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11.12.2012 01:39    Comments: 0    Categories: Writing Plot  Structure  Fiction Elements  Fiction Writing  Writing  Writing Craft      Tags: h. thomas milhorn  plot  story  structure  genre  fiction  guide  craft  

Key Elements (From Chapter 1 of  Writing Genre Fiction: A Guide to the Craft by H.T. Milhorn)


To create a fictional world that seems real to readers, writers use a minimum of six key elements:


1. Plot, Story and Structure
2. Setting
3. Characters
4. Point of View
5. Prose
6. Theme and Subject




PLOT is the sequence of events in a story as the author chooses to arrange them. It is a chain of events, each event the result of some prior events and the cause of some subsequent events. Its purpose is to get readers involved by creating tension so they feel a need to know what happens next. The hero and the villain each keep thwarting the other, forcing each to improvise under pressure. This continues until finally one gains the upper hand.


If the plot is organized around a single central problem, it usually ends when that problem is resolved. If the plot deals with a series of problems, it ends when the last problem is dealt with.2,9-15


STORY, unlike plot, is the sequence of events in a work of fiction in the order they actually occur. Story and plot may differ because writers use devices like flashbacks, recollections, introspections, and flash forwards so that the plot does not always proceed in a chronological order. A story persists as long as there are problems to be resolved.2,9-15


STRUCTURE is the framework of a novel. It is the way the plot is arranged in both a logical and a dramatic manner to create maximum suspense. In all cases it consists of (1) a title, (2) a beginning, (3) a middle, and (4) an end. In addition, some novels have prologues, fewer have epilogues, and even fewer have both.


Title. You can choose almost anything you want as a title as long as it isn’t overly long. It certainly can’t be too short, since many titles consist only of a single word.9,15-17


Beginning. Every beginning makes a promise to readers. A romance novel promises to entertain and titillate them, a mystery novel makes a promise to intellectually challenge them, a thriller novel makes a promise to excite and keep them wondering what is going to happen next, and a horror novel promises to scare them. If you as a writer don’t live up to our promise in subsequent pages, readers will be bitterly disappointed.


Usually readers are brought into the story at the moment the status quo is threatened. The closer the opening scene is to the precipitating event, the more force and emergency it will have. Ideally, readers should find characters in difficulty in the first chapter, the first page, or even better in the first paragraph.9,15-17


Middle. The middle increases conflict, further develops the main characters, and introduces other characters. It is composed of complications in which things progressively get worse for the hero and a crisis in which he must make a decision that can lead to either success or failure in achieving his ultimate goal. With complications, every attempt by the hero to solve a problem usually makes the problem worse or creates a new, more tenacious problem. Even if his situation improves, the forces arrayed against him grow comparably in magnitude. By the end of the middle, all the various forces that will collide at the story’s climax should have been put in place.15,18


End. The story narrows down as the end approaches so the ending can take place clearly and decisively. Any subplots and side issues should have been disposed of. If the novel has parallel plots, they should have already converged into a single plot line. All the subordinate characters should be “offstage,” their work done, to leave the main characters alone in the “spotlight” to do the final battle.


The end consists of a climax and a resolution. The climax, also known as the showdown, is the decisive event that resolves the conflict. Although a genre novel has a number of high points of tension and action, the climax is the highest point. It is the logical coming together of the facts and events that took place earlier in the novel. It can be thought of as the ultimate surprise, revealing the answer to the central mystery. It is the moment that relieves all the tension that has built up through the beginning and middle of the story.


Once the climax is finished, the falling action leads quickly toward the story’s resolution, which refers to the final outcome of a plot. It is the final explanation of events. Its function is to wrap up the story. Resolution is also known as the denouement, which literally means “unknotting.14,17,19



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