What Are the Main Elements of a Story (2023)

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Every story needs essential elements to keep it running smoothly and help the action develop logically, making it easy for the reader to follow.

These main elements are the backbone of your story—be it a good novel or short story. As a fiction writer, knowing the main elements of a story is not optional; not only does it make you a better writer, but it helps you analyze stories more effectively.

So, what are these main ingredients that any good story can’t do without?Read on to find out.

What Are the Main Elements of a Story (1)

Table Of Contents show

What Are Elements Of a Story?

Fundamentally, a story has five basic but important elements (the usual elements a writer is concerned with during the outlining stage), but—in the spirit of thoroughness—we’re going to discuss 8 main components.

These 8 story elements are characters, setting, plot, conflict, resolution, tone, point of view (POV), and writing style.

These story elements (especially the first five) are like the building blocks for your story. But, your story is analogous to a house, and to build a strong house you first need to know your materials, then build the story like a skillful homebuilder.

It’s like you’re building your house—in the literal meaning—brick by brick and these basic story elements are the bricks that your house has to have.

All these essential story elements help you tell your story, insert the purpose of the story, and give the readers your tone (the storyteller’s tone), among other things.

Why Are The Elements of a Story Important?

Why do these 8 matter? Well, a good comprehension of these elements of a story helps both the writer and reader in understanding how a story is structured, giving a deeper enhanced appreciation of the story.

Every story has these elements, so it’s not about whether the story contains these ingredients or not, it’s about the depth created by using them effectively.

(Video) The elements of a story | Reading | Khan Academy

Your average readers know the characters and the set of events in your story, but those who understand the 8 main elements of a story can comprehend the story better including all its subtleties and depth.

Going to the building block analogy, your story needs all its building materials to add breadth, depth, and have to embellish the story.

The elements of a story help bring the reader into the story by giving them a feel of the characters’ experiences and emotions, making them understand the reasoning behind the characters’ choices, thereby pulling them into the story world and putting them in the characters’ shoes.

For learning purposes, knowledge of the main elements is necessary for students to fully comprehend the story. Having a high level of comprehension of how a story is organized also helps learners recall the story during class assignments and exams.

Apart from that, learners who are familiar with the main elements of a story excel in storytelling writing. Usually, these leaders are good at organizing stories and sewing together different parts of their stories with little or no help.

The 8 Basic Story Elements

I decided to go with eight essential story elements and these are those eight key elements of a story:

1. Characters

What Are the Main Elements of a Story (2)

Characterization is of the key elements of a novel or short story. Most often than not, lengthier stories have more characters, meaning that novels usually have more characters compared to short stories.

The story’s characters can be people, animals, or other objects that are featured in a story. A story comprises many different characters and they’re categorized as the protagonist and antagonist (who are usually dynamic characters), as well as static characters.

The protagonist—the principal character in the story—is also called the ‘main character,’ ‘MC’ for short. This is the character that is central to any narrative and the author dedicates a good amount of time developing them since the story is built around them.

Short stories typically focus on one central character or protagonist since the word count is not large enough to include a lot of characters.

Then, we have the antagonist, the main character’s adversary. This character often causes disruption in the MC’s life and the tension he provides, plus the MC’s efforts in trying to prevent the antagonist from causing havoc helps the story get to climax and—ultimately—resolution.

Authors can play around with the character’s physical appearance, thoughts, feelings, and interaction to create allegories.

The story also includes static (characters who don’t change much throughout a story) and dynamic characters (characters who change as the story progresses, they become more central as the story develops).

2. Setting

Every story happens within a particular environment and timeline, and it is this environment plus the timeline that forms the story’s setting.

Apart from time and place, a story’s setting can also include an alternative reality.

(Video) ELEMENTS OF A SHORT STORY | Literature | ELC

You can have more than one setting and your story can take place in a couple of locations and timelines—it can take place in different parts of the globe or universe and traverse 2 or more generations.

Or, you can just set it to happen in one story setting, which is usually the case with short stories. The story only takes place in the same village, town, city, or building.

So, your story can be set in the past, present, alternate realities, or the future. To make it fun, you can mix the settings just like in The Flash comic books published by DC Comics.

3. Plot

The plotline is the next essential story element on this list. The plot—also called the ‘narrative structure’—is the main sequence of events that tell the story.

Most often, a story’s plot follows a familiar structure, and in basic stories plots have a ‘Beginning,’ ‘Middle,’ and ‘End.’

That is exactly how most short stories go. The ‘Beginning,’ ‘Middle,’ and ‘End’ of the plot usually revolves around one significant event or moment.

