Last March 29, 2014, I facilitated CBW-LA’s Novel Writing Bootcamp.
In our three hour workshop, I covered the following topics:
II. Preparing to Write your Novel
III. Introduction to the Elements of Fiction
IV. Elements of Fiction: Character
V. Elements of Fiction: Setting
VI. Elements of Fiction: Plot
CBW-LA Stationer (Publications Editor) Alana Garrigues manning the Registration Booth
For the lecture I developed my own way of classifying the Elements of Fiction. I divided each element of Fiction into three levels according their function within a story.
Today, I thought I’d share with you a short version of my lecture on the Introduction to the Elements of Fiction.
Nutschell’s 3 Levels of the Elements of Fiction (or How a Story Sprouts)
Abstract concepts are best explained through the use of concrete images, so in the case of story, I’ll be using the analogy of a tree.
Just as a tree needs three major things for it to grow, so too does a story need three major levels to develop.
LEVEL 1: THE BASIC ELEMENTS OF FICTION (SEED)
Most life forms begin from a seed. A seed contains all the ingredients for creating life. But it needs a place and opportunity for it to develop.
The seeds of fiction are contained in its 3 basic elements:
Whether you’re writing a novel or a newspaper article, there are 6 basic questions you need to answer:
In order for you to answer these questions in a work of fiction, you need 3 Basic Elements:
1. CHARACTER = WHO AND WHY
- Who is the main character of the story?
- Why does the protagonist respond to the event in a certain way? (character motivation)
2. PLOT = WHAT AND HOW
- What is the story about?
- How does the story unfold?
3. SETTING = WHERE AND WHEN
- Where does the story take place?
- When does the story take place?
Once you have Character, Plot and Setting, you’ve answered the six most basic questions.
The next thing you have to do is to clarify or expound on these basic elements, and you do that using the following elements of fiction:
LEVEL 2: ELEMENTS OF FICTION THAT EXPOUND THE STORY (SOIL)
Your seed may contain the DNA to propagate life, but without soil, it will remain a seed forever. Soil gives your seed a safe place to thrive in, it provides the proper nutrients and energy for it to grow.
In the same regard, your story ideas cannot grow without certain elements of fiction to expound or clarify them.
These elements of fiction move your story forward by clarifying the basic elements you already have.
1. Dialogue – stems from character
2. Point of View (POV)– stems from character
3. Conflict – stems from Plot
4. Mood– stems from setting
5. Tone – stems from character
LEVEL 3: ELEMENTS OF FICTION THAT ADD A LAYER OF MEANING TO THE STORY (WATER)
Soil may supply your seed with nutrients, but without water to transport those nutrients, the seed will simply shrivel up and die.
In the same way, without a layer of meaning, your story will be dry and dull. Meaning adds life to your story, and so do the following elements of fiction:
3. Literary Devices (Metaphor, Simile, Hyperbole, etc)
Each element of fiction contributes to the growth of your story. Knowing how each element works, and what role they play within your story, can help you cultivate your novel to its fullest potential.