The 7 elements of creative writing are character, plot, setting, point of view, style, theme, and literary devices. Almost everyone agrees on what the elements are, though not on how much or how often they should be used. Even if you don’t plan on using any or all of these elements in your writing, you’ll write better if you know what these tools are and how to use them.


At a minimum, characters do the work of the plot in a story. At best, the characters feed and drive the entire story. The characters can be human or not, animated or not. Readers identify with the characters, engaging enough with their fictional worlds to cheer for the hapless underdogs and hate the nasty villains.


A special kind of suspension of disbelief occurs in readers’ minds when they are reading and enjoying stories. This suspension can only be achieved when the writing has verisimilitude, which means credibility. A reader who constantly has reason to question the validity of a character as written cannot enter a state of suspension of disbelief. Therefore, the characters must be authentic to attract and bond with the readers.

Our connection with the characters can be deep. Think of the many memorable characters you have read about who still seem more real than some people you know. Who doesn’t carry a bit of Holden Caulfield’s alienation and confusion with them forever after reading? The Guardian in the Rye?

Keep in mind that you can find inspiration for a character anywhere. You can make a character out of anything. An inanimate character, like the hat in Miller’s Crossing, can say a lot of things without having a mouth.

No laborious plots, please

Simply put, the plot is what happens in the story. Generally, plots follow a single arc. When most writers start writing, they have already been exposed to many plots through popular culture. Every book, movie and song has a plot: something happens. Even game shows have plots. Develop the habit of looking through the surface and sensing the underlying skeleton of the plot in almost everything.

It has been alleged that only 7 plots exist in English literature. Reading any good collection of Shakespeare plays will teach you those 7 plots. As an alternative, several good books on the plot are available.

concise old saw

An old simplified but concise saying about plot is that there is only one plot and to write it, you find a character and set them on a quest. Another old saying goes that if your plot is lagging in pacing or tension, kill someone (a character, of course) to spice things up a bit. Old saws, as a rule, should be viewed with deep suspicion and used whenever they are at hand.


The stage is where your story takes place. You can have one or several, depending on the needs of your story. The setting can be broad, such as John Irving’s use of the place in Until I find you, which is so pronounced that one or two European cities can be real characters. On the contrary, its environment can be the living room or the kitchen. Just think of the plays you’ve seen that take place on just a few sets, like in Arsenic and old lace.

The best advice on using this element is to ask yourself how a specific setting will underscore the themes of your work. Are you using a quest plot that would better support the changing locations of the journey? If your story is about an initiation, a story of personal growth, then the setting will seem less important because that kind of quest mostly takes place within the character’s mind.

I want to believe!

The only way to make a wrong setting is to use a setting for no reason other than that you like it. A superficially selected setting will sound bogus to readers, so don’t do it. If you write in the Romance genre, wildly romantic settings are appropriate. If you write science fiction, be sure to write like a scientist first so that your scenarios are believable even though your world is obviously imaginary. For some fine snippets of the world of believable science fiction, read anything by Robert L Heinlein.

Point of view

In general, we know that the story grows with the narrative, so the reliability, or lack of it, in the point of view quickly becomes an essential tool. The points of view of many liars have been cleverly used to tell a story, such as Tom Sawyer in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finnwith remarkable efficiency (Tom’s many explanations to adults).

When determining which point of view to use, first determine whose story you are telling. Is your narrator the best character to tell the story? conceived lolita written from any perspective but Humbert’s! Do you need your narrator to lie or tell the truth?

There are several options of viewpoint types: first personme and me; second person, your; more commonly third personhe, she, Jeanne, Richard; third person omniscient which includes seeing the minds of all the characters; and finally third person limited that tells the whole story through a character.

Choose the point of view that best presents the story you want to tell the way you want to tell it. Don’t be afraid to try to write your story from different points of view until you find the right one. Just don’t be afraid to try anything in your writing because no matter how long you’ve been writing or how much you’ve written, it’s meant to be a lifelong journey where you’re constantly discovering new things about yourself as a writer and about this great old world. you write about (or from, in the case of SciFi).


The style is slippery to grasp because it’s made of thin, smoky ephemeral things that are clearly existing but also difficult to understand. It is a signature within his writing and drawn from his vocabulary, syntax, rhythm, voice, and mood. It can be imitated, but it is mostly a natural byproduct of you. It defies most efforts to manipulate it. It is also as individual as DNA. Read anything by Kurt Vonnegut, and then follow that up with something by Ernest Hemingway and you’ll easily see that each writer is brilliant and insanely talented and as different from the other as possible.

Changing your style, if you like, can be accomplished with such gadgets as raised diction and specific themes. It’s even possible to imitate authors with more pronounced styles, but no one has suggested that it makes you a better writer. Some freelancers claim they can control their styles, switching from one style to another as their assignments demand, but again, it’s an invention for a purpose, not an actual modification of personal style. Be yourself. It is easier and helps to write better.


Theme in fiction is not limited to any specific set of ideas. Your theme(s) refers to the ‘moral of the story’ or the most important ideas of your story, such as murder, betrayal, honesty and compassion. Theme is how to settle into that if you deliberately use a certain theme with the intention of making a given point rather than because it naturally fits into your story, that piece of writing will likely fail.

Show me do not tell me

The problem with premeditated and pedantic use of the subject is that you invariably sound preachy. Art does not preach because art teaches from the inside out, changing people in meaningful ways through the inner experience of learning, without yelling at them until they agree because they are tired of listening.

Readers like to decide for themselves what their story means or says about the world at large. Readers don’t like to be lectured or obviously told how to interpret events in their writing. don’t show it without counting. Lead, if you must lead consciously, by example. Tell your story with as little of your own biases and interference as possible. Garbage plots that include heavy-handed themes. You will know when you find yourself with a heavy hand by the exaggerated need to continue explaining why.

Ironically, no matter what topic you think you’ve written about, your readers will decide for themselves what you meant anyway. And that is the miracle and the majesty of art.

Literary resources

There is no deus ex machina

The first literary device was called deus ex machine and was used in ancient Greek theater. He was literally a divine character who was lowered onto the stage by ropes when the hero needed to be rescued or when immediate divine intervention was needed to resolve the plot of the story. Even the Greeks who invented it knew it was corny. We use the phrase, deus ex machinenow to include all sorts of cheesy, made-up plot resolutions.

Other types of literary devices include, but are not limited to, allusion, diction, epigraph euphemism, foreshadowing, imagery, metaphor/simile, and personification. You may not plan on using any of these, but remember that everything ever written contains these devices, and they are extremely useful for writers. As with all tools, use the right one at the right time, but don’t use a device in place of good writing or else you’ll be corny too.

How well were you paying attention?

We know our readers are always paying attention, but some of you like to get tested, so here is a test about this article. Responders are not hidden just below the questions, so for his honor, without deceit.

1. It’s a great idea to use deus ex machina to solve plot dilemmas.

2. Images are only used in animated stories.

3. It’s a surefire idea to use a strong preachy theme in your stories.

4. Ancient Greek playwrights invented diction.

5. Foreshadowing is a very good brand of eyeshadow.

6. Fire is one of the 7 elements of fiction.

7. You must use each of the 7 fictional elements at least once per story.

8. Your author had a lot of fun making up this quiz.

Answers: F, F, F, F, F, F, F, T

The 7 elements of creative writing and how to implement them in your writing

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