What Are The Elements Of A Story? [Explained With Examples]

Everyone loves a good story. Whether it’s a classic fairytale, an action-packed adventure, or even just a funny anecdote about your recent holiday – stories are powerful tools that entertain and inspire us.

But what is the secret that makes some tales so captivating? What elements do all great stories have in common?

In this article, you’ll learn what the story elements are, and how they all come together to create an amazing story. Plus, we’ll also take a look at some examples from popular books to demonstrate how the story elements work in practice.

👉 See our overview guide on story

elements of a story

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What Makes A Good Story?

Every story has basic elements that make it unique and compelling. These basic story elements come together to create an experience that enthralls readers and keeps them hooked.

A good story should be able to draw readers in and keep them engaged. It should have a strong plot, characters who are easy to relate to, and an emotional connection with the audience.

What Are The Elements Of A Story?

Every great story is made up of 7 elements. Each element plays an important role in the overall narrative arc. So what are the basic elements of a story? Below are the seven elements of a story:

  1. Setting
  2. Characters
  3. Plot
  4. Dialogue
  5. Theme
  6. Conflict
  7. Point of View

1. Setting:

elements of a story - setting

The setting of a story is the time and place where the story occurs. It can be real or imaginary but often described in great detail. For example, a story set in a castle might include details like the tall towers that reach up into the sky, the walls made of stone and covered with ivy, and an ancient moat that surrounds the castle.

The setting of a story could be 1920s Newyork as seen in “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, or a deserted tropical island in “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding.

To create a really great setting, try to imagine it as if you were there. What are the sights and smells? What do characters hear, see and feel? Details like the smell of a wet forest or the sound of distant birds can create a vivid mental image of the world in which your story takes place.

👉 To learn more, see our comprehensive guide to setting of a story

2. Characters.

historical fiction character

The characters in a story are the people, animals, and other creatures that inhabit the story’s world. They can be protagonists or antagonists, the main character, or supporting characters. Characters have goals and motivations that drive their actions and shape the plot.

A story might feature characters that are not human, such as extra-terrestrials, robots, or talking animals. That said, try to create believable characters that readers can relate to, regardless of whether they’re “people” or not.

Popular characters like Harry Potter from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, or Katniss from the “Hunger Games” series by Suzanne Collins, have complex and unique backstories.


Your characters should be unique and have flaws. There are no perfect people in the real world, so why would there be any in your story? Give your characters realistic flaws and attitudes that readers can relate to.

3. Plot.

The plot is the series of events that take place in a story. It can involve twists and turns, surprises and revelations, and they all lead to a climax where the story’s conflicts are resolved.

A Plot often features a major conflict, subplots, and all of the obstacles and challenges in the story. It includes elements like rising action and falling action and exposition.

The plot of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series involves a young wizard, Harry Potter, and his friends Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, as they battle the evil Lord Voldemort who is intent on taking over the Wizarding world.

Plots can be simple or complex, but they have a beginning, middle, and end. Most stories use the popular three-act plot structure, but some stories might have more than one plot that needs to be resolved.

The plot of Romeo and Juliet follows the three-act structure, with a beginning, middle, and end, although this is more succinctly represented in a five-act structure.

👉 To delve deeper, read our guide to story structures

4. Dialogue.

Dialogue is the conversations between characters in a story. Dialogue reveals character motivations, move the story’s plot forward, and creates tension. It should be written in a natural way, with characters speaking in their own, unique voices.

Examples of dialogue in unpopular books and films include Holden Caulfield’s iconic line, from “The Catcher in the Rye”:

“You know what I mean? Nobody likes you,”

Andy Sachs’ powerful assertion of self-determination to her boss Miranda Priestly in “The Devil Wears Prada”, saying:

“I’m sorry, but I just don’t see myself here anymore”

When you write dialogue, focus on the characters’ body language and expressions, not just words. Use pauses and silences to create suspense. And include descriptions of how your character feels as they speak.

