So far in the Building Your Novel Blog Series, we have discussed plotting and how to structure your story. Yesterday we touched briefly on the importance of the dramatic elements. Today we will go into more detail about the elements, how to incorporate them into your fictional novel and why they are important to your writing.
The four dramatic elements drive everything in your story. They are the fundamental building blocks that run underneath the outline of the 3-act structure. Each of the elements defines the next element, so that ultimately they combine together to form a powerful force behind your story. The elements are sub-textual, meaning they are not stated explicitly but the reader will feel their emotional force at work. It is what will bring them back to read more of your writing, and will create lasting impressions of your story.
Your personal passions are your gateway to writing a memorable and successful novel. This is where all drama begins as an author. The more passionate you feel about something, the better you are able to convey those feelings through your writing to your readers. So what do you feel passionate about? Create a list if it helps, then you can use that to help pick a writing topic.
From your passion you can derive a theme. Theme is the message you wish to share through your writing. The most effective themes are those that can be expressed in a few simple words, or a single short sentence. Passion and theme are quite similar, so to differentiate between them think of it like this: passion is your reason for writing your story, and theme is the take home message for your readers.
Theme is an essential tool a writer can use to test ideas for their story. As you develop each plot or story point ask yourself if it is interconnected to your theme. If it does not relate someway, then is it absolutely necessary to your story? If not, delete it!
Theme is most effectively conveyed by showing your readers what you want them to know, as opposed to telling them your message. For example, telling them that illegal drugs are bad is a weak message that your readers will not relate to. However by showing your reader the effect of illegal drugs on a person, their family and their health creates a lasting impression. Not many people enjoy being told what to believe, but this way you can subtly influence your reader and their beliefs.
It is your main characters’ inner conflict or flaw that drives your story and highlights your theme and passion. This is why when plotting your story it is important to take your time in developing your character.
Your character is a critical dramatic element that your story structure is based around. It is a good idea to develop your main character and their flaw or inner conflict early in your creative process and then base the other dramatic elements around your character flaw.
Generally speaking your main character may have several flaws, but when talking about structuring your story it is easiest to pick one main flaw and focus on that.
Characters are so important to your story. There will be a whole post dedicated to Character Development after the Building Your Novel series.
You premise combines your main character’s flaw and theme to form a “what if?” situation. It helps to move your story from start to finish.
I found this example a great help:
What if a (main character) set out to (task/journey) in order to (goal) and discovered (inner epiphany).
This helps you to define your main character and their flaw, the journey they take and their epiphany. From here you can flesh your story out, but the premise is a simple short sentence to help define your plot and story.
I hope this has helped to highlight the importance of the dramatic elements and how they help to draw your reader into your story. There is a blank worksheet on the Learning Tools page that you can print out and use to help plan your novel using the four dramatic elements. Tomorrow we will cover paragraph structure. The aim is to improve your writing, and it is also useful to help your write interesting and well-structured paragraphs. The end goal is a story that is easy to read and flows from one paragraph to the next.