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Learning how to write a good story is a lifelong pursuit. As a novice writer, perfecting your approach to story takes time and patience. Taking the time to understand the elements of a story and how they work together is an invaluable step in taking your writing to the next level.

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David Mamet Teaches Dramatic WritingDavid Mamet Teaches Dramatic Writing

The Pulitzer Prize winner teaches you everything he's learned across 26 video lessons on dramatic writing.

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5 Elements of a Good Story

There are a few basic elements that are necessary to construct a good story. A good place to look for a clear illustration of these elements is fairy tales. Fairy tales are universally accessible narratives with clear stakes, effective story structure, and memorable characters. If you’re struggling to understand how any of these elements work in context, turning to fairy tales or fables to look for examples can be a useful step. The elements of story are also present in both novel-length pieces of fiction and short stories. Some of these elements are applicable to nonfiction narratives as well. Some of the key elements of a good story include:

  1. Premise: A premise sets up the location, characters, and circumstances your readers need to understand before you launch into the story’s plot. A premise includes physical location, like an elementary school or hospital, as well as the basic expository information that readers need to understand at the beginning of your story.
  2. Plot: The plot is the sequence of events that make up the action of your story. Understanding the elements of plot is vital for any writer. A plot progresses chronologically from an inciting incident and rising action to a climax that spills over into falling action followed by resolution.
  3. Character: Plot cannot exist in a vacuum; it requires different characters who participate in and advance the story. Character development is one of the most important literary elements. Developing a main character and secondary characters is a core part of a writer’s narrative process. Character affects the point of view of your story, especially if you decide to tell it in first-person as opposed to third-person. Each of your characters has their own story, and it’s up to you how much to show to your readers. Secondary characters can be used to advance the main plot as well as subplots.
  4. Prose: The sentence structure and word choices you implement in your writing are also key elements of your story. Deciding whether to write in the vernacular of a first-person narrator or in the more neutral voice of a third-person omniscient narrator is an important decision that will affect your prose.
  5. Theme: The themes of your story tie in with the larger takeaway you hope your readers draw from your story. Theme is built through narrative and is one of the essential elements of story. Theme requires work on the part of your reader to discern a larger message and draw connections between elements of your story and the human condition at large. Learn how to develop a theme for your story here.

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