The 6 Basic Key Elements of Fiction Writing

Updated on October 12, 2019
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Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience and degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.

The 6 Basic Key Elements of Fiction Writing
The 6 Basic Key Elements of Fiction Writing | Source

There are many elements to fiction writing, but a few are the most basic that every story has to have. Writing needs to have these elements to have a story:

The 6 Key Elements of Fiction Writing

  1. Plot
  2. Setting
  3. Characters
  4. Point of View
  5. Story
  6. Style

Plot | Source

1. The Importance of the Plot

The plot is essential for any story. Without it, there is no story. It is the backbone of any work of fiction. You have to have a well-developed plot.

The plot is defined as “a series of events that form the story in a novel, movie, etc.” according to Webster. What is the plot of Star Wars (the very first one)? It is the story of how one young man is caught up in a battle of good and evil, joining forces with others from all walks of life, and fights unknowingly against his own father to save the galaxy. Detailing the plot would include the death of his aunt and uncle and other very important events. But each aspect is part of the plot as it all leads to the climax.

Before you start writing your story, try to sum it up in a paragraph of four to six sentences. What is the story about? What will happen to steer the story down a certain path? Even simple plots have levels within them to create an interesting story.

Plots have to make sense. They don’t have to be realistic. Most plots aren’t. Think of stories such as Harry Potter or Twilight. Those are far from realistic. There are no such things as schools for wizards, stones that give life, vampires falling in love with humans, or anything so wild. Completely unrealistic, but they made sense.


2. The Importance of a Setting

There has to be a setting in your story. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but there has to be a setting. Where is it set in? It can be a specific country. Maybe it is a city. It could even be in one sole room in a house.

Where is the story set? You might need to research the setting. It is vital you know where your story is and what it looks like. Now that being said, you don’t have to have a setting that is precise with a name. It can just be a cabin in the middle of the woods. Just know in your head where it is so you can describe it.

Some people argue that the setting has to be explicitly laid out. Not all stories have to be set in a certain city. It can be as vague or as specific as you want, but you do need to describe enough so the readers can see it in their heads.


3. The Importance of Characters

Fiction writing requires characters. They carry the story. But who are they? When you are creating characters, you need to look at them in depth. They cannot be just a name on a page. They have to spring to life as the reader absorbs them. That means they have to be well developed.

Now, some teachers suggest that you know their favorite colors as well as their worst fears. Yes, that will help you get to know them better, but it might not be as vital to the story. I would suggest you flesh them out as much as possible, but they don’t have to be so complete as a real person is.

Readers have to connect with your main character. They have to be able to empathize with them and cheer them on. They also have to detest the villain in the story. Give your characters traits that your readers can recognize.

4. The Importance of Point of View

What is point of view (POV)? It is kind of like who is telling the story. Whose eyes are we seeing the story through?

If the story is told with “I” throughout as though I was telling the story about myself, that POV is mine. In the Twilight series, the POV was Bella’s. In the Harry Potter series, it was Harry. The story is told through their eyes. Think of someone looking through a telescope and describing what they see. It is through their view.


5. The Importance of Narrative

Surprisingly, there are authors out there who don’t know what narrative is. I even had an author call anything outside of quotation marks dialogue versus what characters say. Sorry, hun. Dialogue is what the characters say. Everything else is narrative.

Narrative is the descriptions surrounding the dialogue. It describes the people, the scene, the emotions, and more. It is not what the characters say. I know that might sound obvious, but I actually had an author tell me that narrative was what the characters said and it was the same as dialogue. According to her, the publisher who had her book told her that. Okay, then.

If it isn’t spoken it is narrative. The purpose of narrative is to support everything else. It draws the reader in by describing the scene, the people, the action, and even the past. Without narrative, you are reading a play.

Style | Source

6. The Importance of Style

Every writer has a style to their writing. It is why you can read a paragraph and pinpoint who the author is. Some authors have a loquacious style while others might prefer shorter sentences with more emotional words. The style involves how the sentences are put together, the type of words used, and the emotional and descriptive impact the writing brings.

An author’s style is developed over time as they improve their craft. Hints of it can be seen in their first piece, but the exact style takes time. It takes trial and error and experimentation.


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