August 22, 2014

The Elements of Fiction


In his classic (and very much recommended) The Art of Fiction, John Gardner made the statement that the elements of fiction are, like the words in our language, finite. I wondered if he was right, and set out to see if I could isolate all the elements that I considered would go to make up good fiction.

Initially I only meant to make myself an elaborate cheat-sheet, but this search for elements soon took on a life of its own, and would not let me go until I had read a host of books on the craft and compiled nearly 400 pages of writer quotes on what makes fiction work, grouped into what I considered the various fictional elements.

In the end I isolated some ninety fiction-elements. Grated, these are my take on what a fictional element is, but I share these views with many professional editors and writers so I’m not completely off base.

For those who are interested, I have also created a Kindle version of the entire compendium that I would be happy to email you if you drop me a line at

Note: this is a fairly large book (400 pages—1.4MB), but it is well indexed and hyperlinked, so I’m sure you’ll find it useful.

By the way, you don’t need an Kindle to read it, there are free Kindle Reader Apps now for just about every platform. Check here for a download near you.

I hope this will be of some help in your writing.

Ulf Wolf