What Are the Key Elements of a Story? (2023)

There are five key elements to every story: plot, setting, characters, point of view, and conflict. Whether your students realize it or not, they naturally include all these elements when they’re telling a story to their families or their best fr. It’s what creates the story’s flow, builds anticipation, and excites their listeners.

We can all be great storytellers. It’s in our nature to enjoy a good story and feel compelled to share our own. But when students sit down at their keyboards, or start to put pen to paper, it’s easy to freeze up. Why is writing something down so much harder than chatting up a friend?

Good news — it doesn’t have to be! Encourage your students to take some time before you start writing to figure out their five key story elements. Need some help and direction? Read on for all the details they need to brainstorm the parts of their stories. With this newfound clarity, it’s easy to write a tale their whole class will love. Let’s get started!

1. Plot

What Are the Key Elements of a Story? (1)

What Are the Key Elements of a Story? (2)

The plot is the events or actions that drive your story — it describes the “what” of your tale. The plot lets the reader know what’s happening, describes the problems your characters are trying to solve, and gives the details on how they attempt to solve them.

A strong, compelling plot is essential to any story. But that doesn’t mean it needs to be full of Michael Bay-type action. You don’t need crazy car chases or epic battles to construct an exciting plot. Strong emotions can also drive your story and give your characters plenty to talk about.

However, your story does need several clearly defined plot elements to help you structure your tale’s events and keep the story moving forward.

Elements of Plot

To keep your reader engaged and interested, your story should include these plot elements: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. Let’s explore each one.


Exposition gives the reader the background info they need to jump right into your story’s world. This is often found towards the beginning of your story. Even if you choose to jump right into the action, somewhere along the way your reader needs to get a crash course on your characters’ or setting’s history.

Exposition can be given in a variety of ways. Some examples include:

  • Flashbacks
  • Character dialogue
  • Letters from the past
  • Setting or character descriptions
  • Point of View (aka POV, such as the narrator or main character’s thoughts)

But, as spoken by Officer Lockstock in the Tony award-winning Urinetown: The Musical, “nothin’ can kill a show like too much exposition.” This rings true whether you’re watching a play or reading a story. Don’t overload the reader with background info right out of the gate. Keep it natural and let it drive the story forward rather than stalling it while everyone catches up.

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

Look to great worldbuilding novels, such as Lord of the Rings or Hunger Games, for excellent examples of setting the stage. These worlds were built from the ground up, but as a reader, it never feels labored. Find the common ground between your story’s world and the reader’s and work from there, cluing them into the big differences as you go.

Rising Action

The rising action is the moments in your story that lead up to the climax — choices your main characters have made and the events happening that are at odds with your characters’ goals. This is where your story builds and your reader begins to invest in your characters.

This is likely going to be the longest section of your story. A whole lot happens between the start of the novel and that moment, but often you’ll find yourself holding your breath and waiting to see what will happen. That is the power of rising action.


This is it — the primary turning point and what your story has been building towards. What are your main characters going to do? Will they succeed or fail?

Typical climaxes include victories or defeats. The main goal of the climax is to resolve the conflict, but whether that positively or negatively affects your character is up to you. Or maybe it’s not that simple.

Falling Action

Now that the main conflict is resolved, it’s time to begin wrapping everything up. The falling action is a great time to tie up any loose ends while also giving your characters a chance to deal with the aftermath of the climax.


It’s time to end your tale! If you still have unanswered questions in your plot, answer them now. The resolution is also the time to show the next step in your characters’ lives. Do they live happily ever after? Is a new era dawning? Or do they just continue on with their ordinary existence with a new experience under their belt?

The resolution of one story can also be the start of another. You can introduce a new conflict or raise more questions for your reader. Wrap it up, then begin again!

2. Setting

What Are the Key Elements of a Story? (3)

What Are the Key Elements of a Story? (4)

The setting of your story is both the physical location and point in time in which your plot takes place. For some stories (like the fantasy novels mentioned above) setting is a huge part of the story. You can build a whole new world with its own languages and creatures. In this case, the setting almost acts as its own character in your tale.

