Good fiction captures your imagination, mentally takes you places you have never been and broadens your understanding of the human experience.

When I was in college, I remember learning about the basic elements of a good story. I never knew there was a formula, per se, but once I understood there was one, I could read fiction – and watch movies – with greater understanding.

When you read a novel or watch a movie, look for these eight things:

  • Title and Setting – this points you towards the theme of the story and the time and place.
  • Point of View – the voice the author uses to narrate the story – is it from the “I” point of view or the third person?
  • Plot – The five elements of a plot include 1) the characterizations or the author’s descriptions of the characters, 2) the conflict or problems that change the characters involved, 3) the climax or moment in the story when the character makes a decision which leads to the ultimate resolution of the conflict, 4) the resolution or how the author chooses to end the conflict and 5) the ending or the final words of the story where the author leaves clues to the theme of the story.

Sometimes it helps to keep track of the characters by taking notes on separate index cards or paper if there are many and/or if you read infrequently thus avoiding re-reading and refreshing your memory quickly.

So next time you read a novel or watch a movie, see if you can identify these basic elements of fiction. I promise you they are there!



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