Wednesday, July 4, 2018

What's The Most Important Element In A Story?

Many things go into making a great story. 

Plot, setting, characters and a compelling storyline come together to produce a worldly acclaimed novel or film. The right mix of these elements separates a great story from a bad one. 

But what is the most important element of a story?  What is the magic ingredient that propels a novel to bestselling success, or a film to Oscar winning success?

If every novelist and screenwriter, whether seasoned or aspiring, knew the answer to this elusive question, there would be a lot more captivating stories out there. Sadly, for some writers, this sought after element remains just that--sought after. Yet it's never found.

If you're searching for the one thing that will transform your story into a tale that readers and audiences will love to read and watch, you've come to the right place. 

Do you want to know what one element will make your novel a bestseller? Or your film a blockbuster? Well, here you go.

The most important element of a story is...

The Element Of Curiosity

That's it. Your story must have the element of curiosity if you want it to urge readers to turn page after page, wondering how the tale will end. It must rivet audiences to their theater seats for the entire 120 minutes. But there's one more crucial thing your story must do.

Your story must make the reader or audience want to know what happens next. 

This is the crux of a riveting story. Plot, setting, characters and even the storyline mean nothing if your story fails to entice the reader to keep reading, or the moviegoer to keep watching. If your reader isn't dying to know what happens next, your reader won't be reading your novel for very long. Your audience won't be watching your film for very long either.

Turning aside to authors for a moment, the driving need to know what happens next is what hooks readers and audiences into the story and uses their own primal curiosity to guide them through the entire tale.

Sadly, this critical element is one that many writers don't consider. Instead, they spend years writing about a bunch of random events that don't add up to anything, and end up with 300 pages worth of a jumbled mess. Then, when they can't get their novels published, they often burn their manuscripts, throw their hands up in disgust and quit writing altogether. Don't let this happen to you.

So, authors and screenwriters, how do you write a story that constantly makes the reader crave to know how the story ends?

Start with creating a gripping premise for your story. You must identify the point you want your story to make. You'll use this point to guide you through the entire story crafting process.

After you've defined your point, you must create a compelling character who pursues a deceptively difficult goal, all while combatting a longstanding misbelief. This character--your protagonist or hero--must drive your story's point home by grappling with the challenges the plot puts her through. All while she contends for her coveted goal.

You must craft a plot that will relentlessly force your protagonist to wrestle with her longstanding misbelief until she finally overcomes and defeats it. When she defeats her misbelief, she can achieve her deceptively difficult goal--or not--and make peace with herself, emerging as a better person.

One of the greatest secrets to making readers want to know what happens next is creating a protagonist your readers can empathize with. Your reader needs to be able to look inside the mind and heart of your protagonist, and see herself in a primal way. Audiences need to experience the same thing when watching a film.

Your protagonist must be like your reader or audience in some respect, with similar desires, fears, hopes and doubts. You, as the writer, must create a compelling yet likable hero. 

In short, you must create an empathetic protagonist. Why? Because liking the hero you're about to go on a 300 page or a 2 hour journey with is another extremely important element of your story. It's crucial that your reader or audience likes your hero.

An empathetic protagonist embodies the primal element of your story--curiosity. Primal curiosity makes the reader--and the moviegoer--want to know what happens next. And how your story ends.

When you create a protagonist that readers can fall in love with, even with all her hurts, habits and hang-ups, they'll follow your protagonist to the ends of the earth, just to make sure she turns out okay. They'll crave to see how she changes. Why? So they can ultimately change with her.

What a person really wants out of your story is some useful or critical information that will help her navigate this crazy existence we call life. As long as she finds this valuable information on every page she turns, she will read to the last word...

...wanting to know what happens next.

And as far as screenwriters are concerned, by harnessing the power that the element of curiosity wields, your audience will want to watch your film again and again. I speak from personal experience on this one as a movie watcher.

Seize the power of story,

L. R. Farren
P. S. - When choosing a goal for your protagonist, make sure it's specific, like the love a certain person, or a promotion to a certain position in a certain company.  And create a specific and personal reason why your protagonist wants the love of the other person, or that promotion. Make it as detailed as you can, for your story lies in the specifics.

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