But, you don’t have to go all immersive like Tolkien to create a strong setting in your story. What best serves your main themes? Modern day New York or civil rights era Mississippi? Victorian England or Jersey in the 80s? There are so many places you can travel to, and so many interesting times to draw from. Choose your favorite (or multiple favorites if your characters have a time machine 😉) and dig in.

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

3. Characters

What Are the Key Elements of a Story? (5)

What Are the Key Elements of a Story? (6)

The characters are the people, animals, beings, or personified objects driving your story. A story can have many characters or just one main character as the focus. Going back to our example, The Hunger Games focuses on Katniss, but there are many supporting characters that play a major role in her story: Haymitch, Peeta, Gale, Rue, Primrose, and many, many more. On the other hand, Edgar Allen Poe’s poem “The Raven” has only three: the narrator, Lenore, and the raven. But that’s plenty for an exciting tale.

Your story’s characters should be compelling. Whether good or evil, you need your reader to invest and care about their journey. So, what kind of characters does your story need?

Kinds of Characters

There are many different kinds of characters, but most stories include these two common types:


The protagonist is typically the ‘good guy’ in your story — the one the reader is rooting for. This main character is super important and central to your plot. They are often trying to overcome the conflict while finding themselves at odds with our next character type.


The antagonist of your story doesn’t have to be a single person. It can be any character, group, or force that is at odds with your protagonist. This doesn’t mean they have to be ‘evil’ or the ‘bad guy’, but the antagonist is often pushing the conflict onto our protagonist.

Looking for a fun example? Check out the Wicked Witch from The Wizard of Oz. She’s a classic antagonist in the original story. But in the musical Wicked, we’re told her background tale and she’s transformed into a protagonist the audience can’t help but love. That is the power of a good story!

4. Point of view

What Are the Key Elements of a Story? (7)

What Are the Key Elements of a Story? (8)

What changed in our two stories above about the Wicked Witch of the West? The point of view! Point of view (or POV) describes the lens through which the story is being told.

In The Wizard of Oz, the Wicked Witch is at odds with our protagonist Dorothy and her quest to return home. However, in Wicked, we get to see the green witch as a young woman going through the typical struggles of friendship and young love. And that is a whole other story.

Types of Point of View

The POV you choose can help shape your entire story. There are several different POVs to consider, but the most common are first person, second person, and third person.

First Person Point of View

A story told in the first person is most often told from the point of view of the protagonist. Our protagonist narrator will speak using first person pronouns (I, we, me, etc). And as the reader, we are privy to their innermost thoughts and feelings.

This is a great way to pull a reader into the story, and a very strong bond can be formed between the reader and the narrator. Our previous example, The Hunger Games, was told with a first person POV. As a reader, we never knew more than Katniss did about what was happening, leading to some great surprises and reveals as the story continued to unfold throughout the three book series.

Second Person Point of View

You won’t see second person used very often in literature, but it is an important POV to keep in mind. In the second person, the reader is addressed directly and may even become a character of sorts in your story. This point of view is written using second person pronouns (you, your, etc).

Though you can find some books written in second person, most often you will see this writing in your digital reading, such as ads and blog posts — why, hello there!

Third Person Point of View

Third person POV is by far the most common point of view in fiction writing. In this kind of story, the reader is a bystander, observing the actions of the characters as told by an ‘outside narrator’. This POV used third person pronouns (he, she, they, etc). But how much we learn as a reader depends on which style of narrator you choose.

Third Person Omniscient

A third person omniscient narrator knows everything going down in the story. As a reader, we can learn the inside thoughts and feelings of all the main characters. The story unfolds in front of us, and we get to experience it through a variety of character lenses.

Third Person Limited

In this POV, our narrator has access to only one character’s inside thoughts and feelings. As the reader, we typically follow this one character as our main character, learning only what they know and seeing the world through their eyes and experiences.

(Video) Screenwriting: The Key Elements of Story - IFH Film School - The Hero's Journey

5. Conflict

The conflict is the big problem of the story. What is your main character trying to overcome? That is the conflict.

