of time and multiple locations revealed. The story might take place on a given day, or it could span multiple days, weeks, even years. The story might occur predominantly in one place, or the characters could be constantly moving so that the story's location changes with every chapter. Knowing the setting of a story is important because it helps you keep track of where the characters are and how much time passes between scenes or chapters. Tip: if you're reading an epic adventure story, like The Lord of the Rings, take note of the map the author includes of the places that exist in the story's world so you can keep track of the distance between the places the characters are visiting.

4. The conflict

A story's conflict refers to the struggle that occurs between two opposing forces. This struggle is usually an external one seen between the protagonist and the antagonist, but there are other ways this conflict can appear - some conflicts are internal ones that exist within the protagonist himself, like in Hamlet. It's important to know the conflict in the story because that is the driving force behind the story! Without the conflict, there would be no point to the story. Seeing how the protagonist responds to the conflict is also very important. It gives us a glimpse into what kind of character the protagonist is and what he will need to do in order to resolve the conflict.

5. The themes

A theme is the main idea or underlying message a story. It explains what the author's message is in writing a given story. As you read, think about what that message might be. Is the author trying to draw attention to the fight between good versus evil? Is the author trying to highlight the importance of love? Is the author warning readers against the pitfalls of pride? Figuring out the conflict of a story can help in figuring out some of the themes of the story as well.

Start getting into the habit of looking out for these 5 aspects of a story while you read to enhance your reading experience today! And if you would like more information about how I can assist your student with their reading comprehension, please contact me here!


bottom of page