Recently, I got to attend the Craft of Writing Conference in Glenpool, Oklahoma. It was my first in-person conference since the pandemic began, and it felt great to be among other writers again.
That conference inspired me to write a series of articles over some of the information I learned. That way, you could use it in your own storytelling adventures!
The Essential Parts of a Story
If you’ve done any creative writing, you know that a good story has five essential parts. They are:
- The Characters
- The Setting
- The Plot
- The Conflict
- The Resolution
Who are the people involved in the story? Your antagonist, protagonist, supporting characters, and even some inanimate objects can be characters, and it’s hard to have a decent tale if there are no characters involved.
The location of your story. It can be the most over-utilized (or under-utilized) component of storytelling.
The Setting also influences the Plot (the inside of a spaceship lends to different scenarios than Ancient Egypt), the characters (a country girl tries to adjust to city life), and the Conflict (Mount Doom is across the world from the Shire, making Frodo’s journey all the more perilous).
The essence of any story- plots come in seven different categories:
- Tragedy– a character must suffer in some way (Antigone)
- Comedy — everyone has flaws but comes out unscathed (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)
- The Hero’s Journey– A reluctant hero who accepts the call and saves the day. (The Hunger Games)
- Rags to Riches — the underdog always comes out on top (Cinderella)
- Rebirth — the transformation from bad to good or good to bad (The Count of Monte Cristo)
- Overcoming the Monster– good vs. evil (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe)
- Voyage and Return — a quest to get from point A to point B and back again (The Lord of The Rings)
You can’t have a story without a plot, and these categories can be twisted and mixed to suit the story’s needs. However, their essence remains the same.
The action of the story adds tension and motivates your characters to act. It also drives the Plot and keeps your readers invested. For example:
- Frodo is motivated to destroy the ring because everything he loves will burn otherwise.
- Sherlock Holmes is motivated to solve mysteries to alleviate his crippling boredom.
- The aliens are motivated to invade our planet because they need our resources.
- Dr. Frankenstine is motivated to abandon his creation because he’s a coward.
As you can see, conflict can be anything and everything- as long as it fits the story.
Finally, this is the ending of your story.
It’s the climax: the battle between The Avengers and Thanos, the admission of love between Emma and Mr. Nightley, or the moment when you learn who’s really behind the crime spree.
Resolutions give us closure and tie up the loose ends of the story, and they are essential for making a story memorable.
These five elements make any short story, novel, play, movie, and audio drama worth experiencing. Take away one part, and the rest will crumble as they try to fill in the gaps.
How do you use the essential parts of the story? Let me know!