5. Theme.

story element - theme

The theme of a story is the main idea or message of the story. It can be something abstract, like friendship or love, or something concrete, like a warning against greed. Themes often subtly affect how characters interact and how they solve their conflicts.

Every story theme should be built around a strong central idea. Your story should have a theme that captures the overall message you want to convey.

Also keep in mind that your theme will influence your plot, characters’ journeys, as well as the ending of your story.

👉 Head over to our overview guide to themes in literature

6. Conflict.

Conflict is the opposition between characters or forces in a story. It is the “struggle” of the story. Conflict can be external (a character battling their enemies), or internal (a character struggling to make a decision).

Conflict often leads to plot twists and reveals. It escalates tension that leads to the climax of the story. A good conflict should be complex and unpredictable. It should have characters’ motivations playing off one another and should move the story’s plot forward.

In Harper Lee’s classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout and Jem experience external conflict as they grapple with racial injustice in the Deep South. J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter series shows how Harry and his friends face both external and internal conflicts as they battle the dark wizard Voldemort.

7. Point of View.

first person point of view

The point of view of a story is the perspective from which the story is told. It can be first-person POV (the narrator is a character in the story) or third-person point of view (the narrator does not participate in the story). Point of view affects how readers experience and interpret a story.

There are some examples of POV in popular books. The novel “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger tells the story from the first-person point of view of protagonist Holden Caulfield. In “The Great Gatsby”, the point of view is third-person limited from Nick Carraway’s perspective as he watches and narrates the story.

👉 For a deeper insight, see our guide to point of view in literature

Examples Of Elements Of A Story

Example 1: Harry Potter By J.K Rowlings

  • Setting: The majority of the story takes place in the fictional world of Rowling’s creation, with a primary setting being Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Other notable settings include Diagon Alley, the Ministry of Magic, Hogsmeade Village, and Azkaban Prison.
  • Characters: Harry Potter is the main protagonist of the series and is accompanied by side characters such as Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, Albus Dumbledore, Professor Snape, Hagrid, and more.
  • Plot: Harry Potter discovers he is a wizard at age 11 when he’s invited to attend Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. He embarks on a journey full of adventures to save the wizarding world.
  • Conflicts: Harry’s struggles to overcome evil forces such as Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters, who are determined to take over the wizarding world. He also has to grapple with personal struggles, such as feeling out of place at school and feeling like he doesn’t fit in.
  • Theme: The theme of Harry Potter is the power of love and friendship. Throughout the series, Harry is surrounded by loyal friends and family who stand with him through thick and thin. This ultimately enables him to overcome evil forces despite great odds.

Example 2: The Hobbit By J.R.R Tolkien

  • Setting: The primary setting in The Hobbit is the fantasy world of the Middle-Earth. The main characters traverse through various regions, including Wilderland, Lonely Mountain, and Mirkwood Forest.
  • Characters: Bilbo Baggins is the protagonist who embarks on a quest with 13 dwarves to reclaim their homeland from a dragon. Other important characters include Gandalf the Wizard, Thorin Oakenshield, and Gollum.
  • Plot: Bilbo Baggins is hired by a group of dwarves to be their burglar and help them reclaim the Lonely Mountain from Smaug, the dragon. Along the way, they face many obstacles including trolls, goblins, and wargs.
  • Conflicts: The main conflict in The Hobbit is between the dwarves and Smaug. There is also a secondary conflict between Gandalf and the Necromancer, which offers insight into the larger struggle against evil forces in Middle-Earth.
  • Theme: The power of courage and selflessness are key themes in The Hobbit. Bilbo’s journey challenges him to step outside of his comfort zone, and the courage he displays enables him to discover his true potential. His selflessness helps him overcome obstacles and ultimately defeat Smaug.

Final Notes on Elements Of A Story

Good storytelling involves more than just plots and dialogue. A good story should have 7 essential elements of a story – including believable characters, intriguing scenes, and suspense, as well as conflict and a resolution that ties it all together.

With practice, you can become an expert at crafting memorable stories with compelling characters and engaging conflicts.

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