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The Seven Elements Of A Dynamic Story Or Book

Updated on January 1, 2014

There Are Stories and Then There Are Holy Cow Stories

On a good day of writing I am happy if I have written one sentence that deserves “holy cow” status. On a great day of writing I will achieve that lofty goal in an entire paragraph. But to reach that pinnacle for an entire short story, or heaven forbid a novel….that, my friends, is the stuff of legends. Perhaps that’s why the literary masters are considered masters, because they are able to sustain greatness for 100,000 words or more.

Those of us who are mere mortals have our work cut out for us. Still, there are guidelines that we can follow, common ingredients that you will find in all of the great works of literature. What follows, then, are seven elements that seem to be common in all great writings. They do not guarantee greatness but they certainly will help you to at least approach the outskirts of greatness.

Give your readers something unique
Give your readers something unique | Source

GREAT ENTERTAINMENT VALUE

Here’s the problem with entertainment value: what is entertaining for one person may not be entertaining for another. Those who enjoy mysteries may not find a fantasy novel entertaining. Those who enjoy lengthy, reflective prose may not be entertained by whimsical free form. Still, the great pieces of literature all contain this nebulous quality. To a wide audience they are considered great entertainment.

How do you judge if your writing is entertaining? Well, the first thing to realize is that you, the writer, cannot determine this. You are too close to your work. Enlist the aid of several trusted readers who will give an honest appraisal of your work. Only then can you receive feedback that can be relied upon.

ORIGINALITY TO SPARE

Talk about Mission Impossible….creating an original work is a seemingly impossible task. All of the themes have been taken, right? Good vs evil has been done to death, right? Name a moral dilemma and it has been written about, so how in the name of Hemingway can any writer hope to find an original idea?

Well for sure most, if not all, themes are derivations of themes that have been written about often, but your approach to that theme can be original. I’m a huge mystery fan. I probably have read thousands of mystery novels, and the basic theme is the same for all of them. A crime is committed and the good guy tries to solve the crime and bring justice upon the land. End of story! And yet every year I am treated to a writer who finds a new way to approach that mystery formula, and when I find that writer I stand in awe.

Appeal to the five senses when writing
Appeal to the five senses when writing | Source

ANSWERS A WHAT IF QUESTION

The literary world is filled with novels that answer a “what if” question. Think about it and you will see the truth in that statement. What if dinosaurs are cloned? What if a respected white lawyer defended a black man of a rape charge in the Deep South during the Great Depression? What if there was a killer Great White shark threatening a coastal town? What if it were possible to travel in time?

Make your “what if” question clear and then lead your readers on a jolly good adventure in answer of that question. Hook them with the question and you will then hook them for the entirety of your story or book.

APPEALS TO THE FIVE SENSES

We all share the same five senses. We all experience the world, and life in general, through those senses. Highly successful authors understand that and they write their stories to those five senses.

A great writer can paint a scene that the readers can see in their mind. A great writer can have their readers smelling the scene, tasting the scene, feeling the scene and hearing the scene. This is why the works of so many great writers are easily adaptable to motion pictures.

Never lose sight of this important aspect of writing. Write to the commonalities that we all share. Write so that the five senses of your readers come alive through your words. If you can do that you will have taken a huge step towards becoming dynamic.

Appeal to a mass audience
Appeal to a mass audience | Source

GREAT EMOTIONAL FOCUS

If your writing is met with a collective yawn from your readers you have definitely missed the boat. Emotions are the engine that propels a story, and we are not talking about hum-drum emotions; no, we are talking about intense reactions to your written words.

As a writer you should be aiming for intense emotional reactions, reactions that only come from fear, ecstasy, hate, rage or love. Once you have awakened those emotions in your readers you will have achieved that which few writers achieve: an emotional bond with your audience.

INCLUDES A UNIQUE ELEMENT

The word unique means “existing as the only one or as the sole example.” That definition pretty much puts in perspective this important element of writing.

In 1988 Thomas Harris wrote “Silence of the Lambs.” Good vs evil, right? A theme that has been done to death over the centuries….but….Mr. Harris did something that few, if any, writers have done in the past. He took a character who was so incredibly evil, so diabolical, so inhumane, and he made him likeable. Hannibal Lecter was the personification of evil and yet he was a guy who would be fascinating to talk to….just don’t let him anywhere near the silverware. J

That, folks, is unique! If you can manage to execute the way Mr. Harris did then you will really have something worth discussing on Oprah.

