COMPONENTS OF WRITING FICTION
“Plot is a literary term used to describe the events that make up a story, or the main part of a story. These events relate to each other in a pattern or a sequence.” (LiteraryDevices Editor, https://literarydevices.net/plot/)
The plot is the primary component and foundation of a story. The structure, connections, sequence of events of the plot is what shapes your story. Every story should have a beginning, middle, and end.
You do not want to write a story where things are jumbled or confusing or there is no transition between events and the reader doesn’t understand what’s happening or why it’s happening. And while details/descriptions of a scene are good, you also want to avoid having too much information. Ask yourself if what you’re writing is important in establishing or setting a scene/event.
Here are five essential elements for creating a plot:
1) Introduction/Exposition: This is where you introduce/establish the setting, characters— especially the protagonist, and the main conflict, problem or concepts.
2) Rising Action: It’s time for you to raise the stakes, complicate the events, create the tension. Now that you’ve made introductions and established the characters, settings, and problems, you need to push them into motion. The rising action is where you use a series of events and build the excitement, tension, or crisis leading to the main conflict.
Conflict "is a literary element that involves a struggle between two opposing forces, usually a protagonist and an antagonist.” (LiteraryDevices Editor, https://literarydevices.net/conflict/)
Conflicts can be internal or external:
Internal: psychological in nature, virtue vs vice, experienced through two opposite emotions, desires, beliefs, dilemmas. Captures inner struggles and provides characterization through exposing character flaws, mindsets, and attitudes.
External Conflict: refers to struggles experienced with outside factors/forces such as nature, society, or another character/antagonist.
3) Climax: This is the turning point of a story. This moment will invoke a heightened sense of tension and emotions, this is the make-or-break moment of the story, the main struggle faced by the protagonist is confronted and leaves readers wondering what will happen next.
4) Falling Action: This is where you start to wind down the story and address the issues that have been brought up during its course. Use events/moments settle the tension, conflict, or struggles the protagonist faces.
5) Conclusion/Resolution: Final outcome of the events. The story must be brought to its natural conclusion, it may be happy, sad, tragic or even a cliffhanger. What is important here is that all loose ends are tied up and the story has a satisfying final feel to it.
Techniques for Plot Growth:
Try to use different techniques to engage your readers and keep them reading to the end.
- Suspense: keeping aspects mysterious to elicit excitement and tension for reader
- Foreshadowing: hints and clues about an event that will later occur
- Flashback: interruption in the story to provide a clear picture about an earlier event or backstory
- Unexpected End: big twist in the end that is unexpected.
SETTING [Referenced from https://thewritepractice.com/elements-of-fiction/]
Setting is like a backdrop for your story, and typically refers to the physical location of the story and the time it takes place. But there’s more to it than that. Setting also plays a big role in character development because most characters will respond, behave, or do things in certain ways in order to adapt to their environmental, societal, and/or cultural conditions.
Elements to Consider:
- Physical Location – real or invented: consider what country- state or city or region, is it a small town or big town, or business locale. Can consider more details - like neighborhoods, slums, streets, houses, schools, islands, farms, ranch, rural areas, business world, water fronts, woods etc.
- Time: Consider when is the story taking place – historical periods, year, past, present, future, seasons, holidays. Events/Scenes can occur during different times of the day/week. Its important to establish pacing of time throughout events of the story – you want to help orient readers to what time of day it is (day, night etc.) and how much time elapses between events throughout story.
- Mood and Atmosphere: Characters/Events can be influenced by what’s happening around them – consider weather, lighting, mood of the story e.g. happy, unnerving, sad, desolate etc.
- Social, Cultural, Political Environment: These will affect characters in many ways, like how the carry themselves - body language, mannerisms, how the interact & the way the speak, what they wear, their values and beliefs, customs, social and family roles and sensibilities etc.
Who are the characters and what are their qualities, traits, attributes?
Characters are vital to any story. These are the people you are writing about. So make sure they are brought in and used appropriately for the plot.
Characters in a Story:
- Protagonist: refers to the main character(s) the story revolves around. This is usually the lead (hero/heroine) of the plot and often the story is about him/her or told from their POV. May refer to both the lead and their love interest.
- Antagonist: the negative character or opposing factor to the protagonist character. The antagonist can be a person, an inanimate object, an animal, or nature itself.
- Supporting Characters/Confidante: Family, Friends, Sidekick to protagonist(s), theses characters are most in the loop about the protagonist’s character/life/intentions. And may or may not directly relate to story/plot but may influence events/aspects of the story.
- Tertiary Characters: peripheral characters that are brought into the story during an event or to support an event but do not necessarily have any role in the main plot.
Types of Characters:
- Dynamic: a character that develops, changes, or grows throughout the story.
- Round: a well-developed, complex character, have depth in their personalities, realistic, may learn, grown, or deteriorate by end of story.
- Static: a character who remains consistent in their role, typically are the peripheral characters or can be supporting character, such as a mother or father etc.
- Flat: does not undergo any change during the story, one-dimensional
- Stock: a typical/recognizable character with fixed set of personality traits
Characteristics & Traits:
- Backstory – does not need to be detailed or even revealed but have an idea of the back story to help you develop how and why the character responds they way the do.
- Physical appearance
- What do the characters think, feel, believe, say, do
- Direct characterization – protagonist, another character or narrator tells the readers about the character.
- Indirect/Implicit Characterization: subtle messages meaning reader learns about characters through noticing details that are mentioned about his/her thought process, behavior, speech, way of talking, appearance, and manner of communication and response with other characters.
POINT OF VIEW / NARRATION:
Point of View (POV) refers to the angle from which the story is told, or the narrative voice used to tell the story. Narration refers to the act of telling a story.
