The Five Major Story Elements

Every story needs to incorporate each of these story elements to some degree. By having a firm grasp on what each of them are and how they fit into your story, you can become more confident and competent in your novel writing.

So, let’s take a look at each of them in a bit more detail:


It should be fairly obvious that your story needs characters. You’re likely to have a protagonist (main character) some supporting characters and minor or cameo characters. Characters are the driving force behind all stories and yours should have strong opinions and principles, preferably ones which oppose each other to cause lots of lovely conflict.


Your characters can’t exist within a void – they need to be in context. There will be the wider, geo-political situation, but also their specific one within that. So for situation you might be considering aspects such as: country, time period, class, family situation, daily life. There may also be a specific situation which precipitates the novel itself, such as a meteor hurtling towards the earth.


Your protagonist needs an objective, otherwise they’ll just sit around eating peanut butter on toast and it’s going to make for a very boring story. They could start off with a personal life goal that they are driven to achieve, but alternatively, they may have a goal thrust upon them by circumstance. Also, as well as an over-arching story-goal, most protagonists will have a series of smaller goals on their way to the ultimate objective. For example, the story-goal might be to win the girl’s heart, but minor goals may be to get introduced, to become her friend, to help her with a family problem, to save her dog from drowning in the well… Etc, etc.


It’s not going to be much fun for the reader if the protagonist goes out to achieve their goal and just does it without any problems. No, the key to a great story is conflict, and that will come in the form of an opponent. In most cases this will be a person, but it may be a force of nature, political movement, zombies or something completely different.


Your novel should increase in tension throughout, with the conflict and danger mounting and the protagonist seemingly getting further and further from their goal even as they try to claw towards it. Then at the end, when you get to the climax, it’s great if disaster can strike. The hero should hit rock bottom, so it seems like there’s no way out, it’s all over, they’ve lost. This gives you the opportunity to come up with some nifty and satisfying way for them to save the day, resulting in satisfaction and applause all round.