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What is a Story Element?

Setting Story Elements

Simply put, a Story Element is a mandatory portion of a story. You can think of the story elements as the building blocks you’ll use the ensure your novel is strong. They are tools to use to help you design and evaluate your story.

Every scene in a novel is made up of story elements, and Story Elements are grouped into structure, character, plot, and setting.

Character, Plot, and Setting

Character, plot, and setting elements are all interrelated. One may be more important than the other depending on the type of story being written, but a story must have all three elements. Therefore, every writer and editor must be talented in evaluating the three types of elements.

Character elements include story elements such as Character per Scene, Point of View character, and Scene Impact on Protagonist.

Plot elements include story elements such as Scene Name, Purpose of a Scene, and Tension.

Setting elements include story elements such as Location, Time, and Objects.

A talented writer chooses how to use each story element to design their story.

A talented story editor or writer evaluates each scene against the Story Arc, the Structure of the Chapters and Scenes, and the Story Elements. We call these components “The Structure and 38 Fictionary Story Elements.”

Story editing means evaluating the major components of a story. The more each story element in a scene does its job, the better the scene will be. And the better each scene is, the better the story will be.

We’ve created a video series covering the 38 Fictionary Story Elements that shows what a writer needs to know to edit their own story, and it covers what an editor should know when giving advice to writers.

Story Form

First we have to understand form. The Story Arc, the Chapter and Scene Structure,  and the Word Count per Scene make up the form of the story.

Story Content

Once the story is formed, you can start evaluating the story content against the 38 Fictionary Story Elements.

Are the story elements within the structure of a scene written about characters, plot, and settings.

Every scene in a story is made up of story elements and every scene must be evaluated against those story elements.

Let me stress, we’re talking about form and not formula.

“The choices a writer makes about each scene is what makes a story unique.”

Story elements help you focus on what to consider and where to make creative choices. The choices a writer makes about each scene, the elements, and the placement of the scenes are what make the story unique.

A scene that is evaluated against the story elements will lead to the scene being rewritten in a way that brings the scene to life.

Remember, all the story elements work together and are interrelated. They get lonely on their own 🙂


“Fictionary is about the ART of STORY DESIGN.”

The 38 Story Elements are grouped under Character, Plot, and Setting.

A great story is made up of a collection of great scenes that flow smoothly from one to another. Fictionary shows you how to use the 38 Story Elements to create and link great scenes, turning those scenes into a powerful story.

Character Story Elements

Evaluate your story against the Character Story Elements and you’ll create captivating characters. You’ll start by looking at who is in a scene. This is critical to having control over your story. For every character, ask is the character is needed in the scene. Do they serve a purpose? If not, it might be time to cut them. Yes, harsh, but sometimes necessary.

Once you know who is in the scene, look to see if the point of view character is the right one. This means asking who will be impacted most by the scene. If it’s not the POV character, it might be time to choose a different one.

If a character doesn’t want something badly, what are they doing being the point of view character for the scene?

And even if they do want something, is it related to the story? If not, it’s the wrong thing to want.

What happens if the character doesn’t get what they want? Are there consequences? If not, again it’s the wrong thing to want.

Read the scene and ask: How does this scene impact the point of view character and the protagonist (if they are not the POV character)? If the character’s emotional state doesn’t change from the beginning of the scene to the end, the character will seem flat, and hence the scene is boring.

List what the POV character knows. Then remember to check they can only action of events they know about.

And finally, are the characters in motion? Characters who don’t move are dull.


38 Fictionary Story Elements

Plot Story Elements

Naming a scene is one of my favorite elements. It’s gives you an after draft outline to help you revise your story. It also means teh scene has focus.

Read The Story Arc & Why Stories Captivate Readers to learn all about the Story Arc.

The purpose of the scene is why the scene is in the story.

Varying the scene opening and closing types ensures you keep the story from being repetitive.

If a reader is not anchored in point of view, location, and time, they will get confused and may stop reading.

Entry and exits hooks grab the reader and keep them engaged in the story.

Either tension or conflict must be in every scene. Without one, the story drags.

Revelation, backstory, and flashbacks contain what the reader needs to know and nothing more.

The scene middle is the turning point of the scene and the climax it the most exciting part of the scene.

Keeping track of the flow of action and sequel scenes helps you control the pacing.

When the reader knows something the protagonist doesn’t, you’ve automatically added suspense.

38 Fictionary Story Elements

Setting Story Elements

The setting elements are often under or over utilized. This is an area a writer must control.

The location, and yes, you guessed it, is where the scene takes place. Don’t let this be chosen automatically. Strategically choose the location for the maximum tension.

Date/and time are when the scene happens.

Object are what things are in the scene.

The senses are used to let the reader experience the scene through the character. This is how you control connecting readers to characters.

When reviewing the emotional impact of the location, ask if a different place was chosen would there be more tension? If the answer is yes, choose a new location.

Keeping track of changes in location (location split) within a scene means if a scene gets too long, then this is a good place to break the scenes into two scenes.

Weather is not just about having weather. It’s about using the weather to increase tension or conflict, so choose the weather wisely.

38 Fictionary Story Elements

Story Elements and Creativity

Story elements don’t limit your creativity. They ignite it!

The elements force you to evaluate your story in a structured manner, and by evaluating your story, you’ll come up with new ideas to make your story better. The Story Elements focus you on what to consider and where to make creative changes.


Download our free eBook to learn more about the Fictionary Story Elements.

Fictionary Story Element eBook

When do you ever get to see what a story editor delivers to a client if the client is not you?

Fictionary Insider's View to Story Editing

Our new course gives you an insider’s view of what happens in a story edit. This is similar to a structural or substantive edit for fiction.

Before you hire an editor or edit your own story, it’s important to understand what a story edit is.

Thirteen professional editors edited the same novel.

Each editor worked separately in Fictionary StoryCoach.

This course evaluates their edits and shows you what worked and what didn’t. We’ll show you two scenes before editing and after revisions based on the editors’ suggestions. We even compare the editors’ summary letters and per scene notes.

For writers looking to hire a professional story editor, this course shows you what you should receive from a story editor. It will also show you how an editor might look at your story.’

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