I’m not saying that you have to make up stories, but where can you pull examples from your life to illustrate your points? And how can you craft those examples to engage your reader? By telling the reader a story.
Story elements are the building blocks of a story. Specifically, characters, plot, and setting are the foundational pieces. No character? No story. No plot? No story. No setting? No story.
Here’s a brief overview of each element with additional things to consider within each element:
Who: Character (and point of view, or whose viewpoint the story is being told from)
What: Plot (conflict)
When and Where: Setting
How: Plot (rising and falling action); Tone
Why: Plot and/or Character; Theme
The longer the story you’re telling, the more complexity you can layer into the elements. But don’t be afraid to aim for depth, even in shorter examples.
So, nonfiction folks, why do you need to know about story elements? The reason is this: stories are the bridge to connect with your readers. If you want them to follow your advice or learn from you, storytelling is a masterful way to hook them. Most likely, your stories will be true, but that doesn’t mean they won’t have a character (probably you), a plot (the what happened to you), and a setting (the when and where of the what that happened).