These are often also called the parts of a story, but I’ve decided to refer to them by the more common name of ‘elements’ for the purposes of clarity (I’ll be doing a different post on story ‘parts’). The first thing you should know is that there’s absolutely no consensus as to what constitutes the ‘elements’ of a story. Every book, blog, and website will tell you something different.
This in mind, I’ve tried include them all. There are nine in total, and to make it more manageable, I broke them into two subcategories. There are five primary elements, and four secondary elements, and each and every one is important to your story. The primary elements are primary, because they are the most basic parts and visible on the surface of the story. These are the ones you learn in elementary school. The secondary elements are the ones you learn at a high school level, when you’re ready to explore stories at a more complex level.
- Plot: This is the backbone of the story. It’s what happens in the story, the events that lead from beginning to end. But it isn’t a laundry list, rather it focuses on why the first thing leads to the second, and so on. Premise and conflict are included within plot.
- Character: The people caught up in the action and drama of your story. They’re making mistakes, falling down, succeeding in amazing things, and struggling through until their story or part in the story is over. This includes the protagonist, antagonist, and supporting characters.
- Setting: Where and when the story takes place. In the hands of a good writer, this can become a character in and of itself.
- Point-of-View: This describes from whose eyes the story is being told: the protagonist, the reader, or the writer.
- Tense: Describes when the story is being told in relation to when the events took place: past, present or future.
- Theme: This refers to what the story is about, the central idea that it’s exploring. Examples: coming of age, finding love, seeking independence, etc.
- Mood: Ask someone who’s read your story what they felt while they read it. That’s mood. Mood changes throughout the story from scene to scene, depending on what’s occurring in the story.
- Tone: The atmosphere established by the writer, and how the writer wants the work to feel to readers. Tone is consistent throughout the story in that it doesn’t change from a serious drama to a screwball romance.
- Voice: The writing style of the author, how they use the various elements of a story, vocabulary, and sentence structure to develop their own unique sound. If you don’t believe writing has a sound, try reading one of your favorite authors aloud. You’ll hear it.
These parts are just as important to writing fanfic as they are to writing a original story. However, character, setting, and mood are treated a bit differently in fanfic, because they’re already set by the original work. I’ll elaborate on that, and discuss each of these more in depth in future blog posts. This is a basic overview for reference.
Which of these parts do you struggle with most? And least?