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Story Elements. Or Literary Elements. Characters. Characters are the people in a story. Characters can also be animals, birds, talking trees, sea creatures, and so on .

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Story elements

Story Elements

Or Literary Elements


Characters are the people in a story. Characters can also be animals, birds, talking trees, sea creatures, and so on.

In a story, the author tells you all sorts of things about the characters. Pay close attention to the words the author uses to tell about each character. Notice what the characters have to say. Also, think about how the characters are alike or different from each other.

The things people do and say tell us a lot about the kind of people they are. Dialogue is the words characters speak in the story. The words characters say to each other can tell you how they get along (or don't). The characters' actions can give you more information. Dialog is set off in quotation marks.

Point of view
Point of View

A story's point of view describes who is telling the story. A story's narrator tells the story. In stories with a first person point of view, the narrator is one of the characters. In stories with a third person point of view, the narrator is someone outside the story. The way a plot develops can depend on which point of view the author uses.


Most of the time, an author will give details about the setting—whereand when the story takes place. Setting includes what the place looks like. It also includes things such as the year, the season, the time of day, and the weather.

Story elements

Tone is the author’s attitude toward the writing (his characters, the situation) and the readers. A work of writing can have more than one tone. An example of tone could be both serious and humorous. Tone is set by the setting, choice of vocabulary and other details. Use context clues to help determine the tone.

Words that describe tone
Words That Describe Tone

  • Amused

  • Humorous

  • Pessimistic

  • Angry

  • Informal

  • PlayfulCheerful

  • Ironic

  • Pompous

  • Horror

  • Light

  • Sad

  • Clear

  • Matter-of-fact

  • Serious

  • Formal

  • Resigned

  • Suspicious

  • Gloomy

  • Optimistic

  • Witty

Story elements

Mood is the general atmosphere created by the author’s words. It is the feeling the reader gets from reading those words. It may be the same, or it may change from situation to situation. Writers use many devices to create mood, including images, dialogue, setting, and plot. Often a writer creates a mood at the beginning of the story and continues it to the end. However, sometimes the mood changes because of the plot or changes in characters.

Words that describe mood
Words That Describe Mood

  • Fanciful

  • Melancholy

  • Frightening

  • Mysterious

  • Frustrating

  • Romantic

  • Gloomy

  • Sentimental

  • Happy

  • Sorrowful

  • Joyful

  • Suspenseful

Story elements

  • The plot is what happens in the story – it’s where the action is.

  • The plot includes:

  • Conflict

  • Rising Action

  • Climax

  • Falling Action

  • Theme


The conflict of a story is the problem faced by the main character(s). The conflict is usually set up at the beginning of the story.

Types of conflict
Types of Conflict

A character can have many types of conflicts. Sometimes the character's conflict is with another person. Sometimes the character's conflict is with nature. Sometimes characters have conflicts within themselves. Imagine that your best friend has invited you to a birthday party on the same day that your Scout troop is going on a camping trip. You have to decide which event to attend. The problem—and the solution—is within yourself.

Rising action
Rising Action

The rising action of a story is when the action of the story builds. It is the “meat” of the story and tells us how the conflict challenges the main character(s) and how the main character(s) try to solve the conflict.


The climax of the story is when the main character(s) meet the conflict and figure out how to solve the problem.

Falling action
Falling Action

The falling action of a story is all of the things that happen from the time the characters start solving the conflict until the conflict is actually solved. This part of the story usually happens quickly.


The resolution of a story is how the conflict, or problem, is solved. It usually comes at the end of the story.


The story's conflict doesn't usually go on forever. The end of a story is called the resolution because the conflict is ended somehow. (The word resolve means "bring to an end.") But the conflict is not always solved in a way that is good for all of the characters. Most stories end happily, but some do not. Know that the resolution can be how the conflict is solved or simply how the story comes to an end.


Theme isa common thread or repeated idea that is incorporated throughout a story.


Often times the author does not come right out and tell us everything we need to know. Generally we must infer about character, setting, plot, and theme. To infer is to use what we read in the story and what we already know from past experiences to make an educated guess. Wild guesses are usually not right.

Example test item
Example Test Item

Read the following passage.

Anna stared at her bicycle chain. Bicycling over the mountains to Aunt Jane’s had seem like a good idea. Now what should she do? She had passed Pineville a few miles back. Should she walk there? Anna shivered. The January sun was setting fast. A light rain began to fall.

Anna trudged up one hill and down the other side. It was at least ten miles to her aunt’s house. Finally, a pair of headlights swept over the hill. It was Aunt Jane’s pickup! “When you didn’t arrive by six, I thought I’d look for you,” her aunt explained.

Example test item1
Example Test Item

  • What is the conflict in the story?

  • a. Anna is lost in the mountains during a rainstorm.

  • b. Anna doesn’t want to go to her aunt’s house.

  • c. Anna’s bike is broken on a road far from her aunt’s house.

  • d. Anna cannot decide whether or not to go to Pineville.

Example test item2
Example Test Item

  • 2. How is the conflict resolved?

  • a. Anna manages to fix her bike.

  • b. Anna decides to walk to Aunt Jane’s house.

  • c. Anna finds a familiar road through the hills.

  • d. Aunt Jane finds Anna on the road.

Example test item3
Example Test Item

  • 3. Whendoes the story most likely take place?

  • a. Early on a summer morning

  • b. Late one winter evening

  • c. Around lunchtime during the spring

  • d. Late evening in the fall