14 Prompts

Practice Writing Prompts that Inspire

Six Elements to a Balanced Story

Since we’re talk­ing about story today, why don’t we kick it off with one. As you read, see if you can iden­tify the ele­ment of storytelling.

Fight by Polina Sergeeva

I walked over to Tommy and slapped him in the face.

“Argh!” he said. “Why did you do that?”

“You know why,” I said.

Some back­ground: Tommy was telling us a story he had just writ­ten. It was really bad. He needed a slap.

On Tommy’s face was the red imprint of a hand.

My hand stung, but I felt good for stand­ing up to bad storytelling.

Still, I won­dered if I had gone too far.

The Foundation of Writing

Some peo­ple say there are five ele­ments of story. Some say ten. I say six (for now at least). Here they are:

1. Action. What are the peo­ple in your story doing?

2. Dialogue. What are they saying?

3. Description. What are they see­ing, hear­ing, touch­ing, tast­ing, and smelling?

4. Introspection (also known as inner mono­logue). What are they thinking?

5. Emotion. How do they feel?

6. Exposition. What other infor­ma­tion does the nar­ra­tor (IE you) want us to know?

Here is the story above  tagged with its element:

I walked over to Tommy and slapped him in the face. ACTION

“Argh!” he said. “Why did you do that?”

“You know why,” I said. DIALOGUE

Some back­ground: Tommy was telling us a story he had just writ­ten. It was really bad. He needed a slap. EXPOSITION

There was an out­line of a hand on Tommy’s face. It was red.DESCRIPTION

My hand stung, but I felt good that I had stood up against bad sto­ry­telling. EMOTION

Still, I won­dered what had come over me. INTROSPECTION

If You Don’t Have Balance, You Get Slapped

About a week ago, Ryan posted a prac­tice on An Interview With Tom Davis, Pt I. He had some good things to say, but his writ­ing cen­tered on just two ele­ments. After I told him to try to touch on all the ele­ments, his writ­ing got much better.

Wiggle room is allowed, though. For exam­ple, some writ­ers will focus on one or two of these more than the others.

If you favor a par­tic­u­lar ele­ment more than the oth­ers, that’s awe­some. Part of dis­cov­er­ing your voice is find­ing your own bal­ance. Just don’t for­get the others.

Another impor­tant thing, most lit­er­ary writ­ers tend to avoid expo­si­tion. Use too much and you’ll be accused of “telling” rather than “show­ing.” Exposition is the may­on­naise of sto­ry­telling. It can make for a moist, deli­cious sand­wich, but too much will trig­ger your gag reflex.

PRACTICE

Write a story about a school­yard fight. Try to use all six ele­ments of sto­ry­telling. If you don’t, I’m going to come to your house and slap you. Seriously. I’ll hack your email address, find out where you live, and slap you. Watch yourself.

Fifteen min­utes. Post it in the comments.

(Also, I don’t know actu­ally how to hack an email address. In case you were legit­i­mately wor­ried. Hyperbole, people.)

About Joe Bunting

Joe is a ghostwriter, editor, and an aspiring fiction author. He writes and edits books that change lives. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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