How do you want to deliver your story to the reader?
Think about how much you want the reader to know before you start writing. Does the reader need to know the inner thoughts of the character or need to see what’s happening outside of the character’s view or knowledge? Consider who is telling your story. The character or a third-party observer? Is the story going to be told in past tense (I saw/He saw), present tense (I see/he sees), or future tense (I will see/he will see)?
Types of Narration:
- First Person: Story is told by a character closely related to the story’s action—either a main character or someone close to the protagonist. This POV uses “I” and “Me” or “We”. It is a more personal way of telling the story and gives the reader insight into the character’s mind. However, in this POV you will only be able to express what the character speaking can realistically know/see.
- Second Person: Story is told by a narrator directly to the reader/audience. This form uses the pronouns “You,” “Your.” This POV engages the reader as if he/she is a character. It is not commonly used in fiction.
- Third Person: Story told by a narrator who sees all the action/events in the story. Uses the pronouns “he/she”, “it”, “they”, “his/her”, or “theirs”.
Limited Third Person: this narrator tells the story from the POV of one character but in third person, only what the narrator knows and perceives from that one characters POV is expressed to the reader. Narrator will not know the thoughts/feelings of other characters unless by assumed impressions.
Omniscient Third Person: Knows all. This narrator is aware of all the characters’ thoughts and feelings. Sees everything. Can move from character to character, event to event, and insert information as appropriate for the story.
Detached Observer: This type of narrator gives unbiased POV, does not feature as one of the characters in the course of events, is objective in telling the story, does not insert his/her opinions.
WRITING STYLE / TONE
The tone of your story and your writing style are the two components which are completely dependent on you as a writer. However, there are numerous things that contributes to your writing style.
In order to determine the tone of the story, ask yourself the below questions:
- What is the overall emotion your story is trying to portray?
- Does it have a happy feel to it or is it a tragic story?
- If its a funny story, do your choice of words match the tone? Vice versa with happy/sad story.
Once you determine the tone, be mindful of the following:
- Consider your word choices. For example - it is very difficult to explain a funny situation than it is to describe a sad situation. Your choice of words and use of imagery description implements the tone of your story.
- Use rhyme words to make the story more appealing and memorable
- Use of alliteration can be challenging but if implemented correctly, can go a long way to help set the tone of your story.
Similar to the tone of the story, the writing style is very much relies of the writers themselves. Style and tone overlap a lot and style contributes heavily to tone. Style is how things are said, the way the words are used, sentence structure, dialogue etc.
- Make sure your sentence makes sense when you read it back to yourself.
- Your sentence must have a subject and a verb. Object is often included as a part of a sentence but this is not a requirement to structure the sentence.
- Use speech quotes for dialogues.
- Use metaphor and simile to create the impact.
Use of Quotes:
It is essential to use appropriates quotes during a dialogue conservation between characters.
- Quote is added at the beginning of the dialogue and at the end.
- Don't write your dialogue as if you're writing a script.
- Do not write the dialogue as part of the sentence as this gets really confusing for the readers.
For format, avoid colors. Write it the way you would find it in a published book or e-book. Or how you would like to read when picking up a book/story. The use of colors can be very distracting and sometimes it can take away from the story. Have consistent one size font and font style. You can use italics to emphasis a word or a situation. The key with format is to be consistent. Don't use size 11 in Calibri for one chapter and size 14 for another chapter.
This is referring to the moral of the story. What is the underlying meaning of the story? What are the key messages from the author?
Themes can be expressed through the character’s feelings, conversations, experiences, opinions, ideas, beliefs, insights.
We can't even begin to stress the importance of correct grammar in a story. It can make or break a story and that is not an exaggeration at all. We often come across such good stories with strong plot but poor grammar just puts us off.
- Once you have completed the chapter/scene, please re-read it. You can't proof-read the story enough. Good tip is once you're written the chapter, put it away and come back to it with a fresh pair of eyes. This proves to be really effective in identifying any grammatical errors.
- Don't forget about your punctuation. You can't have a sentence that is 5 lines long - the sentence may technically be correct but this confuses the reader and often the message you may be trying to portray is lost.
- When proofreading your story, read it out loud. This gives you an indication as to whether or not there should be a break in the sentence and if appropriate punctuation is used.
- Know the different punctuations and when they should be used. Google is your best friend along with Microsoft Word.
- Use correct quotation for dialogue.
- Use the synonymous feature to avoid using the same word over and over again. However, double check the meaning to ensure its used in the right context.
- Please use a capital letter at the beginning of each sentence, name of a person/place. It may seem really obvious but its really important.
- Avoid all CAPS at all costs. CAPS is used in text/slang language to express angry/frustrated feelings at a person/situation. However, do not use this in your story. If you need to express frustrated feelings, do so with your words or an exclamation point. Using all CAPS in your story comes across as very unprofessional and this is not the impression you want to give at all.
This is a written notice that precedes potential sensitive content in your story. These notices highlight the contents of the story so that the readers can prepare themselves to either carry on reading or discontinue.
Individuals do not have control over what triggers them, but many have personal strategies they use to cope with triggers when they must be encountered.
Content warnings are used to forewarn these readers what to expect ahead in the story.
Some writers may hesitate to use this as it may reveal the plot but even a generic warning is sufficient to forewarn the readers. Some examples of topics which may require content warning are as follows:
- Any kind of mental/physical/domestic abuse
- Rape/Sexual abuse
- Child abuse
- Suicide/Self Harm
The above are only some of the examples but this should you an idea of what the content warning entails. If you know the topic may not be received well by others, provide content warning.
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