The 7 elements of creative writing are character, plot, setting, point of view, style, theme, and literary devices. Almost everyone agrees on what the elements are, although not on how much or how often they should be used. Even if you don’t plan to use any or all of these elements in your writing, you will write better if you know what these tools are and how they are used.
At the very least, the characters carry out the plot work in a story. At best, the characters fuel and drive the entire story. Characters can be human or not, animated or not. Readers identify with the characters and engage enough with their fictional worlds to cheer up the underdog and hate nasty villains.
A special kind of suspension of disbelief occurs in the minds of readers when they read and enjoy stories. This suspension can only be achieved when the writing has verisimilitude, which means credibility. A reader who constantly has reason to question the validity of a character as it is written cannot enter the state of suspension of disbelief. Therefore, the characters must be authentic to attract and bond with the readers.
Our connection to the characters can be deep. Think of the many memorable characters you have read that still seem more real than some of the people you know. Who doesn’t carry a bit of Holden Caulfield’s alienation and confusion with them forever after reading? The Catcher in the Rye?
Keep in mind that you can find inspiration for a character anywhere. You can turn anything into a character. An inanimate character, like the hat in Miller’s Crossing, can say many things without having a mouth.
No laborious plots, please
Simply put, the plot is what happens in the story. Generally, the frames follow a single arc. By the time most writers start writing, they have already been exposed to many plots through popular culture. Every book, movie and song has a plot: something happens. Even game shows have plots. Develop the habit of looking through the surface and noticing the underlying skeleton of the plot in almost everything.
It has been claimed that there are only 7 plots in the English literature. Reading any good collection of Shakespearean plays will teach you those 7 plots. As an alternative, several good books on the plot are available.
Concise old saw
An overly simplified but concise old saying about the plot says that there is only one plot and to write it you find a character and put him in search of something. Another old saying goes that if your plot lags in pace or sinks into tension, kill someone (a character, of course) to liven things up a bit. Old saws, as a rule, should be viewed with deep suspicion and used whenever possible.
The setting is where your story takes place. You can have one or more, depending on the needs of your story. The setting can be large, such as John Irving’s use of the place in Until i find you, which is so pronounced that one or two European cities can be real characters. On the contrary, your environment can be the living room or the kitchen. Think about the plays you have seen taking place in a few settings, such as in Arsenic and old lace.
The best advice on using this element is to ask yourself how a specific setting will underline the themes of your work. Are you using a quest plot that would be better supported by travel location changes? If your story is about an initiation, a personal growth story, then the setting will seem less important because that kind of quest takes place mainly within the mind of the character.
I want to believe!
The only way to make a wrong fit is to wear a fit for no reason other than that you like it. A superficially selected setting will appear fake to readers, so don’t do it. If you write in the Romance genre, wildly romantic settings are appropriate. If you write science fiction, be sure to write as a scientist first so that your surroundings are believable even though your world is obviously imaginary. For many, some snippets of the credible world of science fiction read anything from Robert L Heinlein.
Point of view
In general, we know that the story gets louder with storytelling, so reliability, or lack thereof, in point of view, quickly becomes an essential tool. The views of many liars have been cleverly used to tell a story, like Tom Sawyer in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, with remarkable effectiveness (Tom’s many explanations to adults).
To determine which point of view to use, first determine whose story you are telling. Is your narrator the best character to tell the story? Conceived Lolita written from any perspective other than Humbert’s! Do you need your narrator to lie or tell the truth?
There are several options for viewpoint types: first person, Me and me; second person, you; more commonly third person, him, her, Jeanne, Richard; omniscient third person which includes seeing the minds of all the characters; and finally limited third person that tells the whole story through a character.
Choose the point of view that will best present the story you want to tell the way you want to tell it. Don’t be afraid to try to write your story from different points of view until you find the right one. Just don’t be afraid to try something in your writing because no matter how long you have been writing or how much you have written, it is intended to be a lifelong journey where you constantly discover new things about yourself as a writer and about this great ancient world. the one you write about (or the one, in the case of SciFi), you write about.
The style is slippery to grip because it is made up of thin, smoky ephemeral things that are clearly existent but also difficult to understand. It is a signature within your writing and is drawn from your vocabulary, syntax, rhythm, voice, and mood. It can be imitated, but it is mostly a natural by-product of you. Defies most efforts to manipulate it. It is also as individual as DNA. Read anything by Kurt Vonnegut, and then follow up with something by Ernest Hemingway and you will easily see that each writer is brilliant and talented and as different from the other as possible.
Changing your style, if you like, can be accomplished with gimmicks like lofty diction and specific themes. It is even possible to imitate authors with more pronounced styles, but no one has suggested that it makes you a better writer. Some freelancers claim that they can control their styles, switching from one style to another as their assignments dictate, but again, it is an invention for a purpose, not an actual modification of personal style. Be yourself. It is easier and improves writing.
The subject of fiction is not limited to a specific set of ideas. Your topic (s) refers to the “moral of the story” or the most important ideas in your story, such as murder, betrayal, honesty, and compassion. The theme is how to establish that if you deliberately use a certain theme with the intention of making a given point rather than because it fits naturally into its story, that writing will likely fail.
Show me do not tell me
The problem with premeditated and pedantic use of the subject is that it invariably sounds preachy. Art does not preach because art teaches from the inside out, changing people in significant ways through the inner learning experience, without yelling at them until they agree because they are tired of listening.
Readers like to decide for themselves what their story means or says about the world in general. Readers don’t like being preached to or obviously told how to interpret events in their writing. Do not do it. Show without saying anything. Lead, if you must consciously lead, by example. Tell your story with as little bias and interference as you can handle. Trash plots that include heavy-handed themes. You will know when you feel clumsy with an exaggerated need to continue explaining why.
Ironically, no matter what topic you think you’ve written, your readers will decide for themselves what you meant anyway. And that is the miracle and the majesty of art.
No deus ex machina
The first literary device was called Deus Ex machina and it was used in ancient Greek theater. He was literally a god character who was lowered onto the stage with ropes when the hero needed to be rescued or immediate godly intervention was needed to solve the plot of the story. Even the Greeks who invented it knew it was cheesy. We use the phrase, Deus Ex machina, now to include all kinds of witty and cheesy plot resolutions.
Other types of literary devices include, but are not limited to, allusion, diction, euphemism for epigraph, omen, imagery, metaphor / simile, and personification. You may not plan to use any of these, but remember that everything written always contains these devices and they are extremely useful for writers. As with all tools, use the appropriate one at the appropriate time, but don’t use a device in place of good writing or else you’ll be cheesy too.
How well did you pay attention?
We know our readers are always paying attention, but some of you like to be evaluated, so here is a quiz about this article. The answers are not hidden just below the questions, so for your honor, no cheating.
1. It’s a great idea to use deus ex machina to solve plot dilemmas.
2. Images are only used in animated stories.
3. It is a surefire good idea to use a strong preaching theme in your stories.
4. The dramatists of ancient Greece invented diction.
5. Omen is a very good brand of eyeshadow.
6. Fire is one of the 7 elements of fiction.
7. You must use each of the 7 fictional elements at least once per story.
8. Your author had too much fun inventing this quiz.
Answers: F, F, F, F, F, F, F, T