Showing posts with label writing elements. Show all posts
Showing posts with label writing elements. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

5 Key Elements to Making a Fiction Story Work

 


Contributed by Karen Cioffi

Think about the last time you read a story that stayed with you. A story that made you feel. A story that took you on an adventure or had you sitting on the edge of your seat. A story that made you cry or laugh ... or think.

These types of stories have it. They have the key to making a story work.

So, how do you go about creating a stirring story?

Here are 5 top tips to writing a fiction story that works:

1. It’s got to have conflict.

All writers have heard this and the reason is because it’s true.

Your protagonist MUST be striving for something, and it should be something significant. She needs to have obstacles in her way that she has to overcome in order for the reader to be engaged enough to turn the page.

The reader has to be pulled into the story wondering if, and more so hoping that, the protagonist reaches her goal.

You wouldn’t have much of a story following a couple in an amusement park going from ride to ride, waiting on line for food, and so on. There’s nothing for the reader to get involved with. There’s no emotional element.

Or, what if a great writer puts two children in a story that takes place at the Bronx Zoo. The narrator describes in detail all the exhibits they visit and does it wonderfully. But, what does the reader have to sink her teeth into. Nothing.

One of my all-time favorite movies was Thelma and Louise. The conflict was never-ending. And, it was the conflict that keep you on the edge of your seat.

How would they get out of the mess they were in?!

That’s how you want your readers to feel. There needs to be conflict in order to make the reader feel. It doesn’t have to be ‘seat of your pants’ drama, but it needs to be significant. It can be external or internal, but it has to be something the reader can grab and hang on to. It has to make the reader get involved with the story and care about it.

2. The readers need to be invested in the story.

A good story brings the reader into the protagonist’s shoes. This is what will motivate the reader to like and root for the protagonist.

It’s all about making the reader ‘feel.’ The story has to evoke emotion on the reader’s part. The story has to have substance.

Going back to Thelma and Louise, one wrong decision spiraled out of control into what seemed to them as a live or die situation.

Circumstances and choices took them bounding out-of-control, as if caught up in a tornado. This kind of story creates investment.

It evoked emotion in just about everyone who saw the movie. Everyone was rooting for the protagonists.

In an article, “Make Readers Deeply Connect to Your Characters,” the author calls this key factor, “transportation.” You’re bringing the reader out of their reality and into your story world. You’re transporting them.

Like Alice when she steps into the rabbit hole. Down, down, down she went into another world.

3. The characters have to act ‘real’ and be likeable.

Your characters need to be multifaceted. They need to behave like real people. This means they’ll have good traits, but they’ll also have some bad traits or weaknesses. It may be they’re indecisive. Or, at the beginning of the story they may be frightened of everything.

Your characters should make great decisions, but they should also make poor ones.

Along with this, your protagonist needs to be likeable. He needs to have traits that the reader will admire and connect to. It’s important that the reader likes the protagonist.

Maybe your protagonist will be honest, heroic, responsible, generous, or loyal.

You get the idea. These are characteristics that most people admire in others. They’re characteristics that will draw the reader in.

I forgot what movie it was and I forgot the exact details, but basically the protagonist was sitting in a diner across from her date. Another woman, elegantly dressed, walked passed with toilet paper stuck to the bottom of her shoe. The toilet paper woman was heading to a table where a man was waiting for her.

The protagonist excused herself for a moment. She got up and removed the paper from the woman’s foot by walking behind her and stepping on the paper. Then she sat back down and returned to her conversation.

The woman that passed by never knew the kindness the protagonist showed her. And, the protagonist didn’t mention what she did to her date.

This one simple act of kindness spoke volumes about the character of the protagonist. She’s the type of person you’d admire and like to be friends with.

4. The protagonist needs to have some heroic qualities.

At some point in the story, the protagonist needs to step up. This can be in several small incidents that she overcomes throughout the story. Or, it can be in one climatic incident that wraps the story up.

In general, and especially in children’s stories, the protagonist needs to take action and reach her goal.

It may be after one or two or three failures, but ultimately, the protagonist must step up. Whether it’s physical or emotional, whether internal or external, she needs to fight through all obstacles that stand in her way.