APPEALS TO A MASS AUDIENCE

A “holy cow” story has the ability to step over the lines of one particular genre and appeal to readers who enjoy difference genres. When you have achieved this element you will have achieved the Nirvana of writing.

An interesting side note to this element is that some of the truly great books that have been written over the years actually defy categorization. They appeal to such a huge throng of people that it is practically impossible to say that their work is a mystery or a romance or an action/adventure.

Have you read “The Horse Whisperer?” What genre is it? Have you read “The Old Man and the Sea?” What genre would you place that masterpiece in? I have no doubt that you can think of a book or two that refuses to be hemmed in by the constraints of a genre. In other words, they possess mass appeal.

Now Go Write It

So now you have been given the knowledge; all you have to do now is write that masterpiece. Yes, I was being somewhat facetious. If it were that easy we all would be doing worldwide book signings.

Still, knowledge is power and you now possess some knowledge perhaps you did not have prior to this article. Take that knowledge and begin to build your story or book. Work with each of the elements. Toss in a pinch of this and a tablespoon of that until the taste is just right. Serve it up, steaming hot, to your audience and see what their reaction is; keep playing with the ingredients until you have perfected the recipe and then sit back and savor the experience. When you have all seven of these elements working together then you will have reached heights you never dreamed possible in writing.

2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

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    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you L.M....I have to disagree with you a bit...you are a writer; not an aspiring writer. As for that book: life is full of surprises.

    • L.M. Hosler profile image

      L.M. Hosler 3 years ago

      What a great lesson in writing. Excellent information for aspiring writers like me, although I doubt I will ever write a book but the information is good for writing articles also. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Dianna, today is a lazy day for me. All that had to be done is done, so now i'll play catch up with my to do list. Thank you and have a great weekend.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      Seven elements of strength for all writers! Thanks for sharing and I am keeping this top of mind while I write. Hope your weekend is off to a good start, Bill.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Very exciting Deb; best wishes on the journey and thank you.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Ryem, I try....thank you!

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks for the guidance for what I have just begun...

    • Ryem profile image

      Ryem 3 years ago from Maryland

      Bill, these tips are great. You always write helpful, thought provoking hubs!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm happy to hear you say that, Flourish. Thank you so much for being here so often and have a wonderful weekend.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      Excellent pointers here, Bill. I'll be coming back to this one! Sharing and voting up +++.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Seafarer, Happy New Year to you as well and thanks for the visit. Emotional response...much tougher to do than it is to plan. Good luck with your work-in-progress.

    • Seafarer Mama profile image

      Karen Szklany Gault 3 years ago from New England

      Hi Bill,

      Happy New Year! Thank you for this very useful hub, full of savory treats! Love the videos, especially. The one thing I know I need to work on in the works-in-progress "on my table" at the moment is the element of emotional response....that's a gem to make sure I cut well with my words.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      vkwok, you are living proof of this article. :)

    • vkwok profile image

      Victor W. Kwok 3 years ago from Hawaii

      So right about this advice. Thanks, Bill!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Sha, I'm laughing...I've talked to the characters too. LOL Glad to know I'm not crazy.

      Thank you dear friend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Dora, you already have shown great progress. Best wishes to you in 2014 and thank you.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      DDE, you said it very well and I agree. Thank you for that comment.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Lizzie, good to see you and Happy New Year. Thank you for your kind words. I hope to see more of you in 2014.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Kimberly, I always love to hear someone is bookmarking one of my pieces. Best wishes and good luck with your writing.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Love from Oly, Cris, and thank you!

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 3 years ago from Central Florida

      Great advice, once again Bill. A good can't-put-it-down book contains all these elements. When the reader finds himself smack-dab in the middle of the story, charged with emotion and 'talking' to the characters, the writer has done his job well.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 3 years ago from The Caribbean

      Your Hannibal Lecter illustration really drives home the point. Something unique is really the big one. I keep trying. Hope I show lots of progress in the New Year. Thank you.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 3 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Writing has many elements and the choice of words changes everything in what one actually writes the mode plays another great part of a writer's mind. Interesting and useful indeed.

    • LaThing profile image

      LaThing 3 years ago from From a World Within, USA

      I am doing the same, Kimberly!

