Next week, I’m going to be doing a bunch of ‘Questions 3’ that revolve around the elements of a story. Mostly, I’m curious to see what people think. This also stemmed from finding a variety of lists for story elements. The trio was the most basic one, but I kept running into a 7 item list with more depth. Since doing 7 days of ‘Questions 3’ would get old fast, I figured I’d mention them now.
So, what are the 7 elements?
- Setting– This is one of the big ones. I noticed that larger lists chop this up into pieces like time and place being separated. Simply put, this is where the story takes place, which you need to describe to some extent.
- Plot– Here’s another one of the trio, which gets chopped up even more than setting to make larger lists. Simply put: your story needs a story. There has to be something happening for a reader to be interested. It’s also how you get your characters from Point A to Point B. Your plot doesn’t have to run in a straight line. It can even go backwards at times, but it needs to move until it reaches the end.
- Characters– Last of the big three, which everyone understands. You need someone or something to be in the story. Otherwise, you’re just describing a setting and nobody is doing anything. The variety and types of characters depend on what you’re writing, but there has to be at least one. This is because you also need:
- Point of View– The reader has to see the story and world through the eyes of someone other than themselves. It could a single character, multiple characters, or a distant narrator. Regardless of the source, a story needs a POV in order to help focus the audience on what is going on. More importantly, the author is able to draw more out of the story and not get distracted. A POV character prevents the author from straying off the path without thinking twice.
- Conflict– This one is a ‘DUH’. You need the characters to face challenges. There’s a long list of possibilities too. It can be an external or internal struggle. It can be another person, a beast, technology, nature, or whatever you think will push a character to their limits. Without a conflict, your story may come off as empty and pointless.
- Resolution– For some reason, I was initially surprised that this was on the list and tried to find one without it. Then, I realized why I shouldn’t. Authors can forget to end a story. At least, giving it a real one that works. Sometimes it’s rushed or left so open that the audience feels like they weren’t given any closure. You need to seal your story on some level, especially if you don’t intend on continuing it.
- Theme– I’m not entirely sold on this one being a necessity, but it’s on a lot of lists. I typically think this is about a lesson, which not every story has. You don’t have to teach a reader about life with every story. Still, most benefit from having some type of theme, which gives them depth. It can be a lesson that the characters learn along the way or something open to interpretation. It’s up to you if you want it to be heavy, but that can take away from the rest of the adventure. So, think about if you’re writing to entertain or teach or both.
- Style– I know I said 7, but I stumbled onto this one a few times. Why did I include this? Simply to point out that there is an author/individual element. Even if you’re following all the rules and using the previous elements, you need to add your own flavor. You want readers to see something in your writing that they can’t find in any other book. It could be the way you describe things, your dialogue, the use of POV, unique themes, and the list keeps going. Style isn’t always admired by readers and other authors, but it is what makes you stand out.