Readers want a purposeful story. They want and even expect the protagonist to be victorious. Don’t let your readers down.

5. Tie-up all loose ends.

When you’re getting to the end of your story, make sure all loose ends are tied up. Any tidbits of information you put out there must be resolved.

You want the reader to go away satisfied. You don’t want her wondering why something was mentioned somewhere in the story and not resolved.

One example is mentioning that the protagonist’s close friend lost his dog. Then there’s no mention of it. Was the dog found?

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE DOG?

Another example is in a middle-grade manuscript I read. The author had the friend of the protagonist saying he couldn’t go to the protagonist’s special event because he had something URGENT to do that day.

Afterward there was no mention of the urgent matter.

This is a NO-NO. What was so urgent? Why was it mentioned, if it wasn’t followed up with?

As I read the manuscript I knew that part would either have to be addressed (tied-up) or eliminated.

These loose-ends are things that will gnaw at the reader. They will finish the book feeling like something is missing. Again, this is a NO-NO.

So, there you have it.

While there is more involved in writing good fiction, these five are at the top of the ‘good fiction story’ list.

Sources:

https://janefriedman.com/connect-characters/
https://www.cs.indiana.edu/metastuff/wonder/ch1.html (NO LONGER LIVE)

This article was originally published at: http://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com/2017/11/26/a-fiction-story-5-key-elements/

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children’s author. She runs a successful children’s ghostwriting, rewriting, and coaching business and welcomes working with new clients.

For tips on writing for children OR if you need help with your project, contact her at Writing for Children with Karen Cioffi.


And, check out Karen's The Adventures of Planetman picture book series and other books:
https://karencioffiwritingforchildren.com/karens-books/
 

 

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Writing Elements Mix – Is There a Right Balance?

Writing can be thought of as a recipe, a handful of plot, a quarter cup of setting, a third to a half cup of dialogue, and a half cup of action and forward movement. Then you also need to add just the right amount of theme, character, and style. Stir it all together and bake for several months (might be longer, depending on your oven), and that’s it.

Ah, if it were only that simple.

Today, there are a number of rules to writing that didn’t plague writers years ago when the world was slower and people actually had time to sit and read at a leisurely pace. Writers had the luxury of setting scenes in detail and didn’t have to worry about ‘telling’ too much.

Now, publishers want your story to begin with a BAM. Grab the reader right away, or you’ll lose her. And, it’s important that setting and telling are limited. In addition, don’t forget to magically weave backstory for your characters seamlessly into the mix.

So, what is the right balance of writing elements that will create a successful story?

Well, there really isn’t a pat formula. Each story will call for its own particular amounts of elements, and each publisher will have her own set of rules that the author must adhere to. But there are certain basics that all stories must contain.

The five basic elements of a story are:

Plot: The arrangement of circumstances and/or events in the story, including conflicts and resolution.

Character: Without the main character and supporting characters the plot is useless. It is the character’s struggle to overcome the conflicts or obstacles in his path that gives the plot life.

Setting: This element includes the physical backdrop of the story, the time period and location.

Atmosphere or Tone: The mood, including the setting, characters and their clothing, weather, and other elements within the story, determines the tone of the story.

Style: The author’s way of expressing herself is the style. Sentence structure, diction, choice of words, point of view, imagery, and symbols are all means of conveying a story that is unique to the author.

In regard to the amounts or balance of each element, the objective is to create a story that continually moves forward toward a satisfying conclusion while holding the reader’s attention. You can have a plot driven story, or a character driven story, you can also have a story with a lot of dialogue, but you need to be sure the story is focused, coherent, and engaging.

Often, as you self-edit your own work, you won’t be able to see if the elements are just right; you should have it critiqued and have an editor take a look at it to see if you’re on the mark. And, then after all that, it will be up to the publisher’s editor to give the final say on whether you have just the right balance of writing elements for a successful story.

Karen Cioffi is an award-winning children's author and children’s ghostwriter as well as the founder and editor-in-chief of Writers on the Move. You can find out more about writing for children and her services at: Karen Cioffi Writing for Children.

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