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The 7 Elements of a Good Story

1. The Main Characters
The main characters need to be interesting and varied and the audience must be able to relate to them in some way. One technique is to study personality profiling tools and write different characters based on the personality types that they describe.

2. Different World
The setting of the story may be a different world entirely to that in which the reader lives. This doesn’t mean an alien planet, but it may be a different country or a different time. Lifestyles can be so different that it may seem like an alien place to the reader. The important thing is that there is detail and consistency.

3. A Strong Start
The start must be gripping and pose questions that make the audience want to stay. They must be compelled to keep going to find out what happens and what the answers to these questions are. The James Bond franchise does this extremely well. The film begins with a huge and high impact action sequence before it returns to a musical interlude before beginning again.

4. Well-Planned End
Understand when the story is finished and then stop. This is very difficult for some authors and without mastery of the ending the story can run on and on. Signal what you want the audience to do at the end. Is there a sequel planned? If so you can leave some questions unanswered. If there is not to be a sequel then questions must be answered or the audience will be left dissatisfied.

5. What’s In It For The Reader?
Include elements of drama, entertainment, gossip, fun and interest. Layer stories on stories. Consider eating a good meal. Your first taste is with your ears; how does the idea of the meal sound? Then when the meal arrives you taste with your eyes; how does it look? Then your nose has a taste; how does it smell? Finally you taste with your mouth; does it live up to expectations? Create a story with depth of flavour that will appeal to all the senses. Ian Fleming was very good at setting the scene using all of the senses.

6. Jeopardy
What is at stake? What are the risks? To create a sense of building excitement in a story the stakes have to be high enough that the reader doesn’t ask; ‘so what?’ The moment that happens the audience will lose interest. It doesn’t have to be the end of the world every time but unless the outcome will cause a significant change to the main characters(s) then there may not be enough at stake to keep people interested.

7. Inciting Incident
Inciting incident is an important term for an author or story creator. The inciting incident is a turning point or catalyst within a story. Everything changes when it takes place. Some stories have more than one inciting incident, sometimes running alongside each other as the story progresses.

In some cases the audience wonders how on earth the main character is going to solve all of the problems that are building up. Contiguous inciting incidents can be solved by one conclusion which can be swift. When this happens after a long build up it can be very satisfying and exciting for an audience. Set it up, create a turning point (or more than one) and then mop it up.

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