Friday, September 24, 2010

13 Elements of a Good Story

 Many elements go into making a book  lovable and memorable. The reason we like  some books and  dislike  others  is not just because  of the writing style or the story, but for several other reasons.

I have read many not so great books only because I found the characters worthy of following. Unfortunately these characters were caught in a not so great story. Many other books  I  have read because I liked the way  the plot  twists  kept me on tenterhooks, though I disliked the language and  the writing style was ordinary.

 For a book to make the cut, many elements must fall into place. The ones that instantly come to mind, I have listed below.

1.      A  Strong  Protagonist: who beckons the reader into his/her story and  makes them follow him/her page after page. A protagonist who becomes a literary friend, one we are eager to know more about.   

2.      A Powerful Antagonist: who evokes  immense dislike from the readers. To see the antagonist fall and lose,  readers root for the protagonist's victory and get glued to the pages.        
3.      A Unique, Original, and Amazing Setting that has the readers eager to know more. Settings take time to create, but they are well worth the effort.

4.      An Engrossing Conflict that  sucks  the readers in its grip.

5.      Unexpected Twists and Turns of the Story: keeps the readers engrossed.

6.      A  Generous Sprinkling of  Romance: brings a smile on the readers’ faces and makes their hearts flutter.

7.      Heart Tugging Emotions: very  crucial for the emotional connect with the readers.

8.      Rounded, Peripheral Characters : they help in   pushing the story forward.

9.      Atleast two Strong  Subplots that Intersect the Main Plot:  this can involve the peripheral characters and  is extremely crucial to break the monotony if the main plot slackens.

10.   A Gripping  Plot: packed with racy scenes that add tension and make it a page   turner.

11.   Awesome Writing Style: full of vivid and unusual descriptions.

12.   Wonderful Dialogues or as I  prefer to call them Conversation  Pieces that are remembered long   after the book has been put down.

13.   A Great Resolution ; preferably a Happily Ever After.

Do you think there are other elements that I have overlooked? Is there any other element that  is crucial?  Please tell us, not only are we  keen to hear about it, we can also add it into our next manuscript.


  1. I love the happily ever after ending best:) You made an excellent list. I know these are important but never could have combined them this way, Thank you!

  2. Great list, Rachna. The books that disappoint are the ones with out the great resolution. It takes a lot of time and patience for learning to write a great book. Most people think one can sit down and type out a book in a month or two. They believe it's that easy. When I get that reaction from someone, I just smile and say, "Why don't you try it sometime?"

  3. Oops, I meant without. More coffee, I need more coffee.:)

  4. Rachna, this is an awesome list and I don't see anything you've missed. None that I can think of off the top of my head, anyway. I do love a good twist on expectations.

    Books that I throw against the wall are the ones that almost pay off, then I get to the end and find out they've lied to me and not in a good way. Either the characters do something that makes no sense with how they've acted and spoken, or something drastic happens with no/little foreshadowing. These are things that I did not see coming and didn't want to happen. I love being surprised in books. It happens so rarely, but a bad surprise is worse than none at all.

  5. Excellent list, Rachna! I am outlining my third novel, so this is very relevant for me. I think the most important thing I’ve overlooked thus far is the ‘Subplots that Intersect the Main Plot’. It’s very important they intersect, I think, otherwise they are just two threads running parallel.

  6. Great list! I think I'm weakest on the subplots.

  7. Good points, and good post! Hope you have a wonderful weekend. :)

  8. I think you pretty much covered it with your list.

    Maybe you could add just one more: A deep and profound message that resonates with people and makes them want to read on.

    I've read books were wouldn't have been as interesting to me if I hadn't noticed the message of the story and that made me want to continue on to the end to see if my guess was right.


  9. Rachna,
    This is a great post! I often have this conversation with my non-writer friends -- that a book can be "good," but still be poorly written, and that books are "good" for a whole host of reasons, which you so aptly describe above. I'm not sure they 'get' where I'm coming from, but you obviously do! I've been in many a situation, reading bestsellers, where the writing seems lackluster, but the STORY is what drives me through. Where the writing is weak, but the characters are endearing and unique - and make me want more. But you're absolutely right: the key to a super-star novel is to do ALL those things! Why not give your book a shot at being loved for multiple reasons?

  10. PS - tweeted this post so others can learn!

  11. Hello Rachana,
    Being a writer i liked your this article. in fact you covered all eliments of a good story.I think your this article will help to new coming writers.
    Best wishes.

  12. Great list! 1, 7, and 10 are my personal faves for a good story. Those are the ones that suck me and don't release me until, usually, the wee hours of the morning. :)

  13. Love these tips, and oh how I hope and pray they're all in there! I love the emotional impact of a great book. Thanks for the great advice.

  14. Great points! They're all so necessary. Thanks for sharing.

  15. Terri, I got the idea of compiling this list while working on my current WIP. While I was going through it to see its strengths and weaknesses I realized I could make a list.

    Robyn, yes books do take a lot of time and patience and effort. I too resent it and get upset when people assume that writing is easy.

    Victoria, plot twists are my favourite. Unfortunately I don't think they are my strengths and I am working hard on it.

    Gargi and Lynda, subplots are my most weakest point, but not as much as plot twists.

    Karen, thanks. Hope you have a wonderful weekend.

    Jai...oops I forgot the message. I am a sucker for books with subtle messages and love reading them again. Thanks for the reminder.

  16. you when I discuss books with my non-writer friends I have the same problem as you. Their eyes just glaze over and most politely change the topic to fashion, food and other things. I love the idea of a Super - Star novel. Its worthy of a post by itself.
    Thanks for the tweet.

    Hemant, I am glad that you liked the post.

    Samantha, 1,7 and 10 are my personal favourites too. Add 2 to it and I can read till the wee hours of the morning.

    Julie, I am with you when it comes to hoping and praying that all these elements are in my book or atleast as many as I can do justice to.

    Shallee, a good story does have all these elements to have a wider appeal and readership. Thanks for the follow.

  17. Great list! I always have to applaud a writer who wants to create a work of art, not simply a product. Kudos!

  18. #6 is so true. I love hard action and science fiction books but a sprinkling of romance will always hook me.

  19. Rachna: I think you pretty much covered them with this list (with the addition of the one in Jai Joshi's comment). Any book that can provide all of these has the potential to become a classic.

    I am reading a book now that I thought I would love, but the main thing going for it is its unique setting. The characters are too shallow and annoying and it's lacking in the gripping conflict it promised. Usually when I'm not hooked halfway through, I move on to the next book, but I'm going to finish it and hope for the best before the end.

  20. I love this post. Writing is an art and best when studied and practiced. I know there are many people who feel that it's easy and it takes no brains to write and be published. I think those are the ones who haven't studied the craft.

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful tips, Rachna!