Five Elements of Story

pen to paper

A story can be sorted into five important elements. These elements are necessary in order to give the story a drive and in order for the reader to get excited about and understand the story. The five elements are: Plot, setting, conflict, character & Theme (in either order).


The plot sets the action for the story. Often when I write I start with developing a plot. The plot needs to outline whats going down and what’s going to happen. What does your characters need to archive? How are they going to archive it, and what do they have to do to archive it. The plot is a series of events that will lead to the story’s conclusion.
Ex. a group of people stranded in the desert, they need to find shelter and ultimately they have to find their way out of the desert.


The conflict is a struggle in the plot. Often when I think of conflict I try to ask myself: “What is the worst thing that can happen now?” The conflict can be internal or external.
An external conflict come from outside the main character: anything from the action of another character (ex. a bandit shows up) to an environmental change (ex. a Sandstorm).
An internal conflict is a struggle inside the main character, often portrayed as a dilemma. (ex. if stranded for a long time the question of cannibalism might arise).


For me, setting almost always comes with the plot. The setting sets the scene, where are they, when are they? The setting should tell where the characters are situated: in a city, a desert, our world or a fantasy world. It should also answer what time period we are in, are they the past, in the present or somewhere in the future. This doesn’t have to be a definite answer, but the environment and the characters should reveal what time-period they exists in as the action will evolve different depending on where we are in time.
Ex. if the group in the desert are in the past they won’t have lighters (it gets very cold in the desert at nighttime), and if they are in the future they might replicators or other special gadget that will aid them (to create tension: find a way for the future tech not to work).


The characters carry out the actions. The characters could be anything, humans animals, dragons, depending on what kind of story you are writing. They can be silly, righteous, mean-spirited, funny or anything you’d like. Though there should be conflicting character-types.
When creating a character, try to avoid stereotype. In certain types of stories stereotypes can be entertaining, but mostly they are insulting and can seem like  lack of effort and imagination on the writers part.


The theme of the story is the main idea and it contains the central belief or topic of the story. It contains the idea that the author would like to convey to the audience.  The characters’ actions, interactions, and motivations all reflect the story’s theme. In order to find the theme, try to figure out what the story really is about.
Often the theme can be something abstract like: sacrifice, preservation of innocence, isolation or resurrection.
Moral is not included in this list, but the theme is closely linked with the moral a story tries to convey.


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