Elements of a Story to Incorporate into Creative Writing Tasks

author By Mary Boies

A complete story has the seven essential elements of a story: theme, conflict, plot, setting, characters, point-of-view, and tone. A story without any of these elements is not a complete story. All types of narratives, including plays, short stories, and novels, have these basic elements. Therefore, when writing a story, personal essay, or narrative essay, it is important to work with these elements to ensure your narrative is complete.

You are wrong if you think you have to include the basic elements of a story in a particular order in your narrative. There is no specific way to include the elements in your writing. All you need to do is ensure that your story is well-developed at the end of the day to such an extent that all the elements are clearly discernible.

In this post, you will discover everything necessary to know about all the seven basic elements of a story. By the end of the article, you should be able to use the elements effortlessly to write stories or analyze them.

1. Setting

By definition, the setting of a story means the time, when, and where it takes place. Every proper story has a setting. When you are writing a story, you must provide the setting to enable the readers to get the context of the story. It may not seem important to tell when and where your story is taking place, but to the readers, it is. Because without this information, they really won’t fully understand your story.

Most short stories take place in just one setting, such as a room or an outdoor location. Therefore, it is much easier to provide the setting when writing them. In contrast, long stories often take place in multiple settings. Because of this, it is much harder to provide details about them (the settings), but it is indispensable. In addition, the settings in long stories can take place over multiple locations or even generations.

The sub-elements of this element of a story are time, place, and alternative reality. With regard to time, a story can take place in the future, the present, the past, or a mix of two or three of these sub-elements. For instance, in Back to the Future, the author uses all these sub-elements to provide an exciting narrative in which he details the journeys of Marty McFly's characters between the past and the future.

Regarding the place, a story can take place in a country, an urban/remote location, or some scenic location. When a story or part takes place in a specific country, it is important to mention it and give a bit of background to provide context to the readers. When a story takes place in an urban or remote location, it is also important to provide details to ensure the readers understand it better. Similarly, when a story takes place in a scenic location, giving details about the location will help people understand it better.

Alternative reality is the last of the three sub-elements of the setting element of a story. A story can take place in an alternative reality. There are many such stories in the form of post-apocalyptic novels set in a world after a mega-disaster. In addition, some stories are set in alternative planets or universes. It is much more important to provide settings and details in a story set in an alternative universe to give the readers a complete understanding of what is happening.

2. Characters

The characters of a story collectively form a crucial element of the story. This is especially true in short stories and novels. Some of the best stories are relatable, and there is no better way to make a story relatable than by including relatable characters. Some of the best stories are also inspiring, and there is no better way to make a story inspiring than by having inspirational characters. Do you see where we are going with this? We are trying to say in a few short words that characters make a story. You can think of them as the backbone of a story; because it is through them that great stories are told.

The characters of a story can be humans or animals. A good story typically includes the following characters: protagonist, antagonist, dynamic character, static character, and confidante character. The protagonist is often the main character of a story (the hero). The author spends most of their time developing this character to ensure the readers quickly understand them (the main character) and their motivations/circumstances.

The protagonist is usually challenged, opposed, or fought by another character. This character is known as the antagonist. Excellent creative story writing often involves the antagonist being used to cause tension in some way, and it is up to the protagonist to stand in his way.

Long stories usually have other characters, such as dynamic and static characters. The dynamic character is that peripheral character whose importance changes throughout the story. The character can start as a peripheral or fringe character and end up being one of the key characters or vice versa. A static character is the exact opposite of a dynamic character. The importance of a static character doesn’t change throughout the story; the character stays the same.

The terrific stories usually have one more character, the confidante character. This character is a close friend (confidante) of the protagonist/central character. The character is also known as the sidekick character. They usually play the role of a philosophical or wise character that tries to guide the main character in the right direction.

Sometimes characters, particularly the main ones, have internal conflicts or challenges they try to overcome in a story. Introducing or giving one of your key characters internal challenges or conflicts is a way to improve their depth and make your story more believable and enjoyable.

3. Conflict

Every good story must have a conflict element. Nobody would like to spend hours reading a story without a conflict or a challenge. Therefore, you must include this element when writing a story to make it more interesting. By definition, a conflict in a story is the main challenge the hero of the story (the protagonist) has to overcome. Therefore, it forms a significant part of the storyline, and it is typically resolved at the climax of the story.

A typical story will have one or more of the following conflicts: protagonist versus antagonist, protagonist versus nature, protagonist versus self, and protagonist versus society. In the protagonist versus antagonist conflict, the protagonist must overcome the antagonist to prevent him from causing harm. An excellent example of this type of story conflict is in Harry Potter, where Harry Potter (the hero) must overcome Voldemort (the antagonist) to save the world from destruction.

In the protagonist versus nature conflict, the protagonist must overcome nature. Nature, in this case, plays the role of the antagonist/villain. A good example of this type of story conflict is any story where the protagonist has to escape a thick jungle, a shipwreck, a tsunami, or a natural disaster.