Conflict comes in many different forms, but will almost always involve an antagonist of sorts. There can be one major conflict in your story, or your characters may encounter several throughout the tale. But more than likely there is one big theme driving the major conflict. So, what does that look like?

Types of Conflict

There are different types of conflicts you may choose to use, but the most common are character vs self, character vs character, character vs nature, and character vs society.

Character vs Self

In this type of conflict, your main character must overcome something within themselves to achieve their goal. These internal conflicts may look like a doubt, fear, or grudge. It’s whatever is holding them back from their desires.

The Lord of the Rings provides a great example of character vs self with Aragorn. He is destined to be king, but his own doubts have taken him away from that path. One of the major plots of the story is Aragorn realizing that he is capable and worthy of this leadership role.

Character vs Character

In a character vs character conflict, someone is standing in our protagonist’s way. This is a very common conflict type in superhero tales. There’s a ‘bad guy’ our main characters must defeat before the story ends.

Character vs Nature

Character vs nature conflicts pit our characters against some kind of natural force. It could be a natural disaster (tornado, hurricane, wildfire, avalanche) or any other kind of survival tale. Many post-apocalyptic stories involve both character vs nature and character vs character conflicts.

Another example of character vs nature is when our characters are battling forces of nature, such as in The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. In this heartbreaking story, two teens are fighting cancer diagnoses — a force of nature they have no control over. After falling in love, they are then left to battle time and death — two other powerful forces of nature.

Character vs Society

In our final conflict type, characters are battling oppressive societal norms. In character vs society, our protagonist feels like they are at odds with the whole world. This can often be broken down into character vs character to get a strong emotional pull (such as a kid at odd with their parents) but the themes are much bigger than any one person.


The importance of incorporating these elements into your story

When you’re helping students write their story, keep these elements in mind or encourage students to use them to outline their stories and major themes. Including these five elements will give their stories direction, structure, and a great flow, keeping their readers flipping those pages long into the night.

Now, what are you waiting for? Go forth and give your students the tools they need to tell their tale! We can’t wait to read what your students dream up.

Looking for more ways to inspire your student's writing and help them practice key skills? Prodigy English, a brand-new ELA-focused adventure, is here to help students practice key reading and language skills in a game-based environment.

Sign up for a free teacher account today to send differentiated assessments and help students love learning!

(Video) Story Elements Part 1: Characters, Setting, and Events | English For Kids | Mind Blooming
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What are the 5 key elements of a story? ›

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

What are the 4 main story elements? ›

To define four major story elements: character, setting, plot, and theme.

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 the most important element in 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 5 key steps to developing a storyline? ›

But for the sake of this exercise, let's break these steps down separately and in order.
  • Identify and Understand Your Audience. ...
  • Determine Your Goal. ...
  • Discover the Challenge(s) ...
  • Find the Right Character. ...
  • Bring it to Resolution.
12 Jul 2018

What is an example of story elements? ›

The 8 elements of a story are: character, setting, plot, conflict, theme, point-of-view, tone and style. These story elements form the backbone of any good novel or short story.

What are the 7 elements of a narrative? ›

These terms include: plot, characters, point of view, setting, theme, conflict, and style. Understanding how these elements work helps us better analyze narratives and to determine meanings.

What are the six main elements of storytelling? ›

Storytelling 101: The 6 Elements of Every Complete Narrative
  • Setting. The setting is the time and location in which your story takes place. ...
  • Characters. A story usually includes a number of characters, each with a different role or purpose. ...
  • Plot. ...
  • Conflict. ...
  • Theme. ...
  • Narrative Arc.

What are the 12 elements of a short story? ›

These patterns are where we find the elements of a story.
The 12 elements of every great story
  • A protagonist. ...
  • An antagonist. ...
  • Setting. ...
  • Perspective. ...
  • Something to fight for. ...
  • Something to lose. ...
  • Rising action. ...
  • Falling action.
6 Jan 2022

What are the 3 main elements of a narrative? ›

A narrative is a literary work that involves the retelling of a story. To develop an effective narrative essay, paper, poem or book, you need to include several common narrative elements. These elements include a main theme of the story, characters, a plot and the setting.

