The 4 Basic Elements of a Story

Writing is like baking a cake.

There are thousands of different kinds of cakes, thousands of different ways to make them. But the basic ingredients remain the same: flour, sugar, eggs, butter…

So what are the basic ingredients every story should have?

Baking A Sponge Cake Story

• Plot
• Characters
• Setting
• Theme

1. The plot is the flour of the story.
It’s the basis, the foundation — more than just a chain of events. A plot needs conflict and a satisfying resolution. Throw in a mediocre, cliched or predictable plot and your story will sink like an undercooked sponge and utterly bore your reader’s tastebuds.

2. The characters are the sugar.
They add flavour, but that’s not all: they add volume and keep your story fresh. Characters provide leavening, ensuring that the plot doesn’t come out tough and chewy. If your characters are flat and unappealing, no one will care what happens to them.

3. The setting is the butter.
It glues the characters and plot together, it provides texture and depth. A lumpy, inconsistent setting will make your readers wonder whether they’re reading a story, or eating badly mixed dough.

4. And the theme is the egg.
It’s the hidden ingredient without which everything would fall apart. The theme binds all the ingredients together into one smooth story, elevating your humble cake from mere entertainment to something sublime.

Master the art of mixing these four ingredients together, and you’re on the road to story-making greatness.

Don’t forget to garnish as desired.

Images courtesy of stock.xchng.

16 thoughts on “The 4 Basic Elements of a Story

    • Haha, yes! I’ve been toying around with the idea of writing a few more actual blog posts, rather than fridayflashes — a few ideas on world-building rummaging around my head. But I always feel a bit bashful, because who am I after all to talk about writing?

      • Don’t be silly! I’d love to hear your thoughts, and I’m sure I am not the only one. Besides, all writing exercises the muscle, so… why not?

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  2. I can see the comparison. The great difference is that accentuating any one of the four elements can rend a story great. More eggs than flower will never yield a good cake. For story’s, it’s all execution. We’re much more than ovens.

    • It’s all about trial and error! What I love about baking is then you get to eat and eat and eat afterwards, especially if the cakes come out less than perfect (“I’m doing everyone a favour by eating these less-than-perfect cakes!”) :-)

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