Toothless Letter ENo, not the classical elements. Although earth, air, fire and water (plus aether/quintessence/spirit; or chinese metal, wood, fire, earth, water and chi; or the massive collection of earth, air, fire, water, lightning, thunder, wood, metal, psychic and chaos) are pretty good, this theme is about storytelling.

So, we’l be talking briefly about the elements of storytelling. I’m not going to go into as much details as the picture below (click on it for link to the original interactive version) it is a great resource and you should go and play around with it.


Most of the elements are getting their own posts this month, we’ve already done C and D, but what else goes into a good story?

These things change from person to person, author to author, reader to reader, and there are masses of books out about how to write a novel, but this is my blog post, so I’m going to list the things that I think a good book needs.

  • Characterisation (see C post)
  • Setting (coming later)
  • Plot (also coming later)

And that’s it. Yeah, I know that there are other things out there, like point of view, theme and voice, but to me those things happen more naturally. For instance all my novels are written in third person. I experiment with first in some shorts, but naturally I write in third.

Voice is important, but it isn’t something that can be taught, so why think about it when writing? You write how you write, and the only way to discover your voice is to keep writing and writing until you find it. I’m sure that I have a voice, but bother if I can explain what it is to anyone.

Theme’s. Quite a few of my books about the craft mention themes, but I never write with one in mind. I never read looking for a theme, and frankly if I do write a theme into a novel I can assure you it’s completely coincidental. I mean, Mechanica Awakening probably has a theme of something about family, loyalty and expanding world views. But it’s not something I ever think about when writing or editing. And certainly not when I’m reading a book.

What you do need for a good book? Great character, interesting setting, and plot/conflict that keep the character’s doing things.

So there you are, my recipe for a book.

What elements do you consider important in a book? How similar are they to mine?