What are the 3 main elements? ›

From antiquity to the present day, we find the correlation between humans and the three elements, air, water and fire, from which the whole world is structured.

What are the 3 basic elements? ›

These three, Tejas, Ap and food, are the three basic elements and entering into Tejas and Ap, the Supreme Brahman continued with creation. Since these elements are non-sentient, they could not have become many on their own.

What elements makes a good story good? ›

The Five Essential Elements of a Great Story
  • Protagonist. The protagonist is the main character of a story. ...
  • Antagonist. As with the protagonist, make the antagonist interesting. ...
  • An Inciting Action. The beginning of your story, or exposition, should include an event that sets the characters in motion. ...
  • Conflict. ...
  • Resolution.

Why is elements important in a story? ›

When students can describe literary elements such as character and plot, they are better able to interpret and respond to a text. Focusing on and discussing key details of literary elements supports the understanding of the author's message and purpose.

What makes a story powerful? ›

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.

How do you write a perfect story? ›

How to write a story in 5 steps
  1. 1 Find inspiration. The first step in writing a story is coming up with an idea. ...
  2. 2 Brainstorm. Once you have an idea for a story, brainstorm. ...
  3. 3 Outline. Next, create an outline for your story. ...
  4. 4 Write the first draft. It's time to write. ...
  5. 5 Revise and edit your story.
23 Sept 2022

How do you start a story? ›

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 are the 9 major elements of a story? ›

So, keep in mind that you need a main theme, characters, setting, tension, climax, resolution, plot, purpose and chronology for a powerful story.

What are the 13 elements of a story? ›

Recognized by evaluating different elements of the book, including style and language, character, plot, illustrations, pacing, setting, tension, design and layout, mood, accuracy, tone, point of view, and theme.

What are the 8 narrative elements? ›

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

What are the 7 major story types? ›

The 7 story archetypes are:
  • Overcoming the Monster.
  • Rags to Riches.
  • The Quest.
  • Voyage and Return.
  • Comedy.
  • Tragedy.
  • Rebirth.
31 Oct 2011

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 10 elements of a novel? ›

  • Protagonist. Main character. ...
  • Antagonist. The person or thing that works against the protagonist. ...
  • Conflict. The problem or struggle the protagonist faces.
  • Resolution. the solution to the conflict.
  • Plot. The event that occurs in the story.
  • Setting. When and where the story takes place.
  • Climax. ...
  • Theme.

What makes a story? ›

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 is the main of a story? ›

The main idea of a story is the central concept that the author wants to portray through the narrative, characters and settings. The main idea looks different in stories than it does in essays, informational text, and other forms of writing intended to simply inform the reader.

What is a theme in a story? ›

In contemporary literary studies, a theme is a central topic, subject, or message within a narrative. Themes can be divided into two categories: a work's thematic concept is what readers "think the work is about" and its thematic statement being "what the work says about the subject".

What are the types of elements? ›

  • The elements are classified as metal, non-metal, and metalloid.
  • The extreme left side elements in the periodic table are metals, for example, sodium, calcium, caesium, etc.
  • However, elements on the right side are generally referred to as non-metals, carbon, chlorine, oxygen, etc.

What are the 4 elements in order? ›

The Four Elements. Greek philosophy supposed the Universe to comprise four elements: Fire, Air, Earth, & Water. The Four Elements are usually arranged as four corners, but can also be arranged in ascending order, from bottom to top, the Earth rising out of Water, Air over the Earth, and the Sun (Fire) over all.

What are the 7 types of elements? ›

The seven elements are line, color, value, shape, form, space, and texture. We are going to review each of these in detail below.

What are the 5 types of elements? ›

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.

