by Ann Marie Williams © 2020

If you write, you’ve likely heard terms like concept, plot, structure, formatting, and theme.  Each is important. Each is different from the other. But each also affects the other.

The trouble is, there is little consistency in how these terms are defined.  Terms like plot and structure, for example, are often used interchangeably. And while there doesn’t have to be a universal understanding of the terms to incorporate their attributes into your writing, not having clear definitions can make discussing writing, and getting feedback on your stories, far more challenging.

But, it’s not just a definition issue. Because theme, concept, plot, structure, and format interrelate, it can be difficult to determine which attribute is causing the problem in a story. It can be challenging to determine, for example, whether a story’s climax is unexciting because of an issue with the story’s plot, or an issue with the story’s structure.

So, what can you do?

The simple answer is: be sure your writing checks all the boxes — regardless of the terms assigned to those boxes.

Easy right?

Of course not.

So, I think the next best thing, is to have an understanding of these five attributes, even if there’s some inconsistency in what those attributes are called. At least by understanding what these attributes do, you can better analyze your writing — and better decipher someone else’s critique of your writing, even if you use different terminology.

With that in mind, for the next week, I’m going to discuss CONCEPT, PLOT, STRUCTURE, FORMATTING, AND THEME using my own definitions.  These definitions will vary slightly from others’ definitions, but I’ve defined them as follows because they cover five separate (but very related) aspects of story and it’s conveyance.

To help illustrate the definitions, throughout the week I’ll reference two stories: It’s a Wonderful Life and The Martian.  (Beware there will be spoilers!)

That’s all for now. I’ll see you back here tomorrow to take a look at CONCEPT.


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