Misha Crews

Love stories about old houses and family secrets.

It’s been said that there are three basic elements to fiction: plot, characters, and setting.  Over the next few weeks I’d like to get into each of these individually, but for now let’s just take a quick look at these important ingredients in your fiction pie:

Plot – To put it plain and simple, “plot” is your story line.  It’s the chain of events that takes your characters on a ride, and brings your readers along with them.  A good plot doesn’t necessarily have to be exciting in an oh-my-god-we-have-to-find-and-diffuse-the-bomb kind of way, but should contain at least minor amounts of mystery and excitement, even if it’s just in an oh-my-god-where-are-my-car-keys-so-I-can-go-out-on-my-first-date-in-years kind of way! 

Characters – Of the three elements, this one is definitely my favorite.  Why?  Well, mainly because I’m lazy, I guess.  It’s always been my belief that if you have good characters, they write their own story, which keeps the need for plotting at a minimum!  Okay, that’s a little bit of a joke (although it’s not entirely untrue, either!)  “Characters” are, of course, the people in your book.  You could also look at them as the readers’ guides: the ones who are leading your readers along the path that is laid by your plot.  Relatable characters are essential for telling a good story.

Setting – Well, if the plot is your path, and the characters are your guides, what does that make setting?  Your scenery!  But of course, it’s a bit more than that.  Setting is essentially the where-and-when of your story.  It’s Victorian England, or the recent future on a dying planet, or a modern day suburb.  It’s the universe in which you are immersing your characters (and readers), and through which your are laying down your plot.  It’s multi-dimensional; it looks, smells, sounds and tastes the way you decide it will. 

These three elements combine in a million different ways.  Your setting effects your characters (think of the difference between the Australian outback of the 1930s and the city of Tokyo in modern times): how they look, talk, etc.  This in turn effects your plot, because different characters will react to circumstances uniquely, and this in turn will change the course of events in your story!

We can take up each of these elements in several different blogs in the coming weeks.  I’m looking forward to re-exploring all of these vital pieces of your story-puzzle, and I hope you are too!

So, any preference as to which one we start with?

8 thoughts on “Fiction Writing: What’s It Made Of?

  1. Sun Singer says:

    I often wonder whether most writers think of a plot first, and then start considering the kinds of characters that would be in it–or vice versa.


  2. Misha Crews says:

    Hmmm, I think it's different for each of us! How does it work for you? 🙂


  3. Mish I love that your stories are character driven. I think mine (NaNoWriMo coming right up) is going to be more plot driven. Since your fave is character driven, why don't you start with that?
    Love you Honey!

  4. Misha Crews says:

    Good idea Helen, I think I will! And I can't wait to read your book! Love you too! 🙂

  5. Anonymous says:

    It varies, but the characters still have to be in the driver's seat to make the story come alive. And sometimes you face a difficult choice deciding which character is actually in the driver's seat, which is the backseat driver, and who's just along for the ride!

  6. Sun Singer says:

    I just start writing and see what happens.


  7. My novels have always been inspired by people I knew or knew of. Stories can have breathtaking settings, but if the characters are weak and uninteresting, who cares? Same goes with plot: you can't have a strong plot without strong, interesting characters. When I taught writing, my best students were always the ones who understood this.

  8. Misha Crews says:

    Anon – that is so true! Those characters can be tricky (and sensitive, lol)!
    Malcolm – That's a great way to start! Start the ball rolling and see where it takes you.
    Smoky – You're so right! All the elements have to be there or the thing just won't hold together.

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