Do you know all the elements of fiction writing? There are so many moving parts when you write a story and they all have to flow together for a story to make sense. In this post, we will discuss the major novel writing elements.
Below you will find the major elements in fiction novel writing. In further weeks we will expand on each point.
This is the author’s unique voice and writing techniques that contribute to the overall atmosphere of the story. You may have picked up a random novel in a bookstore without looking at the author’s name and know instantly that you are reading Steven King, Nora Roberts or Brandon Sanderson just by the writing style.
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This involves creating well-rounded and believable characters that drive the story. Your reader may not like your character(s) but they need to relate to their choices and become invested in the story. Fans of Sarah J. Maas are constantly creating fan art and arguing online about their behaviour because they are realistic characters.
This is the sequence of events that make up the story and propel the characters toward the resolution. A well-constructed plot is essential for keeping readers engaged and invested in the story. Each event should build upon the last and lead to a satisfying conclusion. A good example of this is the Harry Potter Series.
This is the time and place in which the story takes place. The setting can sometimes become another character in the book. Think of the movie Titanic (which happens on a ship) or Speed (which happens on a bus).
This is the problem or obstacle that the protagonist must overcome in order to achieve their goal. An excellent novel will make the characters suffer before getting what they want. No one wants to read: After graduating at the top of his class, he married his childhood sweetheart, landed the perfect job and lived happily ever after. Boring.
In the Lord of the Rings, Frodo and Sam go through many challenges before they achieve their goal.
This is the underlying message or idea that the author is trying to convey through the story.. It is possible to have multiple themes or major and minor themes. For example, The Kite Runner is a story about redemption, betrayal, and complex father/son relationships.
This is the conversation between characters that helps to advance the plot, reveal character motivations, and create conflict. In Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro interweaves action within the dialogue. In Hills Like White Elephants, Ernest Hemingway moves quickly with limited use of dialogue markers.
Point of view
This is the perspective from which the story is told and can influence the reader’s understanding of the characters and events. First-person has the protagonist telling the story (Hollow Edge by Frankie Cameron) and we only see things from their perspective. Third-person omniscient stories (War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy) have a narrator that knows all. There is also the unreliable narrator (Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger).
This is the overall mood or atmosphere of the story and can range from serious to humorous. The tone can be formal or informal. It incorporates formality, dialect, and atmosphere. Sir Author Conan Doyle (Any of the Sherlock Holmes books) writes in a more formal tone than Suzanne Collins (Hunger Games).
This is the use of sensory details to create a vivid and immersive setting. Some authors are heavy on the details (Stephen King, Robert Jordan, George R. R. Martin) while others barely describe the scene at all.
Vivid descriptions allow the reader to imagine the setting and characters. You want to make it reflect an actual place, with sights, sounds, and smells that make your reader feel like they’re really there.
This is the speed at which the story unfolds and can determine the reader’s experience and engagement with the story. Angels & Demons by Dan Brown is a perfect example of fast-paced writing.
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Suspense and tension
In writing, tension refers to the sense of unease, uncertainty, or anticipation that an author creates in the reader. It is a critical element in storytelling, as it helps to keep the reader engaged and emotionally invested in the narrative.
You can create tension through the use of conflict, suspenseful pacing, and foreshadowing. Without tension, a story can feel flat or uninteresting, as there is no sense of danger or consequence to the characters’ actions. The Maze Runner by James Dashner is a good example of using tension in a story.
Beginnings, Middles and Ending
Most novels have a beginning, middle and end. In the three-act plot structure:
- Act 1 has the hook, setup, inciting event and build-up.
- Act 2 has the reaction, 1st pinch point, midpoint and second pinch point
- Act 3 has the 3rd pinch point, climax and resolution
The Matrix and Star Wars movies both use the Three act plot structure, but that is not the only way to structure a plot (Snowflake Method, The 7-Point Plot Structure, etc.)
When writing a scene, it’s important to make it interesting, so the reader doesn’t get bored. A scene should move the story forward by telling us something new or by showing how the characters are changing. You also want to make the reader want to keep reading by leaving them with a feeling of suspense or satisfaction. The ‘bullies in the shower’ scene in Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card is an example of a brilliant scene.
Symbolism involves using objects, characters, or events to represent ideas or feelings beyond just their literal meaning. It’s a cool trick that helps writers to say more than just what’s on the surface. You can find symbols in many books, movies, and poems. They can be pretty powerful and add a lot of meaning to the story.
For example, a rose might represent love, while a broken mirror might mean bad luck or trouble with friends. When done right, symbolism can make a story even more interesting and make readers think about what the author really meant. The Conch Shell in The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding, is a great example of symbolism.
Foreshadowing is the use of hints or clues to suggest future events in the story. It’s like a little tease that makes you wonder what’s going to happen next. It can be really subtle, like a character saying something that doesn’t seem important at the time but becomes important later on. Or it can be more obvious, like when the camera zooms in on a spooky object to give you a clue that something scary is about to happen.
Good foreshadowing takes a lot of planning and skill because it has to be just enough to make you curious, but not so much that it gives everything away. When it’s done well, foreshadowing can make a story even more exciting and make you feel you’re part of the action. Agatha Christie’s many mystery novel titles foreshadow the events (Murder on the Orient Express).
In a novel, the resolution is the part where all the problems that have been building up finally get solved. It’s when all the loose ends get tied up and you find out what happens to the characters. A good resolution should feel like a satisfying ending, but also have some surprises to keep things interesting. It should make sense and not leave questions unanswered.
A bad resolution can be a real comedown, for example, when you get to the end of a movie and it makes no sense. Writers need to make sure they get it right to keep their readers happy. Many readers were unhappy with how Divergent by Veronica Roth ended as well as the television series Game of Thrones and Dexter (the first ending).
Last Words on the Elements of Fiction Writing
In this blog, we skimmed the major elements of fiction writing. In future weeks, I will go in-depth on these elements. Do you use all the elements? Be sure to come back in the next few weeks for more tips for your novel.
Feature image by intographics from Pixabay.