Monday, November 14, 2005

The Elements of a Story

Stories are comprised of four elements. If one predominates, it shapes the story.

The elements that comprise a story are:
  • milieu
  • idea
  • character
  • events
A story's milieu is its world, the environment of its characters. It encompasses both the material and moral spheres of action. That is, it encompasses both the inner and outer landscapes/spaces surrounding the characters, as well as the surrounding culture they emerge from. Such story material includes the physical locations and settings, the sights, sounds, smells, foods, climate, weather, and all other sensations emanating from the environment. It also includes the social and cultural setting: the customs, folkways, mores, traditions, history, social institutions, social roles, laws, technology, public expectations and every aspect of society that affects the personality, motivations, and attitudes of the individual to limit and shed light on what he thinks, feels, says, and does.

The idea of a story is the problem or question the story poses, which is solved or answered in the end. In other words, a story's idea is what you read it to find out. For example, you may find out whether the hero achieves his goal. Or you may discover the solution to some mystery or puzzle.

The character of a story is the nature of one or more principal players in it. A story's character is expressed by what its characters do and why they do it. This element usually stems from or arrives at some truth about human nature.

The events of a story are its actions, the things that happen in it.

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