Writing Elements – Is One More Important than Another?

There’s a lot of information on the elements of writing.

You have characters, setting, point-of-view, style, theme, plot, and even literary devices.

But you also have things like readability, consequences, and uniqueness.

Could you choose which of these elements is the most important?

It’s tough, isn’t it?

Well, I recently read an article titled, What Is the Most Important Element when writing a Story? and the answer became simple.

The most important element to writing fiction is the WHY.

You can have all the above mentioned elements in your story, but if the why is missing, the story will fall flat. The reader won’t bother turning the pages.

So, what’s the WHY?

The why is usually the inciting incident.

It’s the reason you wrote the story and the reason the reader will bother reading it.

According to Studiobinder, “The inciting incident should have a snowball effect. Let the story grow from the one thing that goes wrong (or right) like a snowball would if it rolled down a hill.” (1)

The Lucky Baseball: My Story in a Japanese-American Internment Camp is a middle grade story that has a significant inciting incident.

The protagonist is a nice boy of Japanese descent. At the outbreak of WWII, he and his family are taken to an internment camp. The protagonist’s life is turned upside down.

Readers are immediately grabbed and want to know what happens to the boy.

Keep in mind that the inciting incident doesn’t have to be a bomb going off and destroying the protagonist’s home and family. It could be something simple that snowballs into something huge.

Sleepless in Seattle is one of my favorite movies, but the inciting incident doesn’t really seem to be of much consequence at the moment. Tom Hank’s character talks on the phone to a radio show psychologist about how difficult it is to cope with the loss of his wife.

While it’s a touching scene, it’s the aftermath of that call that creates the snowball effect.

Women, including Meg Ryan’s character, hear the conversation on the radio and immediately all want to be the woman who heals Tom Hank’s character’s broken heart.

This turns the protagonist’s life upside down.

According to another article, What is the Most Important Element When Writing a Story?, “As a novelist, you have to hone in on the event that brings the story into being and why your reader should care. That why is the question at the heart of every novel. The why is one of the first things readers look for when we pick up a book.” (2)

While every element in writing is important in that when combined, they create a synergy that can create a powerful and memorable story, it’s the why that’s at the heart of every story.

References:

(1) https://www.studiobinder.com/blog/inciting-incident-examples/

(2) https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-most-important-element-when-writing-a-story-And-are-characters-more-important-than-anything-else-What-do-you-look-for-in-a-good-book

(3) https://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/there-are-no-rules/the-7-essential-elements-of-a-bestselling-novel

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