What is the key to good storytelling? ›

Good stories are easy to understand. They're also told in a language that matches the way the intended audience communicates, so they don't need to spend time interpreting and then absorbing. Simplicity also aides in memorability, because the overall lesson is easy to grasp in summary.

How do you make a story interesting? ›

The Top 10 Tips For Writing Great Short Stories
  1. Understand that a short story is not the same as a novel. ...
  2. Start as close to the end as possible. ...
  3. Keep up the pace. ...
  4. Keep the number of characters small. ...
  5. Give the reader someone to root for. ...
  6. Create conflict! ...
  7. Suggest a backstory but don't elaborate. ...
  8. Appeal to the five senses.
30 Sept 2020

What makes a story boring? ›

Many writers spend too much time developing characters that get killed off early in the story. They also show good luck charms, objects, or places we never see again. These factors, along with an interesting but ultimately irrelevant history, all make appearances in boring stories.

How do you introduce a story element? ›

How to Teach Story Elements? The best way to teach story elements is through your daily read alouds. During this time you can introduce the terms with a story elements anchor chart and discuss them with your students. Typically it is best to introduce one component at a time.

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.

How elements work together in a story? ›

The basic bones of a story are setting, character, plot, conflict, and theme. These elements work together to create the basic structure of a story. Without any one of these components, a story will fall flat, and changing any one of these elements can dramatically affect a story's structure and impact.

What makes a story weak? ›

What makes a plot weak or strong depends on a variety of components. Strong stories have a good balance of character, plot, and setting. If you have way too much of one and too few of the others, your story could feel off. Keep in mind that genre is important to consider when looking at plot and pacing.

What makes a story creative? ›

Creative writing uses senses and emotions in order to create a strong visual in the reader's mind whereas other forms of writing typically only leave the reader with facts and information instead of emotional intrigue.

What makes a good story opening? ›

The opening lines of a story need to engage the reader so that they keep reading. Narrative hooks work to capture the reader's attention – like a worm on a fishing hook attracts a fish. Raising questions or setting a puzzle at the start of a story can create intrigue.

What are the 4 story types? ›

Here are four common types of narrative:
  • Linear Narrative. A linear narrative presents the events of the story in the order in which they actually happened. ...
  • Non-linear Narrative. ...
  • Quest Narrative. ...
  • Viewpoint Narrative.
8 Sept 2021

What are the 4 types of short story? ›

Short Fiction Forms: Novella, Novelette, Short Story, and Flash Fiction Defined. When it comes to fiction, a short narrative can be found in many forms, from a slim book to just a few sentences.

What is the 4 part narrative structure? ›

Four-act structure, as previously mentioned, is broken into Act I, Act IIA, ActIIB, and Act III. Four-act structure centers its acts around key plot elements and events the protagonist experiences. The first act builds up to the call to adventure or the life changing event the protagonist experiences.

How is a story structure? ›

Story structure, also known as narrative structure, is the order in which events are organized into a beginning, middle, and ending in a novel. A story's structure directly affects the way the plot unfolds and how its driving forces (characters, obstacles, setting, etc.) are introduced to the reader.

What are the 3 stages of a story? ›

The three-act structure is a model used in narrative fiction that divides a story into three parts (acts), often called the Setup, the Confrontation, and the Resolution.

How do you begin a story? ›

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 is the first sentence of a story called? ›

At the beginning of a written work stands the opening sentence or opening line.

How many pages is 50000 words? ›

A typical manuscript page (8.5×11 paper, 1-inch margins, standard 11- or 12-point font, doublespaced—like you would type in Word) is considered to be 250 words. So a 25,000-word manuscript is about 100 pages. A 50,000-word manuscript is 200 pages.

What makes a story unique? ›

characters (name, job, hobby, goal) plot or sequence of events. setting (time or place) challenges and conflicts.

How many acts are in a story? ›

At their most basic, the three acts of a book or script represent a beginning, a middle, and an end.

How do you structure a good story? ›

Organize your narrative into a three act structure.

Divide your story into exposition and an inciting incident in the first act, a rising action leading to a climax in the second act, and a climax de-escalating into resolution in the final act.


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