All stories have certain elements. If they are missing, you don’t have a story. The most obvious example is CHARACTERS–you must have characters in order to make the events in your story happen. The good news is I have never known a student to leave characters out of a story!
Another important element is the SETTING. Yeah, yeah, I know you’ve heard this before, but I can’t tell you how many student narratives I’ve read that seem to occur in a vacuum. Please tell me if we are at the character’s house, or in an amusement park, or lost in the woods! Better yet, SHOW me the setting with lots of sensory details. (I get really excited about sensory details)
This one is a little tougher. Every story must have a problem or CONFLICT. Your main character is your protagonist. This character can have a conflict with another CHARACTER (the antagonist) as in the classic good-guy-beats-the-bad-guy story. The protagonist can also have a conflict with NATURE, as in the good-guy-battles-the-terrible-storm story. Your protagonist can also have a conflict with SELF, as in the bad-liar-loses-all-his-friends-and-learns-to-stop-lying story.
Remember when you introduce the problem to the reader you need to show why it is a problem. For example, bringing an elephant to school is not a problem. When it breaks down the wall coming through the door, that’s a problem.
Finally, every story must have an ARC, which you may know as a beginning, a middle, and an end. Without an arc, the story is merely a boring listing of events. The arc gives it a reason to be a story. Think of the story arc as a roller coaster.
The beginning is when you are in the station loading the cars. Here is where you introduce your protagonist and the setting, and maybe hint at the problem. The inciting event is what starts the roller coaster moving up the hill. This might be where your protagonist first tangles with your antagonist.
The rising action is represented by the roller coaster moving uphill toward that drop. You know the drop is coming, and the anticipation builds. In your story, every event, every bit of dialogue, every character interaction must build tension toward the climax of your story. (You absolutely cannot do this with internal thinking….I’ll do a separate post on that)
The top of the roller coaster hill is the climax of your story. This is the epic battle, or the event that changes the world. Have you ever in your life known a roller coaster to stop at the top of the hill? No. Please do not ever end your story here!
The last part of the roller coaster ride is the downhill plunge into the station. Your story must have an ending that wraps up the loose ends and reveals what changed in your protagonist. What lesson was learned? Plan this part of your story as completely as you plan the rising action. Please get your characters safely home!
As with most writing, careful planning is more than half the task. When a story is well planned, the actual writing is very rewarding!
On my Kindle: Freckles by Gene Stratton Porter (one I loved as a child!)
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