Narrative Elements: 7 Key Aspects of Narrative Writing

Writing is hard. In a market where publishers and editors are critical of every story or poem, understanding the seven key elements of a narrative is more important than ever before. Regardless of your chosen genre of expertise, mastering these narrative elements will help to make you a more successful writer. 

Narrative Elements


Did you just take a big sigh? The thought of crafting a worthy and unpredictable plot is daunting. An understanding of plot and the impact it has on your story is an essential part of crafting a compelling narrative.

The plot is thought of as the sequence of events in your narrative. The plot includes background information, conflict, the climax of the story, and lastly, the conclusion. 

Many writers use the plot to map out their stories before beginning the full writing process. For fiction or non-fiction writing, this can work wonderfully as an novel outline. On a smaller scale, poets can use the concept of plot to plan the flow of their poems. 


When you’re reading and feel like you’ve been transported to another universe – that’s setting. This element of the narrative is incredibly important. Setting establishes the time, place, and environment in which the main characters or narrator operates. 

Crafting a high-quality setting is the difference between a believable story and one that falls flat. A story’s setting can also help you create rising action in your story!

A Tip from Our Editor

“I love using personification to create setting in a story. Giving human attributes to things in a scene, like the wind, or the walls in an old house, can really bring a piece of writing to life.” – R. R. Noall


Who are your characters? How do they behave and interact with the narrative as a whole? How are the protagonists and antagonists the same? How are they different?  

Characters create your story. Characters are the reason your readers fall in love. Characters keep you up at night.  

Invest time researching your character’s identities, behaviors, circumstances, and motivations. All of this will help you to create a world that readers (and you) are invested in whole-heartedly.  

Dive head-first into our character development tips here.

Point of View 

Who is telling your story and why? Establishing a point of view in your story or poem is essential. This allows readers to understand the motivations behind why the story is being told.  

While it can be challenging to craft a consistent point of view, mastering the narrative will provide your work with the guiding voice reader’s crave. 

Learn More: First-Person Point of View


The theme of a work should be clear. While this seems like a fundamental literary element, the theme helps to focus a narrative.  Additionally, having a focused and clear theme will help you and publishers to market your book to the right audience.  

What lessons are your characters going to learn? At the end of the story or poem, what is the main takeaway? This is your theme. 


When studying literature, there is a lot of talk surrounding symbolism. While this may seem like an over-rated literary element, symbolism helps to layer meaning within a narrative.  

Examples of symbolism include:

  • The green light in The Great Gatsby.
  • Harry’s scar in Harry Potter.

In narratives, symbols are what readers hold onto long after the story is over. Symbolism is what readers gravitate to.  


Conflict motivates characters, affects the plot, and ultimately dictates the theme of a narrative. What is the defining conflict in your story? What conflict inspired a poem?  

Having a defined conflict allows your readers to better understand your work, sympathize with your characters or narrator, and ultimately appreciate the complexity of the plot you’ve created. 

Practice Makes Perfect When Crafting Narrative Stories

Every writer struggles with these narrative elements. Through reading, exchange with other writers, and practice, you can conquer the 7 key elements of a narrative. Now that you’re inspired, get writing!  

Which element do you feel you need to improve upon? Tell us and explain why in the comments!

Have a story you’re ready to share with the world? Check out our submissions page.

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