Thursday, March 6, 2014

Writing 101: Elements of a Story

If you want to write a book, it's helpful if you understand the basic mechanics of creating a story. It's sort of like learning do-re-mi. Once you've got the fundamentals down, you're ready to start working on true wordcraft. 

Dissecting a Story

It's true that every story should be unique, but all the good ones are built around the same basic structure. Use this foundation to construct your books. As long as the basic story elements are in place, you can write whatever you like around them. 

  • Exhibition: Introduce your main characters and your setting. You've got to set up the story. Some authors take longer with the exhibition phase of storytelling than others. This may go on for several chapters, or occur in a few brief paragraphs. The way you write it depends on how quickly you want to get to the next phase, and on how much information you need to share.
  • Action: When stuff starts to happen, the plot unfolds. It's not enough to create a world and populate it. Something needs to occur, and your characters need to move around and interact with each other. Otherwise, what the hell am I reading? 
  • Conflict: All the best stories contain conflict, so yours ought to have some as well. Introduce a villain or an obstacle, or several of each, and make your characters attempt to overcome this challenge. Every story needs a challenge. You can do this however you like. Some characters are their own biggest enemies, and they create internal conflict. Other stories contain overt villains who are clearly opposed to the main character.
  • Resolution: All good things must come to an end, and that includes your story. You need to resolve conflicts and obstacles in order to finish the tale. The only exception is the cliffhanger ending, which is really only appropriate if you plan on crafting a sequel.

Write around the basic elements of a story, and write a better one.

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