      Wonderful work, Billy. Very helpful for us novice writers. What I love about your hubs is that you are always there to help other. Thanks for sharing. Will see you around :)

      Take care, friend.....

    • KimberlyLake profile image

      Kimberly Lake 3 years ago from California

      I am bookmarking and sharing this one. Voted up and awesome. Thank you for sharing! :)

    • CrisSp profile image

      CrisSp 3 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      Taking everything in from this hub...thank you Bill.

      Voting all the way up and across.

      Love from the sky~

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Alicia. If I do those things then I am satisfied. :)

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Hacyone, thanks for the visit and the following; the series you mention is indeed a good one.

    • Halcyone profile image

      Halcyone 3 years ago from San Francisco

      I've read Character Emotion and Viewpoint - glad to see it's on here. The whole series (I think Reader's Digest perhaps makes them?) is really good for any would-be writer.

      Nice hub!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This hub is very valuable for story writers, Bill. You have so much excellent advice to share, and you hubs are always very inspirational!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Faith, you "faithfully" always stop by and I am so grateful for it. Thank you and Happy New Year to you and your family.

      blessings always

      bill

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

      Dear Bill, thank you for your relentless efforts to get us to writing that dynamic story or book, and these seven elements are so crucial to understand and then just do it!

      Happy New Year and I hope the new year holds many new blessings and much love,

      Faith Reaper

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      i will definitely get one and give it a try, Nell. :)

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

      Thanks Billy, yes they are well worth reading, I am on the eighth book so far, now waiting for the rest! lol!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Nell, I will have to read her works. I have not heard of her but now you have "wetted my whistle." :) Thanks for he recommendation, Happy New Year and of course, thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Sue, Happy New Year to you my dear friend. That masterpiece you speak of is still waiting to be written. Hopefully the one I am now working on; if not, I'm sure there will be another. :) Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Jo my friend, we are all fledglings until we sign that huge contract and adoring fans clamor for our autograph. :) Thank you and may your 2014 be all that you wish it to be.

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Theresa, I believe I was diagramming sentences about that time. LOL Thank God I learned to love writing after the nuns had their way with me. :) Thank you and blessings always.

      bill

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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Michael my friend, blessings, to me, is a universal language we can all understand. I wish you peace and love in 2014, and may our friendship last a lifetime.

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Will, if it helps then I am happy. Thank you for stopping by and Happy New Year to you Sir!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

      This is so true Billy, my favorite author of all time has to be Diana Gabaldon, they are making a series in America as we speak. Its called Outlander and long story short, a wartime nurse falls through the stones, like stonehenge, and ends up back in Scotland 1745. Here she is taken in by the Scots even though she is English, long story, and has to marry Jamie Fraser. It is pure genius. Why? because the real life humor is what makes it flow. not silly jokes or trying to be funny, but real life funny, like we find ourselves doing when circumstances are weird, and the characters smell taste feel and have depth. If you have read her books they are full of history, love, humor and battle, and are awesome, now thats who I would love to be like! lol!

    • profile image

      Sueswan 3 years ago

      Hi Bill,

      Happy New Year!

      "Never lose sight of this important aspect of writing. Write to the commonalities that we all share. Write so that the five senses of your readers come alive through your words."

      You have written a recipe of success for a great writer. I will leave the writing of the next masterpiece to great writers such as yourself.

      Voted up++++

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Bill, you've given some great examples of works with the perfect recipe, to capture the imagination of the readers. More priceless information for us fledglings. :)

      Very useful.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      As you know I am an essay and poem person; probably haven't written four stories in my lifetime..... except in middle school. Oh what struggles my English teachers and I had about writing "stories." Where were you when I really needed you? Excellent hub as always. Blessings. Theresa

    • Michael-Milec profile image

      Michael-Milec 3 years ago

      Yes Bill, my friend, I do wish you success and prosperity as sources of inspiration bring favorably to conclusion work you aimed to have done by March. And by the way " blessing" is a territory upon which is all available for us to reach as we follow the right path-- you are on as previously has reported your progress , thus blessing is yours ; in your words best of "luck".

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 3 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      I'll have to do a checklist on my short stories!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Michael my friend, greetings! A daunting task for sure but I am determined to finish this novel by March. Wish me luck.

      Thank you Sir and I hope this first day of 2014 has been a good one for you.

      blessings always

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Perfect timing indeed, Donna. Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Good evening Ann! Procrastination is not my problem but technology is. I have the hardest time understanding computer instructions. Bev has to do all that for me. I feel like an elementary student learning calculus. Hopeless is the first word that comes to mind.

