Narrative elements Storytelling guide

Narrative elements 101: a simple guide for budding writers

Ever wonder why two stories with similar plots can feel so different? Why some tales just resonate more? The key is understanding the narrative elements.

1. Story elements vs. Narrative elements

Before we jump into the deep end, let’s clear something up. Stories have two types of building blocks. First, there are story elements – the basics like characters, plot, and setting. Think of them as the ingredients in a pizza. But then, there’s the way you cook and present that pizza. That’s where narrative elements come in.

1.1. What Are Narrative Elements?

Narrative elements are all about how you tell a story. It’s the style, the lens, and the vibe you bring into your tale. While story elements are like the main actors in a play, narrative elements are the directors behind the scenes, deciding how the story will unfold on stage.

2. The Major Narrative Elements

2.1. Voice and Style

Imagine if “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” and “The Hunger Games” sounded the same. Weird, right? Each author has their own unique voice. It’s like a musical note that makes a story hum and stand out.

2.2. Point of View (POV)

Who’s telling the story? Is it a character (like Percy Jackson) or an outsider watching from afar (like in “Harry Potter”)? This is the story’s POV. Sometimes stories even talk directly to you, like in some video games or those “Choose Your Own Adventure” books. That’s a fun twist called second-person POV.

2.3. Structure and Sequence

Remember watching “Memento”? That movie’s like a jigsaw puzzle with its backward story. While most tales go from A to B, some shake things up, jumping back and forth in time. This mix and match is all about the story’s structure.

2.4. Theme and Message

Every story has a heart, a deep-down message. Take “The Tortoise and the Hare”. Sure, it’s about a slow turtle and a speedy rabbit having a race, but dig deeper. It’s also teaching us that rushing isn’t always the answer. This deeper message? That’s the theme.

2.5. Tone and Mood

Ever noticed how “A Series of Unfortunate Events” feels spooky, even if it’s for kids? That’s the story’s mood. Now, the way the author feels about what they’re writing? That’s the tone. It’s a tiny difference but oh-so-important.

3. Why Narrative Elements and Not Just Story Elements?

A good plot and memorable characters are great. But how you tell their tale? That’s the magic touch. Think of “Star Wars”. It’s not just about spaceships and light sabers. It’s the epic battles, the friendships, and the classic battle of good vs. evil. But then there’s the grand music, the opening crawl, the way the story feels like an old legend. Those? Those are narrative touches.

4. Tips for Implementing Narrative Elements

Ready to play with these tools? Here are some fun ways to practice:

  • Voice and Style: Try rewriting a scene from “Frozen” as if it’s a detective noir. What if Elsa was a private eye and Anna was her trusty sidekick?
  • POV: Take a comic strip, maybe something from “Calvin and Hobbes”, and rewrite it from Hobbes’ perspective. What’s going on in that tiger’s striped head?
  • Structure: Ever seen those TV shows with flashbacks, like “How I Met Your Mother”? Try writing a short story about your day, but start at the end and use flashbacks.
  • Theme: Watch an episode of “The Twilight Zone”. Those tales are packed with themes. Can you spot them? Now, think of a theme you’d like to explore and weave a short tale around it.
  • Tone and Mood: Dive into the world of fan fiction. Pick a happy scene from “The Big Bang Theory” and try turning the tone into something mysterious or creepy.


Narrative elements are your secret toolkit to making stories sparkle. As you dive into your next story, think not just about what’s happening, but how you’re sharing it. And most importantly, have fun with it. Because in the world of storytelling, the sky’s the limit.