Trifecta of Elements: Films and Novels by Claire M...

Trifecta of Elements: Films & Novels

By Claire Merchant


It was a Saturday night on vacation in Te Anau, New Zealand, and I was watching a film in my motel room. It was a movie that I normally wouldn’t watch because it wasn’t a topic that necessary appealed to me, but it had Ashton Kutcher in it, so I started watching it anyway. As I sat there, I got thinking about just how much time and effort went into making sure that this movie got made. Huge amounts of creativity and vision, dedication and commitment went into making this film that may not appeal to everyone but needs to be given the best chance to be successful. So how does that happen? What are the elements that are needed to make a film successful?

Well, reaching back to the days that I studied media and film at university, I learnt that there were three main elements that made a movie successful—the script, the actors, and the director. In considering this theory in the context of a written text, I concluded that the three factors that make a book successful would be the story, the characters, and the voice or storyteller.

The trifecta. The holy trinity. Three little components that can make or break a great potential for entertainment. I believe if you get these elements right, you will have a text that will appeal to the masses. Huzzah! The Holy Grail!

Ah-hm. Right—so let’s have a closer look at these three elements.

The story/script: Make it interesting and captivating. Before you start telling a story, ask yourself why. Why this story? Why this way? Why would I want to read it? Give it purpose and make sure that you believe in the credibility of it. If you believe it, that’s half the battle in getting other people to believe it. After all, some stories when you break them down might sound ridiculous, but it’s all about the sell. Bring it to life, make the fantasy reality. If you can make the scripting strong, the story will compel even the toughest audiences. Especially if they grow attachment to…

The characters/actors: Make them believable. Even the best storyline or descriptions will fall flat if the people in question are not credible or well thought-out. Make sure you spend some time on character development so you can use as few words as possible to describe what they’re like. Become your characters—walk around in their shoes like the best actors do. Tell their story as they would tell it, think like them, and empathize with them. If you can do that, you can make the reader do it too. But not without…

The voice/director: Make the reader feel your words flowing through them. Be thorough but don’t oversell. Think of your story as a photograph and you are the photographer. Whatever you choose to capture is all that they will see. So describe things enough but not too much, otherwise you lose the point of your words. If it doesn’t add value, cut it out. Be aware that the words you use and your tone is all that people will take from the story, so make sure that the angle you pick is the strongest one that will get your story across, and show your characters the way you see them. This one is the essence of a story and ties closely into the two elements above. However, it does not work without the story idea or characters. In fact…

These three factors go hand in hand and are just as important as each other. All three need to be present and strong for any kind of text to resonate with the audience. For instance, if you have a good story and voice but weak characters, it will fall short. Likewise, if you have good characters and story but fail to tell it properly; or say you have strong characters with a great voice, but the story is a little shaky—then people will be more likely to disengage.

You need the trifecta.

It may sound simple, but trust me, it’s something that takes a lot of work to get right. I’m still working on it, and a lot of other writers are. Of course, the grey area in this little theory is opinion, since we all have different likes and dislikes, and therefore different views on what constitutes a good story, character, or voice. I’m sure that a lot of people enjoyed the Ashton Kutcher film that I was watching, even if it wasn’t something that I would normally go for. That said, I can still appreciate the work of creativity that it is. Kudos, Ashton and everyone involved. You drew me in.

In my opinion, the only way to reach the trifecta of elements is to create something that is right for you. Write for yourself and write the story that you want to read. Create the characters that you would want to know and construct the world that you want to live in. If you do this, and do it well, you never know, someone who may not normally read (or watch) what you’ve created might just enjoy it!


Claire Merchant’s newest book, A Lady Born, A Pirate Bred will be released May 26th. She is also the author of Mistry by Moonlight, Midnight Mistry, Mistry at Dawn, Forever Ruby, South Coast Son, Knowing Nora, and Foresight, with more books coming out in 2016!