Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Elements of a Story

The following is a list of elements that I have found to be intriguing in different media, from books, to movies, to television shows. I think they are all useful to take into account when creating your own story.

1. Sympathizable Characters
One of the reasons you want the good guys to win is become you sympathize with them. You want the reader to understand, like, and root for the main character, otherwise the reader will not care for this character on his journey or what's happening to him.
In Ender's Game: You sympathize with Ender as he's despised as a "Third" child, beat up at school, taken away from his family, put in a strange and hostile environment, and has no friends to help him. When he finally turns the tide, you're rooting for him the whole time.

2. Mystery Element
I find this as an effective means of getting the reader to continue into the story. You want to draw the reader in by leaving certain questions unanswered that will make them speculate about what's really going on.
In LOST: The best example to illustrate a "mystery element" would be in LOST. You are presented with so many questions, and that gives the viewer greater incentive to keep watching. What does the hatch do? Who are the others? What was the Dharma Initiative? What do the others want?

3. New Concepts
One of the interesting aspects about fantasy or Sci-Fi stories is the ability to create new worlds with different rules than our own. New concepts are always interesting to the reader and gets them thinking about the prospects and origins of those concepts.
In MINORITY REPORT: The viewer is introduced to the concept of preventing murder before it happens by seeing the future. The viewer is thus interested to keep watching to fully understand this concept.
In MEMENTO: The concept of a man with no short-term memory pays off well in the movie and keeps the viewer interested.

4. Character Conflicts and Development
It suddenly dawned on me that characters do not have to be inveterately good or evil. Characters can have a wide range of motives, emotions, and desires, and these things can propel the story.
In Ender's Game: In the battle school, there are many characters each with their own motive and side, fighting each other for different reasons. Over time, some characters who were considered enemies become friends, and some friends may become enemies.
In Lord of the Flies: The story in Lord of the Flies would not exist without the conflicts between the characters. All the characters start out as somewhat good. As tension grows and arguments develop, these characters fight each other in various ways until the story progress and the final battle is waged.

5. Inherent Danger
The concept of suspense keeps the viewer interested for the protagonist's safety. Many movies and books use the concept of "Inherent Danger" to always have the protagonist watching his back. This means that throughout some part of the story, someone or something is coming after the protagonist trying to stop him.
In THE MATRIX: With the concept of the Agents, Neo must always watch his back every time he enters the Matrix. Suspense is achieved here.
In 1984: By introducing the reader to the concept of the Thought Police and what happens to Criminals, the viewer is constantly in worry for Winston Smith as he embarks down his road of rebellion.

6. Things Go Wrong
If everything in a story went exactly as planned, that would probably be a boring story. Unexpected things have to change the course of events to spark interest and set a new course for the story.
In THE MATRIX: If Neo's visit to the Oracle was uneventful, and then Morpheus said we must attack the Agents just to strike a moral blow, and then they did that, and then the movie ended; that would be a boring movie.
Instead, Morpheus gets kidnapped on the visit and the characters have to adapt to the situation. The viewer is interested.
In STAR WARS: If Alderaan was never destroyed and Luke went there to give the plans for the Death Star, and then they blew it up, that would be a boring movie. Instead, you know what happened.

7. Double-Goal
Sort of a tie-in with "Things Go Wrong," is the double-goal. Nearly all the major movies released today have a Double-Goal story. The original goal set upon at the beginning of the story is never the final goal. The goal always changes sometime during the course of events to a SECOND goal.
In MINORITY REPORT: John Anderton's original goal is to get his Minority Report and prove his innocence. Then, his second goal is to expose the chief and the corruption in Pre-Crime.

8. Twists
Plot twists aren't necessary for a story, they just pay-off the reader and are a great addition to changing the reader's perspective. Twists don't necessarily have to be "Goal-Changing." There can be small twists, medium twists, or HUGE twists.
In KOTOR: By revealing your true identity as REVAN the player is given a new outlook on what has happened and what he must do to continue.

© 2007 TheJBurger

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At 9/06/2007 10:28 PM, Blogger ifedajay said...

Wow. NIce commentary!

At 9/07/2007 1:30 PM, Blogger TheJBurger said...



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