Aristotle figured out the storytelling 2,300 years ago

December 6, 2008 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: fiction, writing.

An article in the March issue of The Writer magazine lays out what Aristotle thought about storytelling about 2,300 years ago. The article, written by William Kowalski, points out that the Greeks didn’t have the novel, but they did have the theater. From that, Aristotle decided to outline what he thought made a compelling story:

  • All stories are made up of five elements: setting, character, plot, dialogue and thought (intentions/motivations).
  • Plot is everything.
  • Characters come second.
  • Keep the audience interested by making reversals.
  • Use discoveries to move the plot.
  • The perfect plot is simple, not complex.

Kowalski adds some excellent commentary to each of these points, including this one:

By the way, was it smooth sailing once our ancient student of writing achieved the goal of all literary hopefuls — publication, or in the case of dramatists, production? Not quite. “Because there have been poets before him strong in the several species of tragedy, the critics now expect the (writer) to suprass each of his predecessors,” Aristotle intones.

In other words, 25 centuries ago, authors were already awaiting their reviews with butterflies in their stomachs. Some things never change.

(The Writer magazine article is not available online.)


Get a FREE copy of Kill the Quarterback

Get a free digital copy of Jim Stovall's mystery novel, Kill the Quarterback. You will also get Jim's newsletter and advanced notice of publications, free downloads and a variety of information about what he is working on. Jim likes to stay in touch, so sign up today.

Powered by ConvertKit

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *