My people! It’s been a while, huh? Today, we are going to discuss setting goals in writing by using the 7 essential storytelling elements. But first, a much-needed but short and sweet update.
Happy New Year! To summarize my time away over the past 11 months: relocated from CA to TX, started a new position with my job, did some traveling, finished my next poetry book (coming soon!), and started a new business venture. Working my 9-5 and the other business venture, as well as settling into my new home in a new state had your girl stretched thin. I’ve been learning not to overextend myself, so the blog took a backseat while I got my new life together. And that is on giving yourself grace. 🔑
And with a new year comes reflections and new goals, so while considering my own goals for 2023, I began thinking about how useful goal-setting is for the writing process. I realized a super easy way to set goals while writing your book is to set them according to the 7 essential storytelling elements. At least one goal for each element. And I know this might sound like a lot, but it’s not. All we’re really doing is confirming that the important elements of our story are clear and fulfilling their purpose (something we should be doing anyway) by setting goals to ensure that. This guarantees the creation of a story that is both meaningful and compelling.
In this article, we are going to really get to the basics. Defining a story, listing and explaining the 7 essential elements of storytelling, and diving into the use of goal-setting to write your best book! We’ll also discuss something I believe should be the eighth essential element of storytelling. Read on to see what it is!
*This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission if you make a purchase through a link! This helps me provide more content for you, & pay my bills.*
First of All, What is a Story?
A story is a series of events recounted by one person to another; a narrative used to entertain, instruct, or both; usually fictional; can also be moral lessons or used to instill certain values in readers. Stories can be purely for entertainment, meant to teach something, and/or persuasive. And as we may know, stories can also be good or bad.
What Makes a GOOD Story?
A good story both entertains and teaches. Readers may be left with a moral lesson or a new value instilled within them, or their breath is simply taken away by how removed they were from the real world and immersed into the one you created. In order to work this type of magic, you must make sure all 7 essential storytelling elements meet their intended purpose. And you must know your audience – the piece I believe should be the eighth essential element of storytelling. This is where goal-setting comes in.
The Purpose of Setting Goals for Your Story
To make sure you insert purpose into your writing. We create because we love it, and we share our creations hoping others will love them too. You want your readers to receive the full package when they give your work their precious time and have no regrets. Of course, how someone feels about your art is subjective, so it won’t be for everyone, but setting goals helps provide a clear vision of who your work is for so you can create with them in mind. So, let’s go over what each essential storytelling element is supposed to do, how your audience ties in, and examples of goals to set for each one.
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The 7 Essential Storytelling Elements
Setting is the time period and physical location of the events of your story. The setting is typically determined first, and the genre of your book is dictated by it.
A goal for the setting would be making sure no inconsistencies are present. If your story takes place in the 1970s, your characters didn’t post about the disco on Instagram. Another goal could be doing more showing than telling to make the setting clear. Try to immerse the reader into the environment by describing weather, smells, etc. They can know it’s early February by the way a characters blows hot air into their hands when they step outside and walk by a shop displaying Valentine’s Day trinkets in the window. Or they may know it’s the 4th of July as a character sits on the front porch catching whiffs of barbecue on a nearby grill, staring upward as fireworks light up the night sky. Set a goal to put readers where you want them to be rather than outright telling them. Make it fun. Make it magic.
Characters are the people in the story through whom the plot unfolds. The two main character types are protagonists and antagonists – the protagonist being the main character and the antagonist being in direct conflict with them.
A goal to set for the characters would be making sure they show great development. Not every character can be a main character, but give them all a meaningful piece within the story and let readers bear witness to their growth, no matter how small or large their part may be. This strengthens engagement, resulting in a more satisfying journey through your story from beginning to end.
Conflict is the tension, fight, or struggle between two or more characters. Conflict can be between characters (ex: protagonist vs. antagonist), internal (ex: character vs. their own damaging behaviors), or external forces (ex: character vs. zombie apocalypse). The conflict is what fuels the story, okay. It is what influences the plot.
A goal to set for your story’s conflict would be confirming exactly what the character wants and what is preventing them from getting it. You can approach this from the top to the bottom: determine the character’s main goal and what is holding them back, then as you write every chapter, confirm how each one will show this struggle. This also ties in with the goal of moving your plot along.
The plot is the sequence of events in a story. There should be a clear beginning, middle, and end, and change must take place somewhere in the middle.
A goal here can tie in with conflict, as the change that must take place is often shown through whatever conflict is present. Setting a goal to confirm what the major change will be in your story, when it will take place, and determining the result of the change helps with pacing. This, in turn, helps to see how you plan to move the plot along and catch any sections that may feel rushed or dragged.
The theme is the big idea in terms of the main subject or topic being described in the story. It encompasses the key elements of the central idea and the why behind the story.
A goal for the theme would be simply confirming what it is and making sure it remains consistent throughout the entire story to avoid confusing your readers. Determine the purpose of your story, what you want readers to take away from it, and elements that could and should be included to make that happen.
Dialogue is words spoken and unspoken between characters. All dialogue should move the plot forward in some way.
A goal for dialogue would be making sure every character has a distinct voice. You definitely do not want all of your characters to sound the same. Dialogue is a major part of how readers pick up on your characters’ personalities. It creates connection, engagement, and even the potential for relatability which we love. It’s also an amazing way to jazz up your story while simultaneously tying in the display of character development.
The climax is when the main conflict of the story is about to be resolved. This is something the protagonist must face to resolve the narrative and end the story, and should also be the most exciting part!
A goal for the climax could be to pinpoint what you want it to be, when you want it to happen, and what is at stake. You build up the anticipation for this moment by accurately showing the reader how high the stakes are, so when they reach this moment they are on the edge of their seats. Allow this major turning point in the story to live up to expectations – it’s imperative that it does! No pressure, though *wipes forehead*.
*Bonus* Know Your Audience
And here is what I believe should be the eight essential storytelling element: the audience. A large part of writing a book you wish to release to the public is wanting to connect your work with its intended audience. In order to connect with this audience, you have to know who they are, right? So consider who you’re writing this story for. Who do you see gravitating toward it and appreciating it for what it is and what it has to offer? Keep the characteristics, the interests, the demographic, etc. of this audience in mind as you visit each of the 7 essential storytelling elements and set goals to guarantee a story that is made to attract and impress the readers that it’s meant for.
And if you write the type of stories you would want to read, imagine yourself as a casual reader of this book. After you write and take some very important time away from the book before revising / editing, you can review the story with fresh eyes and any inconsistencies you may come across or parts you’re not fond of may definitely be noticed by another reader of your target audience. So, although you are the writer try to review with your “casual reading eyes” to determine whether everything meets your standards. Do you enjoy the story? Does it make sense? Does it get boring or move too fast? Remove your bias and use yourself as an example of the type of reader you want to love your book. It’s not an easy task, but once you nail it down it goes a longgggg way.
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I hope this article is helpful as you set out to crush new writing goals for the new year! Please share it with a friend and / or leave a comment. I would love to hear from you all! Please also feel free to share any topics you would like for me to address in future posts. Let’s make our dreams come true and continue to tell all of our stories in 2023 and beyond.
Until next time, aew