What does it take to write a good story? Perhaps, you could start with these five essential elements of storytelling.
1. Well-rounded characters
Well-rounded characters are based on real life characters. Take a look at your favourite characters from books or the movies. What are they like? What outstanding traits do they have and how do they interact with the other characters?
Several writers have admitted that they actually eavesdrop on others’ conversations to gain insights on how to shape the characters in their stories. Though we are not encouraging eavesdropping, it certainly goes to show that we can model the characters in our stories based on interesting characters that we already know!
By the end of the story, a well-rounded character should have show progress and growth; either by learning important lessons or having a realisation from the experiences he or she goes through.
2. A Vivid Setting
To create a vivid setting, use of a few or all of the five senses. How will it look like, smell like, sound like and what would it feel like?
A setting that is vividly described makes the reader feel like they belong to that time and place, drawing them further into the narrative.
Aside from the time and place, setting also includes mood and atmosphere. Examples of moods and atmospheres include bleak, serene, chaotic, bustling and eerie.
The mood and atmosphere can set the tone for the story and can also impact the characters’ actions and behaviours. Sometimes the mood and atmosphere reflects the mood of the characters. In Literature, this is sometimes referred to as pathetic fallacy. A simple example of this would be how there would be a heavy downpour while a character is feeling downcast.
Every story needs at least one problem to make it into a story. To make the story interesting, one problem can lead to another problem.
Examples of minor problems that could be incorporated into a story include an object getting lost or being late for an important event. Examples of major problems include someone getting injured, someone getting lost in a crowded place or a fight breaking out.
When you are crafting the problem in your story, here are worthwhile questions to ask:
1. What led to the problem happening? Was it an event or maybe a character?
2. Who is affected by the problem?
The existence of problems build up to the climax, the most exciting part of the story. Filled with actions, we also learn about the consequences of the problem occurring. How are the characters negatively impacted by the problem? There could be more than one negative consequence.
Thus, characters’ emotions and reactions can be portrayed in an intense manner here. The climax is the part of the story that the audience or the readers look forward to the most.
This is the part of the story where the action begins to slow down and we learn how the characters deal (or not) with the problems.
Not all problems have to be completely solved. They can be partially solved or fully solved by the end of the story. Just like life, there need not be a neat resolution at the end of a story. There may be a temporary stop to the problem but it does not mean that the problem will be solved.
To practise including these essential elements in a story, you could try using story cubes. Children have fun rolling these dice with pictures on every side. Based on the picture that they get, they are supposed to add an element to the story. Challenge your children by asking them to include all these five essential elements!