Sanderson Lecture 2 – Elements of Story

In this lecture Sanderson provides the fundamental elements of story. He breaks it up into five. First there is Plot, Setting, and Character. These elements are held together by Conflict. The final element is prose. After describing these elements he then gave an example of brainstorming for stories.

He defines Plot as a promise to the reader, questions, and some idea of progress. Setting is the laws of the universe that you are creating. You emphasize the things that are different about this world.

A good character is sympathetic in that she is like us. In addition, the character is active in the story. He “protags.” In other words he is active in forwarding the story. Finally the character is confident.

storyYou find conflict in the interaction between character, setting, and/or plot.

Finally, prose includes how you tell the story. This will include elements of style, “floweryness,” and tense.

The course will spend a couple lectures on each of these elements.

Now here is the approach that he takes in creating stories. First, stat with a character and/or a setting. Then you just start playing with them. Here is and example:

First, what is the age and gender of the protagonist? What is his or her job? What is the genre of the story? Now, let’s give him something he is hiding. Now start filling in the details of the story.

Let’s say we have a 36 year old male preacher. Let’s say it is an urban fantasy. OK, simply a preacher might be boring so let’s liven it up. Let’s make him a wizard. Maybe he is a member of an ancient society of demon hunters. What is he hiding? Let’s say he is mad at God, or maybe he wants to quit, but can’t for some reason. Maybe he stole money from his church and he is going to get fired, but the only way out of the society is death.

OK, so now we have the beginnings of a story. Now we would move to setting and start to fill that in by looking specifically about what is different about this world. Let’s say this world is like our own only demons and angels are active in battle, but they need some help or aid from human beings.

Sanderson suggests that you start by getting 2 character and think about 1 plot hook and 1 setting hook. These hooks are big pieces that affect or cause the story to move forward.

Sanderson has provided a good way to describe story and how to put a good one together. I look forward to how he fleshes out his understanding in the lectures.

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