Five Elements of Story | Between the Lines Editorial | photo shows a cup of coffee, an open book, and a tray with eucalyptus and a cell phone

Whether you’re just starting out with creative writing or a seasoned pro, sometimes it’s good to go back to basics. We all need to refresh our knowledge!

Today, let’s look at the five basic elements of any story you might write.

1. Character

Every element we discuss in this post is important for your story, but I think characters are especially important. Well-developed characters can really drive a story for readers more so than the actual plot. If readers love your characters, they’re going to be more emotionally invested in your story.

The good news is that characters aren’t exclusively people/humanoids in fiction, which gives you more room to be creative.

A character can be a person, animal, or other being. Even objects and settings can serve as a character within a story.

2. Setting

Setting is also important to a story. 

Your story can have multiple settings, as setting is just where the action is taking place. However, setting can and should be so much more than just where the action takes place. The setting can impact the character(s) and plot in some way.

For example, in a post-apocalyptic zombie story, maybe the character(s) are stuck in a snowstorm. That adds an extra layer of conflict, because now they must not only battle zombies but also the environment.

You can also consider how the emotional connection a character has to the setting may impact their reaction. For example, a character may revisit their childhood bedroom and have a flashback of a conflict parallel to their current situation.

These are, of course, just two examples of how you can tie the setting back into the character’s life and the story.

You also want to ensure your world is well-developed and engaging to make it feel real to readers. Read this post to learn more!

You can also listen to Episode 15 of the Writer’s Nook Podcast to learn more about worldbuilding.

3. Plot

Plot is the story your writing revolves around. It intertwines the sequence of events, the numerous conflicts, and characters into one cohesive story from start to finish.

Every plot needs a beginning, a middle, a climax, and a resolution. Within that structure, conflicts and tension build, readers learn about the world, and they experience the story with the characters.

To learn more about weaving secondary plots into your story, listen to Episode 11 of the Writer’s Nook Podcast.

4. Conflict

Conflict is different than plot, though it feeds back into the plot. In essence, conflict is some kind of problem the character must solve, and the plot revolves around this conflict.

Keep in mind that there is never just one conflict in a story. Stories involve multiple problems that build on top of each other. There are seven main types of conflict you might include in your story, and you can blend and layer them for a truly engaging read. This is where subplots, or those side problems characters encounter and solve, come into play.

If you want to read more about types of conflict, read this blog post.

5. Resolution

As mentioned in the “plot” section of this post, conflicts in your story need resolutions.

A resolution is simple. It’s the action characters take to solve their problem. This might take place in something as simple as a conversation or as dramatic as a giant battle for the fate of the world.

If you’re writing a series, you’ll want to ensure some loose ends are tied up (aka resolved), but that there is a continuing problem that will come up in the next story.

Your Next Steps

If you’re interested in knowing more about writing a novel (or any kind of fiction), check out The Novel Series I wrote last year.

If you’d like more specific guidance on crafting story, contact me to discuss how I can help you as your editor and writing coach.