Elements of Fiction
by Rowan Wolf
"I have gathered a nosegay of other men's flowers and only the thread that binds them is my own." Montaigne
“The elements that make up works of fiction have their roots hooked, it seems, into the universe, or at least into the hearts of human beings.” John Gardner
“Art is not an end in itself, but a means of addressing humanity.” Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky
“Fiction is the most joyous, beautiful, sophisticated, wonderful thing in the world.” Arundhati Roy
“In fiction two and two is always more than four.” Flannery O’Connor
In my view, as a story evolves from Cause to Effect it stirs to life at Interest, then travels by those elements that serve it, toward Truth.
Please note that each Element—i.e., Interest, Observation, et cetera—is hyperlinked (blue). Follow this link to the author quotes for that element. You can also pick and choose the elements that interest you from the display below this page.
That said, here is a story's path, as I see it:
Words (including Nouns, Pronouns, Verbs, Adjectives, and Adverbs) stem from Concretes with Clarity as their aim. Semantics is their study, Rhetoric their harness, Rhythm their lungs, Pace their heart, Tone their sound, and Resonance their echo, often by way of Metaphor and Simile: this is Language; with its Roots. Given use, Style will emerge.
Viewpoint and Distance govern Description, determining who does the telling, from where, and from how far. Selection and Detail are the life-blood of, and Senses—Smell, Touch, Taste, Hearing (including Music), and Vision—the path to, Mimesis.
Place is both stage and backdrop, Mood is the deeper place. Character is life in action and Choice its vital free will. Want is purpose and goal, Conflict is wants clashing to build both short term Tension and long term Suspense leading, through Growth, to Resolution of the Drama.
The story’s Opening—those compelling first lines which earn the reader’s Attention and Curiosity—sparks the movement. Plot finds and carries the reader from there. Generosity is the fullness of motion that invites and permits reader Empathy. Stamina is both writer and story strength: no flagging, no letting up on the motion, no forgetting or letting go of the reader. Discovery is arrival—for writer and reader both.
Honesty and Morality grow the Theme, what the story tells, through Imagery, the story’s color, through Symbolism, its tokens, and Aesthetics, its beauty, into Dream lived into being by writer and reader both: the story’s co-creators.
A story-long audience with a spirit—the true Reader, where Inspiration is the air you give, and where living the fictional dream—and being wiser for having lived it—is the reading: Enlightenment—toward Truth.