The ‘Beginning’ introduces the characters and sets up the scene, the ‘Middle’ Ushers in a conflict or impediment for the MC and narrates how the hero comes through, and the ‘Ending’ brings the story’s resolution.

Those 3 are the basic pillars of a plot, but for experienced writers, the plot goes deeper than those elements.

As students get older, we go into a bit more depth and use more formal terms:

A plot is made of exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.

What Are the Main Elements of a Story (3)

The exposition starts the story and furnishes the reader with the required background bits (it might be things about the setting, characters, et cetera). Not only do writers use this part to drop some early exciting hints, but they also give it their all to grab the readers’ attention.

Then we have the rising action, which is where the plot really thickens. This is where complications, tension, challenges, or conflicts are introduced into the story. Since there’s a lot of stuff going on during this segment, it can be the longest part of the story.

After rising action comes the climax, which is the point of greatest tension or the turning point in the story. Writers incorporate a twist or a big reveal in the Climax to make it exciting. Falling Action, the part where the tension begins to fade away, follows afterward.

Lastly, we have the resolution (also called the denouement), which is the part that brings the story’s settlement.

4. Theme

The next story element on the list is the theme. The theme, the central argument or main topic of the story, is often the author’s allegorical message or a fundamental truth about human nature.

(Video) Story Elements Part 1: Characters, Setting, and Events | English For Kids | Mind Blooming

A story’s key theme can be an idea, belief, moral, lesson, or insight that the writer is trying to communicate to their reader.

The most popular themes include: true love, good vs. evil, political corruption, espionage and state politics, and search for freedom or redemption.

In allegories, the theme—which can also be referred to as the ‘moral of the story’—is hidden under the surface story.

5. Conflict

A fictional story without conflict is tasteless! No one wants that type of story. Readers are looking for a story that has some sort of conflict.

It is the conflict and the MC’s attempts to quell it that makes the story worth reading. Without conflict, the plot barely moves forward and how in the world can it reach its climax without conflict or tension?

The most predominant types of conflicts include:

What Are the Main Elements of a Story (4)
  • Protagonist vs. Antagonist
  • Protagonist vs. Self
  • Protagonist vs. Society
  • Protagonist vs. Nature

For example, in the protagonist vs. antagonist conflict, the protagonist tries to stop the antagonist from doing something destructive. In the protagonist vs. self-conflict, the protagonist struggles to overcome problems within him, to better himself.

6. Point Of View

The point of view of a story is a vital element that influences how the story is told. The point of view used also has an impact on your readers’ response to the story.

A story can be told using three points of view: first person, second person, and third person.

In first-person, the story is told by the protagonist. The pronouns used to tell a first-person story are ‘I’ and ‘We.’ One advantage of the first-person point of view is that it helps the reader understand the reason/motive behind the protagonist’s action since they know what is going on inside the head of the protagonist.

In a second-person point of view, the story is told by a person not necessarily in the story. The narrator talks directly to the reader as if they were in a conversation.

Then we have the third person, where stories are narrated by someone who also isn’t in the story but is omniscient. The narrator knows everything, and gets into characters’ heads, knows their thoughts, and reasons for their actions. This POV used pronouns like ‘he,’ ‘she,’ and ‘they.’

7. Style

This is a personal element and writing style and usually has an impact on the story’s tone.

Style refers to how things are said. The writer’s word choices, type of sentence structure, use of dialogue, use metaphor or simile, and hyperboles all affect their writing style.

Style is the individual author’s unique voice and if a reader likes this voice, they’ll continue to read their works.

(Video) The 5 essential elements of all good stories | VideoScribe

8. Tone

The tone is the story’s overall emotional quality or meaning. It can be hopeful, uplifting, happy, funny, intellectual, ominous, sad, depressed, et cetera.

Tone can be presented through word and grammar choices, theme, imagery, symbolism, and rhymes. It often is harmonious with the protagonist’s mood or the state of affairs.

The author’s writing style impacts the tone, and the author usually uses elements like weather conditions, time of day, and a soliloquy.

For example, setting the story in a night scene suggests an ominous or eerie tone. On the other hand, a morning setting might indicate starting afresh and getting ready to take the day head-on.

The author can also use weather conditions to convey the story’s tone, using an impending long winter to signify imminent trouble or sunshine to indicate a happy theme.

How to Help Students Identify Story Elements

Most adults know how to identify elements of a story, but for kids and new English learners—especially for students in lower levels—learning to identify basic elements in stories can increase their confidence and help them analyze more complex stories.

