What element do you write in

Chapter 6 What Element do you write in?


While perusing the Internet blogs on writing I found this little gem.  I wondered what use it would be and on reading the article found that it gave me a glimpse into myself and my writing. It helped me understand why I do things the way I do. The funny thing is that I am a Capricorn by birth, an Earth cardinal sign and the type of writing I like to do is reflected in that the Earth element description resonated with me fully. I took it to the writing group for a fun talk and everyone there found that the same thing happened to them. Have a read and check out whether it continues to hold true for you.  The focus of each element is; Air = Mystery, Earth = Setting, Water = Character and Fire = Happenings.

If you write with the understanding of the sort of writing you are interested in, and are better at, your writing will show it. You are writing to your personal strength and your ‘voice’ will be stronger. It might make choosing a plot, or even a genre, easier too.

The Air Element – Mystery

The Air Element writer often writes adventures, crimes or mystery books. They like to start with a question they wanted answered by the end of the book which is what you get in these three genres of books. It may even have chase scenes within the story which are beloved by so many male readers.

With your plot story being built around a question you have a lot of things to address as the solution cannot just come out of thin air at the end of the story. The foundation has to be laid. This can be quite subtle at times with an almost throwaway sentence, or paragraph, in the story being an essential element to solving the mystery, crime or completing the adventure victoriously. You can be blatant in your clues if that is what you want to be but the best writer does not bludgeon their readers. They expect their reader to be canny. The writer treats the story in a way that reflects their intelligent and interested audience.

Throughout the story you will show your characters uncovering needed information that may direct them towards the answers they are searching for. They may have to find people, objects or other clues to get to the answer or the person they are searching for may be the solution. Clues will need to be uncovered  throughout the story to reach the final answer. Planning out those clues to be followed and where they will be seeded into your story usually needs a good outline done beforehand so you don’t get lost or miss writing a vital clue into the story.

The main character is the person who has to put everything together in their mind for the conclusion to be reached.  They take who did it, how they did it, what they did it with, where they did it, when they did it and why they did it all together in the end. They neatly wrap everything up and tie it with a big bow. The reader is satisfied especially if they caught all the clues. They may be even more satisfied it they totally missed what may turn out to be an essential element towards the answer because of the subtlety of the clue and its placement. A good writer will have at least one or two clues that have the reader go ‘Ahh, is that why they wrote that bit?’

The viewpoint in a mystery is from the main characters so it could be from the protagonist who is trying to solve the mystery or the antagonist who is creating the mystery. It needs to be one or the other to have the tension rise in the story. There may be one or two diversions into one of the supporting characters if  action  is needed but the main character can’t be there. The main characters will be on almost every page within the story.

The Earth Element – Setting

The Earth Element writing is more about the world you live in or the world you build for your characters to live in. It can be this Earth with just a few changes to it or it can be some other world out in space. It is the setting that becomes an important part of the story. In many ways this person will probably write a good ‘Hero’s Journey’ story. The types of books they often write are science fiction/fantasy, historical fiction – real or imagined, pioneers of time or space and those epic journeys we all think we would like to take someday.

The characters in the books explore the world, discover more about it or play a prominent part in how the world works. Their journeys show off your created world. The storylines may come from the physical differences in that world. Deserts, seas, mountains, steppes, and many other types of landscapes lend themselves to different types of people being the main populace. Steppes often have horse people or sheepherders as the main characters. Rain forests are often jaguar shapeshifters or tribal people who don’t want changes. Seas may contain merpeople or humans in sealed environments. Any other setting you may want to invent can have sentient rocks, flying angels, energy beings or ice people. The fun you can have with this is enormous.

The setting is so important that it pays to do the world building properly. You have to know what can and cannot happen there. You need to know how the society works so you can set up a good conflict. The hazards of the world can be used as part of your external conflicts. The joyous areas for the celebrations that the people have are as important too. Who doesn’t love a big party? To an Earth Element writer this world building or setting planning could be the most enjoyable part before the slog of actually writing their book starts.

The start of the story will be when the main character travels to that ‘new world’. This can be on our Earth but with something extra added such as werepeople of every sort, the Fae, an alternate world with a few interesting changes from ours, or just going into a society that has totally different values and customs from what your characters consider normal.  It could be a fantasy or outer space world as well. It is the differences in setting that help grow your story because it causes changes to happen.

The characters change because of their journey through the world you have put them in. Sometimes they may try to stay the same despite the differences they have found or the changes that they have gone through. Sometimes they will leave that world as they don’t want the changes that would happen if they stayed. You have to give them a very strong incentive to enable them to make the big changes in their life that staying in that setting would ask for.

Their larger story continues when they get to that ‘new world’ and start to live within it. Ita where they find out what they may face in the near or distant future.  They start making decisions that will affect what they will do by the end of your story. Remember there has to be some logic applied and the timeline continuity is important. At the end of the story they leave something. It could mean they leave this new environment or it could mean they leave their old life. This change is probably permanent and a choice they cannot always reverse even if they later change their mind.

The protagonist is the main character in this type of story as they are the one that goes exploring, finds out all these new things and then has to integrate them into their life. The viewpoint for your novel is the world seen through their eyes. The external and internal conflicts happen from their reaction or actions in this world. Who, as a child, did not wish that they were ‘Robinson Crusoe’ or that their family was the ‘Swiss Family Robinson’ living on desert islands and in treehouses? I dreamed of living in a far off world somewhere out in space, with a red sun and having laran capabilities of my own, with the possibility of finally meeting the original inhabitants of the world.

