There are many elements that go into making a work of fiction worthy of being read. While each part is essential, there are four elements that are vital in transforming your work from a boring jumble of words to a true work of art.
1.The idea - This is where every great work of fiction begins. Ideas can come from various places. Sometimes an idea will just pop into your head or wander in from your imagination, but more often, something in your life will trigger a story idea. A personal experience is a wonderful source for an idea. Many writers come across new topics while working on a completely different project. Ideas can be gathered from television, newspaper articles, or overhearing a story in the checkout line of the grocery store. Story ideas are all around you, so it's important to keep a notebook with you to jot them down when they come to you.
2.The plot - There have been many discussions on whether you should choose your plot or your characters first. Personally, I think you should pick your plot. After all, how do you know who your characters should be if you don't even know what they are doing? The plot is the element that takes your idea and transforms it into a story. It is the part that moves the story from "Point A" to "Point B." In order for your story to be exciting, your plot needs to be exciting. Think of it as a roller coaster. Up, down. Fast, slow. Twist, turn. Your plot should do all of these. The best plots are those that have the reader experiencing opposite emotions in the same chapter. Happy, sad. Scared, relaxed. Assured, in doubt. Keep the story moving, and your reader will continue to flip the pages. Let the story stall, and your book is likely to wind up on the shelf. That's how important plot is!
3.Characters - The next thing every good story needs is good characters. Notice I said "good characters" not just "characters." The character is the person (or sometimes animal) who is living out the story. For the story to be believable, the characters must be believable. Unfortunately, there are many good plots out there that lack realistic characters. The people are dull and lifeless, making it hard for the reader to relate. Make your characters come alive with action, dialogue, and description. Know your character, and help your reader to know him as well.
4.Setting - While this element is not as important as the other three, setting often plays a vital part in a story. Not only does setting tell the reader "where" and "when," but it can also help set the mood. For example, if your setting is on the field of battle in the middle of the Revolutionary War, there is a mood of fear, sadness, and regret. If your story is taking place in a dark creepy house on a stormy night, you have set it up for the perfect mystery.
While there are many other elements in a work of fiction, these are the most important. Master them, and your story will be worthy of being read and hopefully even being published.
Dana Rongione is a full-time Christian freelance writer living in Greenville, SC. For more information on fiction writing, check out LearnWriteNow.com. While you're there, be sure to sign up for the FREE Writing Nuggets.
For daily encouragement, visit her blog, A Word Fitly Spoken.