Basics of composition: elements and techniques

Learn more about what the composition is, its elements, and techniques. These recommendations will help you create an interesting composition in your book or other writing piece.

Definition of the composition

In literary criticism, the composition is described in different ways, but there are three basic definitions:

  1. The composition is the arrangement and correlation of parts, elements, and images of the work (components of the art form), the sequence of introduction of units of the depicted and the speech means of the text.
  2. The composition is the construction of a work of art, the correlation of all parts of the work into a single whole, conditioned by its content and genre.
  3. The composition is the construction of a work of art, a certain system of means of disclosure, an organization of images, their connections, and relationships that characterize the life process shown in the work.

All these literary concepts, in fact, have a fairly simple explanation – the composition is the arrangement of novel passages in a logical order, in which the text becomes the whole, and acquires the inner meaning.

As by following the instructions and rules, you collect a whole puzzle from small details, you collect a whole novel from text fragments, whether it’s chapters, parts, or sketches.

The composition of the work can be external and internal.

External composition of the book

The external composition (also known as architectonics) is a breakdown of the text into chapters and parts, the allocation of additional structural parts such as prologue and epilogue, introduction and conclusion, epigraphs and lyrical digressions. The external composition is also the division of the text into volumes (individual books with a global idea when there are a large plot and many characters).

An external composition is a method of dosing information.

The text, written on 300 pages, without structural breakdown is unreadable. At least it needs parts, as a maximum, it needs to have chapters or semantic segments, separated by spaces or asterisks.

Internal composition of the book

The internal composition, unlike the external one, includes many more elements and methods of composing the text. All of them, however, boil down to a common goal – to build a text in a logical order and disclose the author’s intention. However, they reach this goal in different ways – plot, figurative, speech, thematic, etc.

Story elements of the internal composition include:

  • A prologue is an introduction, more often – the prehistory. (Some authors take a prologue from the middle of the story, or from the end – the original compositional move). The prologue is an interesting but optional element of both external and internal composition.
  • Exposition is the initial event, in which the world is depicted, characters are represented, and a conflict is outlined.
  • Outset is the events, in which a conflict is tied.
  • The development of actions is the course of events.
  • A culmination is the highest point of tension, the clash of opposing forces, and the peak of emotional tension of the conflict.
  • A denouement is the outcome of the culmination.
  • An epilogue is the result of the story, conclusions on the plot and evaluation of events, and the outlines of the future life of the characters. It is an optional element.

Imagery elements

Imagery elements include:

  • Images of heroes and characters – promote the plot, are the main actors of the conflict, as well as reveal the idea and the author’s intention. The system of actors is when each image separately and the links between them are an important element of the internal composition.
  • The images of the environment, in which the action develops, are descriptions of countries and cities, images of the road, and accompanying landscapes. The images of the situation are the so-called descriptive things that give a sense to a story.

Imagery elements work mainly on the plot. The same applies to the images of the situation. They create a space of a story and at the same time limit it to a certain framework – a medieval castle, a city, a country, or a world.

Specific images supplement and develop the story, make it understandable, visible, and tangible.

Speech elements

Speech elements include:

  • A dialogue (polylog)
  • A monologue
  • Lyrical digressions (author’s word, not concerning the development of the plot or images of characters, abstract thoughts on a certain topic)

Speech elements are the speed of perception of the text. Dialogues are dynamic, and monologues and lyrical digressions (including descriptions of the action from the first person) are static. Visually, the text, in which there are no dialogues, seems cumbersome, uncomfortable, and unreadable, which affects the composition. Without dialogues, it is difficult for perception – the text seems to be long.

A monologed text relies on a lot of details, which it is sometimes difficult to understand. Ideally, in order not to weight the composition of the chapter, monologues (and any descriptive text) should occupy no more than two or three pages. In no case, it should be ten or fifteen pages long.

Dialogues, on the other hand, consist of emotions, are easy to perceive and dynamic. In this case, they should not be empty for the sake of dynamics and characters’ experiences. They should be informative, working on the plot and revealing the image of the characters. Find out how to write dialogues by visiting this admission essay editing service.


There are the following inserts:

  • Retrospective – scenes from the past: a) long episodes revealing the image of the characters, showing the history of the world or the origins of the situation (can occupy several chapters); b) short sketches (flashbacks) – one paragraph long, often exclusively emotional and atmospheric episodes.
  • Short stories, parables, fairy tales, and poems are optional elements that interestingly diversify the text.
  • Dreams (a dream-foreboding, a dream-predictions, and a dream-riddle).

Inserts are non-essential elements. If you remove them from the text, the plot will not change. However, they can frighten, confuse, and disturb the reader, as well as suggest the development of the plot, if the future is a complex event series.

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