A story, according to Aristotle, has an emotionally engaging originating event, an escalation of conflict and a resolution. It is no secret that a story requires characters, meaningful choices that determine the outcome of the story, a setting that’s integral to the narrative and reader empathy. However, it’s important to understand that a story is a transformation unveiled, either the transformation of a character or transformation of a situation. Understanding the fundamentals of a story helps you become a better storyteller and discussed below are the essential ingredients of a good story.
The beginning of the story should be able to capture the attention of the reader as well as orient them to the mood, tone and setting of the story. It should also introduce the reader to the protagonist that they will worry about, care about and invest emotionally into. This can be achieved by giving the reader a glimpse of what a normal life is like for the protagonist. The normal life doesn’t have to be free of pain.
The crisis is the irrevocable and unavoidable event that sets the events of the story in motion. And while it will turn the character’s world upside down, it isn’t a crisis that the protagonist can solve immediately. Depending on the genre, the event that alters your character’s world may be assignment to an unsolvable case, a new quest that leads to new lands or a revelation that he’s not who he always thought he was. In every case, the normal life of the character is forever altered.
In every story there are two types of characters i.e. putty people and pebble people. The main character of your story should always be a putty person. Putty people are altered by crisis. Try as hard as they might to get back to their original shape, being thrown into a crisis changes them completely. Their attempts fail and as such they are different at the end of the story as compared to the beginning of the story. Pebble people are like set pieces that don’t change even when a crisis occurs.
The protagonist makes a life changing discovery at the climax of the story. The discovery is made through wit and grit, and ultimately helps reshape the life and circumstances of the putty person forever.
As you frame your story, you need to decide whether your character will succumb to death or despair, or they will transform into a more mature person. The genre sometimes dictates the transformation. For instance, horror stories often end in death. Nevertheless, the change marks the culmination of the story.