Category : CBWLA

Last March 29, 2014, I facilitated CBW-LA’s Novel Writing Bootcamp.

In our three hour workshop, I covered the following topics:

I. Introduction

II. Preparing to Write your Novel

III. Introduction to the Elements of Fiction

IV. Elements of Fiction: Character

V. Elements of Fiction: Setting

VI. Elements of Fiction: Plot


CBW-LA Stationer (Publications Editor) Alana Garrigues manning the Registration Booth

For the lecture I developed my own way of classifying the Elements of Fiction. I divided each element of Fiction into three levels according their function within a story.

Today, I thought I’d share with you a short version of my lecture on the Introduction to the Elements of Fiction.


Nutschell’s 3 Levels of the Elements of Fiction (or How a Story Sprouts)

Abstract concepts are best explained through the use of concrete images, so in the case of story, I’ll be using the analogy of a tree.

Just as a tree needs three major things for it to grow, so too does a story need three major levels to develop.



Most life forms begin from a seed. A seed contains all the ingredients for creating life. But it needs a place and opportunity for it to develop.

The seeds of fiction are contained in its 3 basic elements:

1.      Character

2.      Plot

3.      Setting

Whether you’re writing a novel or a newspaper article, there are 6 basic questions you need to answer:

  • Who?
  • What?
  • Where?
  • When?
  • Why?
  • How?

In order for you to answer these questions in a work of fiction, you need 3 Basic Elements:


  • Who is the main character of the story?
  • Why does the protagonist respond to the event in a certain way? (character motivation)

2.      PLOT  = WHAT AND HOW

  • What is the story about?
  • How does the story unfold?


  • Where does the story take place?
  • When does the story take place?

Once you have Character, Plot and Setting, you’ve answered the six most basic questions.

The next thing you have to do is to clarify or expound on these basic elements, and you do that using the following elements of fiction:



Your seed may contain the DNA to propagate life, but without soil, it will remain a seed forever. Soil gives your seed a safe place to thrive in, it provides the proper nutrients and energy for it to grow.

In the same regard, your story ideas cannot grow without certain elements of fiction to expound or clarify them.

These elements of fiction move your story forward by clarifying the basic elements you already have.

1.      Dialogue – stems from character

2.      Point of View (POV)– stems from character

3.      Conflict – stems from Plot

4.      Mood– stems from setting

5.      Tone – stems from character

cbwla class



Soil may supply your seed with nutrients, but without water to transport those nutrients, the seed will simply shrivel up and die.

In the same way, without a layer of meaning, your story will be dry and dull. Meaning adds life to your story, and so do the following elements of fiction:

1.      Theme

2.      Style

3.      Literary Devices (Metaphor, Simile, Hyperbole, etc)


Each element of fiction contributes to the growth of your story. Knowing how each element works, and what role they play within your story, can help you cultivate your novel to its fullest potential.



5,744 total views, 9 views today

Speaker Chris Lynch, Author of One-Eyed Jack

Speaker Bio:

Author Christopher J. Lynch is a Southern California native living in Los Angeles. A member of our group, CBW-LA, Chris has written articles for various newspapers and magazines, as well has various short stories.

His hobbies include cycling and mountain climbing. He recently trained and led a group of blind individuals to the summit of Mount Baldy, the highest point in Los Angeles County. A documentary film is being made of the adventure.

In May of 2012, Christopher J. Lynch finished the first draft of his debut crime novel “One Eyed Jack.” By June 13th, he had it revised, edited, formatted, and published as both an e-book, and a “Print on Demand” on both Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Since then, he has enjoyed brisk sales, received rave reviews, done four author signings, and had it placed in Pages Bookstore, Small World Books, Apostrophe Books, and Frog Books. He also produced a video trailer and has done numerous guest blogs, author interviews, and promo pieces. How did he do it all in such a short time? He self-published.

Christopher J. Lynch will share his experience and talk candidly about the self-publishing route and what it means to the writer of the 21st. Century.

Workshop Summary:

Chris was a wonderful speaker. He offered us a no-holds barred presentation on the ups and downs of self-publishing and gave us a lot of helpful tips and tricks, which he had to learn the hard way.

 Some of the questions Chris answered included:

·What is traditional publishing versus self-publishing?

·Is self-publishing right for me, or for my book?
·What are the benefits of self-publishing?
·What are the downsides to self-publishing?
·What is POD (print on demand)?
·What are the steps necessary for self-publishing?
·What are the costs involved?


Workshop Highlights:

Is Self Publishing For You?


– Major bookstores (B&N) – and even some “indie” bookstores – will not carry self-published titles.

– If you are selling on consignment to bookstores, you will have to get a sellers permit and resale certificate from the franchise tax board.

– You may not be eligible for some book awards.

– The “New York Times” and many other mainstream publications, are reticent to review any self-published book.

– Some blogs may not review self-published books.

– You will have to pay for your own editing, formatting, cover design, etc.

– All promotion, bookkeeping, sales, etc.  is on you – You are a business!



– Time: Your completed book can be available as an e-book in under 8 hours, and a print version in about one day.

– Creative Control – This can be both good and bad.

– You can set the list price (minimums for e-book and POD).

– Higher royalties.

– If successful, you can always get an agent and a publisher and go the conventional route.


Where do you begin? An e-book from manuscript to product.

– Step one: Finish the damn thing!!

– Step two: Revise…Revise…Revise.

– Step three: Have your manuscript professionally edited…by a reputable editing service.

– Step four: Your cover is the first thing a customer sees – and it will only be a thumbnail on-line. Again, pay the pros. Only a front cover will be needed for an E-book (more on converting it to a full cover with spine and back for a POD).

– Step five: Formatting from mobi, to epub to pdf can be hell, so it’s worth it to get a professional to do this for you.


Why do a POD, if e-books are all the rage?

– It doesn’t cost you much more.

– It broadens your sales.

– Many people still like holding a physical book.

– You are going to have to do lots of in-face promotion (book fairs, signings, libraries, etc.)  and you can’t sign an e-book.


How the steps to do a POD differ from an e-book

– You will need to have your original, revised and edited manuscript, formatted into a different size (typically, trade size paperback).

– Companies like Ironhorse formatting can do this: Pricing: 20 to 45K words – $40

– You will have to have your e-book front cover made into a full cover with spine and back (app. $50.00)



Sales, the “driver” of all business

Three ways you will sell your book:

– On-line

– Consignment through bookstores

– Private sales


The truth about self-published book sales:

 – The average self-published book sells about 100-150 copies across all formats and venues.

– Some don’t sell at all.

– Don’t count on all of your family and friends – especially your F/B “friends” – to buy your book

– Sales require endless promotion: reviews, blogging, social media, author events, book fairs, swag…and some luck. It takes a lot of time…and some money.

– It’s a crowded marketplace

“The good news is, anyone can self-publish a book.”

“The bad news is, anyone can self-publish a book.”


Author Chris Lynch with CBW-LA Officers

4,088 total views, no views today