Not only does it help them understand the stories better, but they also acquire advanced critical thinking skills.

There are activities to help students in identifying story elements. The best way of going about this is starting with the basic stuff before moving on to more focused reading activities. Here are some of them:

Here are a few simple activities to help her identify the story elements in some of her favorite books.

  1. Use Graphic organizers: With graphic organizers—i.e., maps—you can help students identify and isolate elements of a story and organize them. Since it’s done visually, there’s improved comprehension of the story and the students are better at recalling, retelling, and summarizing—the story.
  2. Build a story framework: use analogies and other forms of analogy to explain to the students the functions of and relationships between the elements. For example, make them build something and provide an analogy between the building blocks and the story elements.
  3. Teach the 5 W’s: the five W’s—who, what, where, when, and why—help the students understand who did something? What did they do? Where did the story take place? When did the story happen? And why did it happen?

By answering these questions, the students uncover the main elements of a story.

There are many other activities you can do to help your students identify the main elements of a story.

What Are the Main Elements of a Story (5)

Final Words on the Main Elements of a Story

The elements of a story are often referred to as “the elements of fiction,” and elements of a story are fractions that comprise the fractions of a whole.

The elements of a story can also simply be seen as ingredients that mix to create something new; if we take away one or more elements from our work we may end up with a story that lacks more than that element, a story missing the glue that held it together.

Without elements like plot, setting, and character, there is no story at all—at all!


The elements of fiction can be combined to create different types of stories; while some elements remain constant throughout many stories, such as conflict or character motivation, other elements may appear in only one type of story.


What are the 5 main elements of a story? ›

There are 5 elements of plot:
  • Exposition.
  • Rising Action.
  • Climax.
  • Falling Action.
  • Conclusion.

What are the 4 main elements of a story? ›

The four elements necessary for your story structure are character, plot, setting, and tension. Balancing these elements is the first step to making your creative writing amazing.

What are the three 3 most important story elements? ›

You can use endlessly different story structures and styles, but each story or novel is going to boil down to three fundamental elements: character, setting, and plot.

What is basic story structure? ›

The Fichtean Curve (Basic Story Structure)

The Fichtean Curve is a classic story structure that make up almost every story. It is represented by a skewed triangle, and contains three basic parts: rising action, climax, and falling action.

What is the most important element of a story? ›

According to House of Cards showrunner Beau Willimon, the answer is a simple one: "The most important element in a good story is conflict.

What are the 11 elements of short story? ›

  • Rising Action. Foreshadowing. Flashback. Subplot. Suspense. Complications and Crises. Dilemmas.
  • Climax.

What is the main point of a story called? ›

Plot points are the big moments in a story that change everything. There are six main plot points in every story. Learn about them in this article!

Why are the 5 elements of a short story important? ›

They are the true masters at combining the five elements of a short story: plot, character, setting, conflict, and theme. These five elements make short stories the best starting point for novice writers. They're short and fairly simple, so the writer gets a chance to focus on the plot, character, and theme.

What are the 3 main literary elements? ›

A literary element, or narrative element, or element of literature is an essential characteristic of all works of written and spoken narrative fiction. Literary elements include plot, theme, character and tone.

What are the 3 storytelling elements? ›

Conflict, context, continuity: The 3 core elements of successful storytelling.

What are the 3 main elements of a narrative? ›

The elements of narrative text are: vocabulary. character. plot.

How should a story start? ›

Starting Stories: 5 Great Beginning Strategies
  1. Strategy 1: Begin with action or dialogue. ...
  2. Strategy 2: Ask a question. ...
  3. Strategy 3: Describe the setting. ...
  4. Strategy 4: Begin with background information. ...
  5. Strategy 5: Have the main character introduce himself or herself.

What makes for a good story? ›

A story needs conflict and resolution; tension and release; mystery and revelation. There should be losses and gains, setbacks and comebacks, peaks and troughs. And, above all, a story should be about people: their dreams and desires; loves and hates; problems and passions.

What are the 3 story layers? ›

Writing requires three layers of mastery: Mastery of stories, craft and emotion. But which one of these three is the most important?

What makes a good story 10 elements? ›

10 ways to make a good story succeed:

Give your story strong dramatic content. Vary rhythm and structure in your prose. Create believable, memorable characters. Make the important story sections effective.

What are the 8 elements of a short story? ›

There are eight elements of a story: theme, plot, characters, setting, conflict, point-of-view, tone and style.

What is the first important element of a story? ›

The plot usually begins with an exposition, which introduces us to the characters and background information of the story. Next comes the rising action, which involves complications that lead to conflicts between characters. After the rising action we reach the climax, which is a turning point in the story.

