7 junio, 2024

What are the elements of a story? (with examples)

The story elements They are the traits, tools and characteristics that make the development and existence of this literary genre possible. The objective of the elements is to make known within which category or subgenre the story is, as well as to expose the characters, the time and the actions that shape the story.

The story is a short narrative that tells real or imaginary stories through the action of characters and a plot that lacks complexity. In addition to the aforementioned features, every story has a certain environment, an atmosphere and a type of narrator.

On the other hand, stories can contain other elements depending on the content that it develops. The additional components can limit the general features with the firm intention of highlighting those belonging to a specific subgenre. For example, in a police court story the investigation will stand out.

The dynamism and attractiveness of the story are linked to the elements that make it up, since without their existence the story would not be concrete. The use of the components of this type of narration will depend largely on the creativity of the author.


Elements of the story and its characteristics

The general elements of the story are as follows:

– Characters

The characters are the ones in charge of carrying out the actions that take place in the story of the story, these can be represented by people, animals or objects. In general, these present physical, psychological and emotional characteristics that distinguish them from others.

On the other hand, a character can act as a narrator, that is, he tells what happens to him in the first person or he can also participate in the story and present it as an observer.

However, according to their level of importance, the characters can be protagonists, secondary or referential. In relation to their actions, they are classified between good or bad.

Main characters

The main characters are those or the one who stars in the central plot of the story, placing the most important events around them. The qualities of these characters, in general, are positive in all aspects, in such a way that they arouse the interest of the reader. Example: José Claudio and Mariana de the wells by Mario Benedetti.

Secondary characters

This type of characters intervene in some events of the story, they generally perform actions close to the protagonists and have a blood or fraternity bond with them. They usually support the main character in his decisions or accompany him in his adventures and circumstances. Example: Continuing with the story of Benedetti, Alberto is the secondary character.

Incidental or referential characters

These characters participate very little in the story of the story and many times they are only named by the other characters to refer to a certain moment. Example: Enriqueta, Menéndez and Trelles are the referential characters of The wells.

– Storyteller

The narrator of a story is the one who reveals the story that unfolds with all its details. There are several types of narrators, the most used are the protagonist (or in the first person) and the omniscient (or know-it-all).

Now, the main narrator tells the facts from a personal vision, since it is he who the events happen to. While the omniscient is the one who knows every detail of what happens in the story and makes it known from a more objective perspective, he may or may not be a character in the story.

protagonist narrator

«Last Customer of the Night» by Marguerite Duras:

“…We had left Saint-Tropez in the afternoon, and we drove until late at night. I don’t remember exactly what year it was, it was in the middle of summer. I had known him since the beginning of the year. She had met him at a dance she had gone to alone. It’s another story…”.

Omniscient narrator

the wells from Mario Benedetti:

“… The voice was addressed to the husband, but the eyes were fixed on the brother-in-law. He blinked and said nothing, but José Claudio answered: ‘Not yet. Wait a Little while. I want to smoke a cigarette first.’ Now she did look at José Claudio and thought, for the thousandth time, that those eyes of hers did not seem blind… ”.

– Action

The action refers to the acts carried out by the characters in the story within the story being told. In general, actions or events have a specific duration of time and happen in a specific place.

On the other hand, the action is the element capable of giving movement and transformation to the story, since from it the entanglements are born and the solutions are produced.


fragment of The wells:

“José Claudio’s hand began to move, groping the sofa. What are you looking for? she asked. ‘The lighter’. ‘To your right’. Her hand corrected course and found the lighter. With that trembling that comes from the continued desire to search, her thumb rolled the wheel several times, but the flame did not appear… ”.

– Atmosphere

The environment is the place where the actions take place, that is, the space where the characters develop. This element can vary according to the moment in which the story is given, and may have real or fictitious features.


Continuing with the example of Mario Benedetti’s story, the actions are carried out mainly in the living room of the house of the couple made up of José Claudio and Mariana.