In the protagonist versus self-conflict, the protagonist has to overcome inner conflicts or challenges to succeed. An excellent example of such a story conflict is any story where the protagonist has to overcome shame, guilt, or pain to succeed.

Lastly, in the protagonist versus society conflict, the protagonist must overcome society somehow. Society usually plays the role of the antagonist in such conflicts.

4. Theme

Every good story has a theme. A theme is one of the most critical elements of a story. By definition, the theme of a story is the central argument that the story conveys. Before you write a creative narrative, you have to decide what it will be about in a sentence. In other words, you must determine what lesson or meaning it will convey. Once you do so, you must stick to it throughout your story to ensure your narrative's hidden meaning or wisdom is highly discernible.

All types of stories have themes, including short stories. Common themes include the importance of faith, the power of redemption, courage, love, the desire for freedom, political corruption, moral dilemma, corporate greed, the pain of war, and good versus evil.

Perhaps the most common theme in Western stories and films is good versus evil. Stories with this theme usually entail good triumphing over evil courtesy of a heroic protagonist (Batman, Superman, and so on).

Probably the second most common theme in Western stories and films is that of love. Stories running on this theme usually have a plot showing how to find love or the power of love. A good example of a Western story explaining the power of love is that of Romeo and Juliet.

The desire for freedom theme is also somewhat common in movies and stories. It involves the struggles of escaping a conflict or war situation. For example, many famous accounts of Jews escaping concentration camps during the holocaust, such as the Auschwitz Escape by Joel Rosenberg.

The moral dilemma theme has also been widely exploited in stories and movies. It was particularly popular in old movies and novels. It involves the protagonist choosing between two equally negative and morally ambiguous choices.

5. Plot

The plot of a story is an essential element of it. Every story ever written follows a plot, aka a storyline. By definition, a plot is a sequence of events. Think of it as the manner the story unfolds. The plot is sometimes called the narrative structure.

The simplest plot structure for a short story is chronological. It starts with the beginning, followed by the middle (the body), and then the ending. The beginning is the part where the characters are introduced, and the scene is set. The middle is where the conflict or the challenge is introduced, and the story of how it is supposed to be overcome is told. And the ending is where the conflict is resolved, and a sense of closure is provided.

The typical plot structure used for writing novels has a bit more depth. It has five parts: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. The exposition part provides the background of the story to give the readers good context. The background of the story includes information about the characters and the setting(s). It also provides details about how the characters are related. While the exposition should mainly provide the background of the story, it should also be entertaining.

The rising action part of the story should introduce the main conflicts or challenges the protagonist will have to overcome. In other words, the “plot thickens” part of the story. It is usually the longest part of most novels or movies. The reason why this part is thick is to build tension and make the story as captivating as it can be.

The next part of the story is the climax part. This part is usually the most exciting part of the story. It is where the tension that was being built in the rising action part comes to a head. A good climax can involve a big reveal, a twist, a direct confrontation between the main characters, or so on.

The climax part is followed by the falling action part. This part is usually somewhat brief. It is where the tension starts to dissolve. The main conflict is usually already resolved at this point, and the results are provided in this part.

The last part of a story plot is called the resolution part. It is where the author provides the readers with a sense of closure. It is where the loose ends are also tied, and the story is nicely wrapped up. A well-written resolution is a key to making the readers feel good about the entire storyline or plot.

6. Point of View

The point of view (POV) of a story is an important element, just like all the other elements described so far in this list. This is because it greatly impacts how a story is written. For example, a story can be written in the first person POV, the second person POV, or the third person POV.

The stories written in first person POV are told from the protagonist’s perspective. It is easy to tell that a story has a first-person POV by looking for first phrases such as “we” and “I.” Some authors consider it easier to tell personal stories in the first person POV, but not all of them do.

The stories written in second person POV are told by an outsider (not the protagonist). While they are told by an outsider, they address the reader directly. The easiest way to tell a story has a second-person POV is to look for the phrases “you” and ““your.”

Finally, the stories written in third person POV involve the writer taking the role of an omniscient narrator who sees everything and tells everything like a movie. The narrator is nowhere to be seen in the story and doesn’t address the reader directly.

7. Tone

Good stories take into account tone. The tone is the backdrop of a story. It helps to improve the reader’s understanding of the story. The tone of a story can include moods like intellectual, ominous, hopeful, uplifting, or melancholy.

The tone of a story can be given through soliloquy, time of day, or weather conditions. Soliloquy is the narrator providing a first-person reflection on thoughts and moods. Simply stating the time of the day, a writer can make it easy for the reader to tell the tone. For example, a warm evening conveys a tone of drowsiness, while a morning setting conveys a tone of a new beginning.

Weather conditions can also be used to convey the tone. For example, rainy weather is good for conveying a tone of sadness or mood, while sunshine weather is suitable for conveying a tone of happiness.

Final Remarks

Every proper story has the seven elements of a story described above: setting, character, conflict, theme, plot, point of view, and tone. By taking these elements into account when writing a story, you will make your story more complete and more interesting. Moreover, by knowing the seven elements, you can use them as a framework to critique any story, including films.

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