What are the 8 parts of a book? ›

These are the parts of a book you need & what we'll cover in detail for you:
  • Book Cover.
  • Title Page.
  • Copyright.
  • Table of Contents.
  • Dedication.
  • Foreword.
  • Prologue.
  • Epilogue.

What is the main theme of the story? ›

The term theme can be defined as the underlying meaning of a story. It is the message the writer is trying to convey through the story. Often the theme of a story is a broad message about life. The theme of a story is important because a story's theme is part of the reason why the author wrote the story.

What is a theme of a story? ›

A theme is an important idea that is woven throughout a story. It's not the plot or the summary, but something a little deeper. A theme links a big idea about our world with the action of a text.

What are the 5 elements examples? ›

According to some traditions, everything in the universe comes from the five elements: wood, fire, earth, water, and metal. From the smallest atom to a giant whale to the solar system itself, all things are said to be composed of some combination of these elements.

How do you write a 5 element story? ›

The 5 Elements of Plot
  1. Exposition. This is your book's introduction, where you introduce your characters, establish the setting, and begin to introduce the primary conflict of your story. ...
  2. Rising Action. ...
  3. Climax. ...
  4. Falling Action. ...
  5. Resolution/Denouement.

What is plot in a story? ›

Essentially, a story plot is what happens in the story. More specifically, the plot is the series of events that take place. It's the action of the story that drives the narrative forward.

What are key elements in literature? ›

Glossary of Common Formal Elements of Literature
  • Allusion.
  • Characterization.
  • Connotation.
  • Denotation.
  • Diction.
  • Genre.
  • Imagery.
  • Irony.

What are the 5 basic literary elements in literature? ›

When you analyze a literary text, you will deal with basic elements of literature, like plot, theme, character, point of view, and setting. Literary analysis is also known as literary criticism.

What are the 4 C's of storytelling? ›

Curiosity, crescendo, coherence and change. No matter what kind of story you're navigating, whether you want to follow a well-charted plan or drift with the wind, let the Four Cs be your compass.

What are the 5 C's of storytelling? ›

Following are the 5 C's of storytelling that help improve a story. A good story has a sequence that usually happens in five parts that are called the 5 C's of storytelling: Circumstance, Curiosity, Characters, Conversations, and Conflicts.

What are the 5 rings of storytelling? ›

The Ring Structure matches the patterns of other storytelling theories pretty well: it also starts with a normal initial situation.
What is the Ring Structure?
  • They are circular. At the end, the story goes back to where it began.
  • They are symmetric. ...
  • They are loaded in the middle. ...
  • They are fractal.

What is the plot structure? ›

'Plot structure' refers to the patterns the events of a story form. Some cite Aristotle as one of the first writers to codify story structure. He wrote in his Poetics (though in specific reference to tragedy) that every story should have a beginning, middle and end – our most basic ideas of structure.

What are the 5 elements of a short story and an explanation for each one? ›

They are the true masters at combining the five elements of a short story: plot, character, setting, conflict, and theme.

What are the 5 critical elements of a narrative? ›

A story has five basic but important elements. These five components are: the characters, the setting, the plot, the conflict, and the resolution. These essential elements keep the story running smoothly and allow the action to develop in a logical way that the reader can follow.

What makes a great story? ›

The best story is a well-told tale about something the reader feels is relevant or significant. The best stories are more complete and more comprehensive. They contain more verified information from more sources with more viewpoints and expertise. They exhibit more enterprise, more reportorial effort.

What are the 4 types of plot? ›

The plot used in fictions can be differentiated into four types: linear, episodic, parallel, and flashback. The most common plot employed in short stories is the linear plot.

What is the beginning of a story called? ›

This is called the EXPOSITION. It is the background information on the characters and setting explained at the beginning of the story. The EXPOSITION will often have information about events that happened before the story began. The EXPOSITION is often the very first part of the PLOT.

What are arcs in stories? ›

A story arc (also called a narrative arc) is just a term for the plot of your story. The line that the story follows, from beginning to end, is called an “arc” because of the rising, peak, and falling action. It runs from the beginning, through the middle, to the end of a story.

What is a 7 point story structure? ›

Since there will be many plot points in a movie, I call these The Magnificent 7 Plot Points. They are: the Back Story, the Catalyst, the Big Event (we've mentioned that one), the Midpoint, the Crisis, the Climax, and the Realization.

What is the most important element of storytelling? ›

The plot is the most important part of any story.


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