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How to Write Literary Response

Literature is one of the most important parts of English language. It actually means some written work that has some literary merit. It can be classified as fiction and non-fiction. Fictional work includes novel, short stories, poetry etc. while non-fiction includes philosophy, history, natural science etc.

What is Literary Response?

The response written or given to any form of literature is known as literary response. It is sometimes known as summary of the literature to which it is responded to. It usually explains who the characters were, what their traits were, what happened in the plot, and whether you liked it or not, if you will recommend it or not. It must involve the writer to respond to the literature that he or she is referring to. In general a literary response shows how much the reader gets involved in the process of reading the particular book.

Some common examples of literary responses are: to analyze the change of character in a book, to compare two different characters from two different books, to compare our own identity with a character from a book, writing about the theme of the literature etc.

A literary response paper uses evidences in order to explain the use of characters made by the author, the symbols used, along with other literary strategies used for conveying the message including arguments about the text as well.

In general the length of such literary response paper can be two to three pages which can be types, double spaced with at least five numbers of paragraphs in it. It should also contain at least 2–3 quotes in every paragraph which provides the context and the explanation in order to illustrate the way the evidences are supporting the arguments to which they are related.

All the literary responses must be supported by evidences in order to support the work done. This type of writing is more often used by the students in order to assess the comprehension of the specific literature that has been read by them.

The literary response paper is also written by critics after they are done with their literary work over a novel, poem etc. which concerns about the characters of the plot, the setting being given, the plot been set, or themes that are mentioned within the plot etc.

A literary response paper is not just based on evidence or facts but on the personal reaction of the reader. The response essay is more subjective than being objective like other essays.

A literary response paper is creative and at the same time structured many a times with a thesis or the aims or insight of the literature. The response papers are strengthened when we use some phrases, words, or even passages at times from the literary work which further provides evidence or context to the arguments made.

The response papers are doing two things:
  1. Organizing the reactions towards the text and show how the information of the text is passed to other people.
  2. Connecting personal reactions to the larger issues that are surrounding the text.

The study of the response paper writing gives a person an opportunity to understand and reflect a piece of literary work.


Basics of Writing Literary Response

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A literary response consists of the summary of the literary work along with the views, understanding, analysis of the reader towards the literary work or/and the author. The main purpose of a literary response is demonstrating the understanding of the different elements that are present in a literary work.

But then what is the difference between a book report and literary response?

The basic difference lies in the fact that a book report is just the summary of the book. But a literary response along with the summary of the book contains the views and thoughts of the reader towards it. In short literary repost contains the book report along with thoughts and views of the writer. The book report in general will explain the characters, how they were, their qualities, their traits, about the story as to what is happening in it, and whether the reader liked it or not and would recommend it further or not. It might also explain how much depth the writer is involved with the book, the deeper ideas which are not seen in the plot of the book.

There is one other difference that a book report is usually in an essay form however a literary response can take other forms like poem, story, performance etc. A literary response can at times consist of just the archetypes and the literary devices which are used by the author of the book in it along with reasons. It will depend on what you want to analyze in the book

So we can say that a literary response will talk about other things apart from the story which depends on the type of analyzing to be done. A literary response can contain a book report within itself but a book report can never contain literary response.

A response paper should NOT be a summary of action.

Steps & Rules for Writing Literary Response

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Steps to be followed while writing Literary Response:
  1. Introduction of the Response Paper - The introduction must contain title and author of the work that is being discussed about. One needs to get hold of the reader’s attention so an opening statement which is strong must also be included. The next important part of introduction is the thesis statement which must be original, supporting and arguing.
  2. The Body of the Response - The body is in a paragraph format in which we use evidences to support our analysis. The evidences can be phrases from the literary work or words. One should be completely sure in the quotes used by the writer to explain the literary work. The pages must always be numbered, the paragraphs must be focused and every example must be able to relate back to the text of the literary work. One to four paragraphs depending on the length of the story. Each paragraph focuses on an event that teaches the character something or causes him/her to change in some way. Use intermediate words and phrases to connect ideas. 
  3. Conclusion Part - It is said that a good conclusion to any writing makes it very effective. A good conclusion will always summarize all the points mentioned before it. One should never repeat the same paragraphs as written in body to be rewritten in the procedure of summarizing the points. One must also include observations or questions or analysis on certain aspects giving a deeper thinking to the literary work. This will take our response thesis a step further.
Rules for Writing Literary Response

There are certain other things that are to be kept in mind while writing a literary response:
  • While talking about instances from the literary work only present tense must be used.
  • The writer must pen without making any assumptions about the book. The summary should also be concise and quick while writing the opening paragraph.
  • Before submitting the response one must reread it to be surer and correct mistakes if any. This will also avoid punctuation errors, spelling mistakes, omitted words or letters.
  • ‘I’ statements must be avoided as it is obvious that the writing is done on individual observations, beliefs and analysis.
  • A title must always be included which indicates what a person is writing about specifically.
  • One must always read, understand and think over the literary work twice or thrice before writing a response.
  • One must select the most effective parts of the literary work and outline it as well keep them in focus.
In a literary response paper, you present your personal opinion relating to a text by building up an assumption or a thesis. Throughout the response, you present pieces of evidence such as how characters, symbols, and other literary strategies used by the author to convey his message. In the process, you support your thesis with the details presented in the text. When all these points are kept in mind and the writer has read and understood the literary work on which the response has to be written, a very effective and pleasant piece of literary response originates for the readers.
More topics in Literary Response
Characteristics of Drama Narrator
Dramatic Monologue Allegory
Tragedy Parody
Satire Elements of a Story
Comedy Identifying Theme
Imagery Figurative Language
Transition Citations
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