When I taught 7th grade English, I gave my kids a worksheet that looked like a roller coaster. They had to read a story and identify all the story elements it included. Do you remember all your learned about story elements back in 7th grade?
- Characters– You need people (or animals or robots or cars) in your story. You need a protagonist and an antagonist, a good guy and a bad guy. Your good guy can turn out to be bad; your bad guy can turn out to be good; one character can be both the good guy and the bad guy. The point is, you need someone or something to do the action.
- Setting– Your story has to take place somewhere. The more unfamiliar your audience is with your setting, the more you have to describe it. When I get back home from Ethiopia and I want to tell people the story of when our son became our son, I will have to describe the setting in detail, because most of my audience will have never been to Ethiopia. They need me to put them there with my story telling.
- Plot– The plot is what happens in your story. Event after event, conversation after conversation. Like climbing a ladder, one event leads to the next, until you reach the . . .
- Climax– Your plot builds and builds, like a roller coaster reaching for the sky, to that point where it all falls apart. Or it all comes together. Or the couple breaks up. Or the baby is born. Or God pulls you out of the pit. Your reader has been anticipating something throughout your story, and the climax is it.
- Resolution– Do they all live happily ever after? Do they join the witness protection program and get new identities? How does your story end? It doesn’t have to end pretty, but it does need an ending that feels like an ending.
Even in true story telling, you need these elements. They help your story make sense so people can understand what is happening. You can tell a story incorporating all these elements in one paragraph or an entire novel.
Take the story your wrote yesterday when you kept zooming out, and identify all these elements in it. Is there a weak area? Make it stronger. Is anything not clear? Describe it better. Use everything you learned back in 7th grade about story elements to make your story the best it can be.
Tomorrow we’re going to talk about the extras you can add to really make your story strong before you hit publish.