The Dramatic Elements

The Dramatic Elements

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.

Story Structure

Story Structure

Yesterday we explored how to develop the plot of your novel. Today we are going to cover story structure. At the risk of sounding repetitive, I just want to state again that plot is the physical aspects of your novel and story structure is based around emotional and character development.

Traditionally, story structure follows a path of rising action building up to a climax, which is then followed by a catharsis. A catharsis is a release of emotional tension that refreshes the spirit. Or in literary terms, it is a sound resolution to your book that leaves your readers satisfied and content. So how do you follow this guideline of creating tension in the lead up to a climax, followed by a cathartic resolution? This is where plotting and structuring come in handy. And it is not a matter of simply writing it out once, but building upon your idea in several stages until you have a fully developed story outline.

The Dramatic Elements of Story Structure.

There are four dramatic elements that underpin your novel and identifying them is the first step to develop your story structure. The four dramatic elements are passion, theme, character and premise. When these elements are properly defined and utilized they form a cohesive powerful force that pulls the reader in and keeps them interested in your story. The four dramatic elements are:

Passion: The more deeply you feel about your writing subject, the better you are able to convey that passion and emotion to your readers.

Theme: From your passion you will develop your theme. Theme is the message you would like to share with your readers.

Character: The best way to convey your theme is through your characters. Your main character is plagued by an inner conflict that drives your story and highlights your theme.

Premise: Is what propels your story from start to finish. It combines your main characters flaw and the theme of your story to create a single short question: “what if…..?”

Tomorrow we will discuss The Dramatic Elements in more detail.

Story Outline.

The next stage in developing your story structure is to construct a brief story outline. The easiest way to do this is to use the 3-act structure. Initially it is best to keep the first draft of your outline as short as possible; one sentence per checkpoint is a great place to start.

So what is the 3-act structure? It is exactly what it sounds like, a breakdown of your story into 3 acts! Each act then contains 3 checkpoints, which aim to incorporate all your important plot and story points into a logical outline. This breakdown into 3-acts, or 9 checkpoints, help you to design a story outline that follows the path of building tension until you reach a climax and then a resolution to your novel.


Hook: An interesting event that draws in your reader and opens your story.

Backstory: This is where the main character and setting is established.

Trigger: This is usually an intense event that pushes your main character into a crisis.


Crisis: Can be emotional or physical crisis that is based around your character’s flaw.

Struggle: More obstacles your main character must overcome to resolve the dilemma.

Epiphany: This is where your main character realizes what is holding them back from a resolution.

ACT 3:

Plan: Your main character devises a plan to overcome the dilemma.

Climax: The final confrontation.

Ending: The dilemma is resolved.

You can find a blank 3-act worksheet in Learning Tools that you can print off and use to help you develop your story. I have also written out an example of the 3-act structure using The Wizard of Oz as inspiration.

Story Form.

Now that you have plotted each of the nine checkpoints you can begin to flesh out the rest of your story into a short story form. This is the third stage in building your story and bringing your novel to life. To do this, you incorporate all your nine checkpoints from the 3-act structure into a few paragraphs that essentially describes your story in more detail. You can also add in the points from your 5 or 3 element plot structure. This way you are incorporating the physical and emotional aspects of your story. You add in more characters, sub-plots and key details. Keep in mind, that this is all in short form so that you can still fix flaws in your story or chop and change without having to re-write huge parts of your novel. It can also be helpful to give some one else this short story form so they can provide you with feedback and constructive criticism. It is a scary thought to give someone your story before you have actually written it, however it can help having a fresh pair of eyes look over your plot and structure. They may see inconsistencies or weak parts to your story that you missed. It will help you to build a strong, emotive story that will stay in your readers mind long after they have finished reading your book.

Helpful links for Story Structure.

I have found the following sites offer great tips and advice on story structure.

All of this plotting and planning may feel like it hinders your creativity, if that’s the case then you do not need to follow this structured way of writing. But once you have finished all this planning, you can go on to write from your heart and finish your novel.

That concludes the second post in the Build Your Novel Blog Series. Please come back and check out tomorrow’s post on The Dramatic Elements. It provides more detail on each element and how to incorporate them into your novel.