The Water Element – Feels

The Water Element writer’s story is about the changes the character feels because of the society they are in and the actions happening within it. There is probably a bit of the water element in most stories because it is the change the character goes through, or refuses to, that creates internal conflicts at the very least within every story. For a writer with a strong Water element this will be the most important part of their story and the planning they do beforehand will reflect this. Many literary works are often based on the character without a great amount of external action happening.

So, the characters will be very well thought out as it is their changing or adapting that creates most of the plot. Things happen to them that mean change has to happen. If change does not happen you are shown the fight they put up to remain the same. You learn more about their feelings rather than them engaging in a lot of external action; which can be almost incidental to the story. The external action provides the reason for the internal changes they are going through.

By the end of your story there should have been a role change happening to their character. They should be stepping into a new role that they may never have expected at the start of your story. They adapt to that new situation and make the best of it from then on. There are other characters who decide that the changes that they may have to undertake are just too much; these characters often end up leaving the society and moving right away from that influence. The character is happy where they are and does not want to change in any way. You have to let them depart from your story in the end.

Your story begins when change begins. You start with something major happening to the character or the society surrounding them, that starts the change in their emotions and feelings then leads onto changes in their external life as well. You write why things happen and the emotions that can surface because of that. By the end of the story your characters have been through a gamut of emotions and have made the needed changes or they have left.

The viewpoint is either the 1st person or the third person. 1st person is them showing and telling you what is happening to them and the reasons behind their reactions and changes. Third person is external but allows others to observe and react to their actions and emotions shown in the story. Sometimes one or more characters show the story from their individual viewpoints. This can add another perspective to what is happening. A deeper texture can be felt if you have the characters’ emotions and any changes occurring being seen through another’s eyes and feelings. It can enhance the mystery that may surround the characters.

The Fire Element – Happenings

If your plotline revolves around the fact that this is a dangerous place and bad things are probably going to happen then Fire is probably your element. The types of books that are more usual for the Fire Element are fantasy, science fiction or adventure as they have plenty of action or happenings. The story is best told through the use of those action/happenings.

Your story begins when a threat is perceived; aliens attacking the Earth, a volcano exploding trapping your character’s  family away from them, a revolution happening in the streets and they get caught up in it or anything else your mind can dream up for them to work through. Your character goes into battle against the threat or goes on a journey to find the person, or the thing, that helps them win. The story ends when your character wins and establishes a New World Order, reverts to the old ways of society or anarchy erupts as no-one is in charge at the end.

Your character sets out on a quest or Hero’s Journey. The story is what happens to them during that quest, who they meet, what actions they take, when they win or lose, and whether they find the person or thing that ensures victory.  Your character, the Hero, will find something. It might not be on his first attempt, actually it won’t ever be, but he might find the clue that sends him further along on his Journey. He will either find the Saviour (someone else) or will grow to the stage where he becomes the Saviour himself/herself.

A well written character will guide us through the story willingly. They lead us to what they know/have to do; we go with them to learn that knowledge desperately needed or the actions that need to happen for change to occur. We share their understanding as they move through all the actions and reactions. We end up caring about them and are rooting for them to win in this encounter. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is very long but we like the fact that it is the smallest person, a hobbit, who will play the greatest part in this cast of thousands. We can feel as though we would do exactly the same thing if we were in his situation. We really want him to succeed.

If your whole storyline is based on the exploration of your creation through actions then do it from one person’s viewpoint as everyone in the world has a different view of the same action. Ask all those people who observe an accident and try to match up what each one saw; they will have seen different parts of what went on and their stories will not be exactly the same. If you want to add bits from other characters you can do it though as it adds more depth to your story.

The viewpoint for the story in a Fire Element book should be on the main character. There should not be an external narrator. You need the immediacy from that viewpoint to keep things happening and changing the characters for the better. The reader wants that character to win against all odds. they have fought all the fights and survived all the injuries along with your protagonist. They have been pulled along with the Hero and if the Hero loses it would be too anti-climatic. Be nice to your reader, give them that win. They will high five you if you ever meet them because you did give them the win. Don’t be tempted to make the Hero lose at the last moment or there will be angry readers on the prowl. In a series the Hero may be able to lose that bit of the story (early in the series) but in the end they should be triumphant.

A Fifth Possible Element is Spirit

A fifth possible element is Spirit. The story contains spiritual and metaphysical aspects within its confines. They can often be action stories as the good character is trying to follow spiritual values, usually in a quest, as the bad guy attempts to stop them. The book may be part of an ongoing series that builds on what the reader has learnt in previous books in an attempt by the writer to pass on what they perceive as good spiritual habits. There are also books that try to do the opposite.

Many people resist learning what they consider “spiritual values” as they consider them almost outdated in today’s world. A good fiction story that weaves them seamlessly into a rollocking good yarn can start people thinking and searching further. Once again it is not something that you beat your reader around the head with (unless that is the specific topic of your nonfiction book) but it can play an important role in your story when done well. Research well, write your truth as readers recognise this; it is up to the reader whether they accept or ignore what you have tried to impart. Good luck and some people are very successful in this form of writing.



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