      So I understand. Hey, I'm a writer. I never claimed to be anything other than that. :)

      Have a wonderful evening my friend and thank you.

      bill

    • cygnetbrown profile image

      Cygnet Brown 3 years ago from Springfield, Missouri

      Considering that I am currently working on my second draft of one of my novels, this article has perfect timing. Well done, Bill.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 3 years ago from SW England

      Holy Cow! Great advice; now we should all be off to write that perfect novel.

      How about writing one on non-procrastination?!! I often tell myself I haven't got time but the truth is, my time management is rubbish!

      I'm glad I'm not the only one who can't do the 'technology'; everyone gives the impression it's simple and that makes me feel totally inadequate. My 3 year old grandchildren know more about it than I do!

      Enjoy your evening, bill. Ann

    • Michael-Milec profile image

      Michael-Milec 3 years ago

      Hello Bill.

      Right on, great knowledge, wonderful advice ; a 100.000 words or more in one book each new/different . Huh. Thank God it's only a first day of the year.

      Awesome.

      Be of good cheer.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Joelle. I actually have an ebook already to go, but I have to wait for Bev to download it on Kindle. I'm brain dead regarding technology and uploading and all that, so Bev is the one who does that....and she works full-time....so finding the time for that ebook is the big issue right now. I appreciate the thoughts and Happy Writing to you as well my friend.

    • kidscrafts profile image

      kidscrafts 3 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      I know that you are writing a book but with all the hubs full of advices on writing you have plenty of materials to produce an e-book about how to write!

      In each of your hubs I discover new things I would not have thought of!

      Happy writing in 2014!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Sounds great Sheila. Good luck with that new novel. I'm about halfway through my current one and I'm trying to follow my own advice. LOL Happy New Year to you and thanks!

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      sheilamyers 3 years ago

      Yet another hub full of great advice. Within the next few weeks, I'll be sitting down to start on the next novel in my series. I'll keep all of your advice from your hubs in mind as I write.

    • profile image

      dragonflycolor 3 years ago

      Yes, sir!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      dragonflycolor, I get my kicks knowing these articles help other writers. I look forward to your next article...now get busy young lady. :) Happy New Year.

    • profile image

      dragonflycolor 3 years ago

      Emotion is great to connect people with and I am excited to try this out in future hubs. Thanks for being such a great motivator! TO THE WRITING MACHINE I GO!

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Lisa, you make me laugh. I was already 100% sure your book wouldn't suck. Give yourself some credit and start believing in your abilities...I do for sure.

      Happy New Year my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      DJ, we need to tie that thing around your waist or neck so you'll always have it. LOL Thanks for dropping by on the holiday. Happy New Year to you my friend.

    • Lisawilliamsj profile image

      Lisa Williams 3 years ago

      Great advice, Bill! I will definitely keep these tips in mind as I continue on my book writing journey! I am currently taking your advice on your previous Hub and creating a back story for one of my main characters. I feel very confident that my book is about to get a whole lot more interesting, which will definitely help its entertainment value!! Thank you so much for all of the advice you give. I am 100% sure that thanks to your advice my book will not suck when I am finally finished! Happy New Year Bill =)

    • profile image

      DJ Anderson 3 years ago

      Word choice. It boils down to 'word choice'.

      So many things to remember. And, I happen to have a broken 'rememberer'. So, I have notes in my notebook to help me remember to take advantage of these super tips. Now, if I could only find that notebook......... ;-)

      DJ. Happy New Year!!!!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Jackie, if your stories invoke feelings then you have done something right. Yes, that is the best compliment I can think of.

      Thank you as always and Happy New Year.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

      It's not just the mood we must get in to write but the mode? That is true, I do my best writing when I become a part of the story in my mind and it is so odd that many people say they feel a part of my stories (in poem or whatever form) and isn't that the best compliment we can get? Thumbs up on his one! ^

    • billybuc profile image
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      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Janine, I'm preaching to the choir when you read one of these. Happy New Year my friend and thank you.

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 3 years ago from New York, New York

      You truly hit the nail on the head with all seven elements and will say that I couldn't agree more with you. And I always love how you end these writing articles will telling us to go write. Seriously, you don't have to twist my arm! Happy New Year Bill to you, Bev and the family, too!