– Atmosphere

The atmosphere refers to what is breathed in the story, that is, to the tensions, emotions or sensations that the characters transmit. This element is associated with the environment where the events occur and with the main theme of the story.


The atmosphere in Mario Benedetti’s story that has been taken as an example is one of tension, mistrust and hostility due to José Claudio’s suspicions of his wife’s infidelity and at the same time due to his lack of vision. At times, nostalgia is breathed in front of the memories that Mariana has of the beginnings of her relationship with José Claudio.

– Issue

The theme in the story refers to the central issue that involves the main characters.


The main theme in the wells it is infidelity.

– Time

Time refers to the duration of the story. It can take hours, days, months or years. The passage of time produces changes in the behavior of the characters and in their physical appearance.


In the aforementioned story by Mario Benedetti, time passes in the present of the mid-fifties, specifically, in the autumn season. Sometimes, there are jumps to the past through the memories of Mariana’s character.

“She opened her mouth slightly and ran the tip of her tongue over her lower lip. A way like any other to begin to remember. It was in March 1953, when he turned 35 and he still saw…”.

Elements of the horror story

Horror tales have the same elements of a differently themed narrative. This means that the story is made up of: characters, actions, environment, atmosphere, time and plot.

Now, this type of literary subgenre has special components that determine its terrifying nature. Some of the most common are:

– suspense

A horror story is endowed with suspense, that is, a period of time, either of silence, surprise or irruption that makes the story more attractive. Suspense is created to attract the reader’s attention through a mysterious character or element.


Stephen King’s «Survivor»:

“…On deck, all was confusion. I saw a woman running across the slippery deck, screaming and holding a child. As the ship tilted, she gained speed. Finally, she hit the rail thigh-high, jumped over it, did two flips and disappeared from my sight…”.

– Mystery

In every horror story, the element of mystery is essential, thanks to which the normal and serene rhythm of the story is broken.


Continuing with Stephen King’s story, the following fragment is described:

“… The swelling and loss of color are even greater. I will wait until tomorrow. If the operation is essential, I think I can carry it out. I have matches to sterilize the knife and needles and thread from the sewing box. As a bandage, the shirt…”.

Elements of the detective story

The detective story contains the general elements of this variety of narrative (characters, actions, setting, plot, time and atmosphere) and incorporates others to make the story more substantial and interesting. In general, the characters are represented by policemen, detectives, murderers, thieves, good and bad.

Some of the different elements of detective stories are:

– Investigation

In every detective story there is an investigation, which makes possible the development of the story and produces the most relevant actions. The results will make possible the resolution of the case under investigation.


Taking the example of The crimes of morgue Street by Edgar Allan Poe, the investigation is based on discovering the material author of the murders of a mother and daughter.

– Tracks

The clues are the traces left by the thugs and followed by the investigators to find out the causes of a crime, catch those involved and solve the plot.


In Allan Poe’s story mentioned above, the clues to find the murderer are not precise, since all they had was a brutal murder, so they had to go to testimonies to clarify the case.

– Hypothesis

The hypothesis is the assumption of what is believed to have occurred in the crime. In general, this theory is elaborated by the police or investigators and serves to guide the solution of the case.


In The crimes of morgue Street the hypothesis is represented by the investigators’ assumption that the murders were committed by five men for the atrocity of the crime scene. However, the story takes an unexpected turn.

Elements of the literary tale

The literary tale usually presents the same general elements of this narrative genre, that is, characters, environment, actions, atmosphere, time, among others. However, the additional components are comparable to those of the traditional tale, by virtue of the fact that it is based on writing.

The additional elements of a literary tale are:

– written word

Every literary story is made known in writing, which means that it does not go from generation to generation as in the traditional ones.


– “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe.

– “Fear” by Ramón del Valle-Inclán.

– “The night of the ugly” by Mario Benedetti.

– An author and a version

Literary tales have an author, that is, they have not been made known through oral tradition. At the same time, the quality of having a writer generates a single version, its content, characters, actions, environment and other elements are maintained over time.


– “The flies” by Horacio…

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