What is a story? What elements are so vital to a piece of fiction that if one is missing you would not call it a story?
At this teacher resource site, the crucial elements are setting, plot, conflict, character, point of view, and theme. At this one, we’re told the elements are character, setting plot, conflict, and theme. This writing site says the elements are character, plot, setting, theme, and style.
In my researches to try to improve my flash fiction stories, I’ve come across these quotes:
For our purposes a story is a story only if it contains the following four elements: 1) a setting, 2) a character or characters, 3) a conflict and 4) resolution.
– Steve Moss, editor of The World‘s Shortest Stories
The flash fiction story must include characterization, conflict, viewpoint, significance and resolution. When many writers try to write flash fiction they end up with a sketch.
– Guy Hogan, writer
Well, writing fiction is an art, not a science. Scientists generally agree on what combined with what equals what and on how to measure an experiment to see if it was successful. We humanities majors have opinions.
How many times have we read something only to say, “That wasn’t much of a story,” or even, “That wasn’t a story”? Something was missing. Perhaps there was no overt conflict, or maybe the setting was too vague.
Writer Bruce Holland Rogers has a fascinating — I might even say liberating — take on the elements of story, particularly as they relate to short-short fiction. He respects the rules but argues that by slavishly keeping a checklist we’ll keep getting the same stories we always have. Only by experimentation can we discover new kinds of stories. They won’t look like other stories and may challenge us to accept them as stories.
Rogers renews our poetic license to push the envelope of prescriptivism to see what we can accomplish. I hope you’ll enjoy his article as much as I have.