Writing Basics

5 Things Every Story Needs

When starting to write a story, there are FIVE aspects that must be either thought out, drawn out, or have some kind of idea for each before you start hitting that keyboard or uncapping your pen.

So here’s my list of what every story needs, so you can start organizing that imagination of yours and get a well thought out story come out of it!

1  A Plot

Of course any story, whether it’s a full-fledged novel or a comic strip, must have a plot line. The sole purpose of any story is to…tell a story…and to do that is through the plot.

A plot line is a sequence of events that advances through the story to an end result.

The basic plot line follows a sort of line, the most traditional plot structure shown below:


While most stories follow this basic line, some are more complex and so have their own line that can look very different. The line could also have different length point, such as a longer introduction and shorter rise of action, or a long climax and a very short resolution. There are many ways on how this can work, and all depends on how the story is written by the choices of the author…you!

2  Characters

One of the most important aspects of a story are the beloved characters! Whether they are the meaningful protagonist or the evil antagonist, all sort of characters are important. Whether they are major, minor, that one random guy on the street, or the little girl the protagonist gave his ice cream to. Each character had a purpose, and each character is equally important.

There are so many types of roles that characters can fill, and many different combinations. As the author it is our job to produce these characters, give them a name, a purpose, backstory, and a goal that they much reach.

Nothing kills a story more than a Mary Jane character or a badly written antagonist!

3  Setting

The setting is the place and time that the story takes place. These two aspects depends on the type of story and changes as the story goes on.

For example, the setting of a story takes place in modern time California during the summer time. As the story continues on though, going forward into the next season, the author will take account that it is no longer summer time and instead the fall time, changing the characters clothes and describing the weather to fit the new setting.

Also take into account any different environments, such as if the character moved from location to location (for example from home to school and vise versa).

Keep it so your readers don’t get confused on the movement between different settings, and it always helps to describe in detail to set the mood or area where something important may happen to make it more memorable.

The setting is the easiest to neglect and the easiest to overdo.

But when done right the setting drives the plot through time and place and gives the reader a better picture of what is going around the characters and drive the story forward.

4  Detail

Detail detail detail!

Like before, details are easily overlooked, just like the details of a setting. But when details overall are overlooked, then you are looking at a very bland, grey scaled story that will easily bore and send readers away. You want to grab the readers attention…and keep that attention through the entire story. And to do that means to have plenty of detail!

For instance, lets take a look at a couple examples, starting with one that described a setting:

Without much detail –

“At the treeline where the ground was overgrown with brush, laid a man wrapped in a bush away from the campsite.”

With good amount of detail –

“Off from the tent, where the trees gathered close together and the ground was overgrown with brush and wild grass, laid a man wrapped in the sharp branches of a bush not far from the small campsite.”

Now let’s look at describing a person in detail:

Without much detail –

“His face and neck were burned badly, leaving a pale scar across his face. The wrinkles around his eyes made him look old and tired. His eyes narrowed at Calvin, and a grin appeared on his unshaven face.”

With good amount of detail –

“…his face and neck was burned severely, leaving a pale mark across his sun beaten face. The wrinkles around his eyes made him look feeble and fatigued. His eyes narrowed at the sight of Calvin, and a sly grin appeared on his unshaven face.”

Detail is one of those things that can take time and effort. So practice is key with this one.

5  Motivation

The last aspect that you need in a story is of course the motivation, the sole purpose that drives the characters through the plot line, amongst the settings and details.

What drives the protagonist? What are their goals? Ambitions?

Think about your characters in this one, and think about what their motivation is.

Is your protagonist a little boy who strives to find his long lost father?

Is your hero a self taught swordsman who wishes to save the princess?

This even goes for your antagonist! What are their motivations?

Not all evil doers do evil just to say their evil. They all have a motivation.

Is your antagonist motivated by revenge? Hatred? Glory or power?

You as the writer decides this ! But know that the motivation for your characters corresponds with the stories plot line, and if they don’t line up with each other then you will have some very confused readers

So make sure that your characters motivation link up with your plot!


So there you have it!

The 5 basic things that every story needs!

  • Plot
  • Characters
  • Setting
  • Detail
  • Motivation

Some of these take some time to really grind out and get a hang of, some even may take some practice.

But when these are all done right, then you are on the right track to producing a great piece of work that will get readers attention…and keep them reading!


Happy writing!


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