How Story Elements Interact & Shape One Another

Instructor: Catherine Rose

Catherine taught middle and high school English and has a master's degree in Education.

Story elements are not just individual parts of a story that function on their own. In this lesson, we will explore the basic elements of a story and how they interact and shape one another to affect the story.

Story Elements

When you are reading, you encounter various story elements, such as plot, setting, character, conflict, and theme. While each element is individually essential to the story, how they interact with one another is even more important to what happens, and how the story ends. Change one element, and you have changed the entire story. Let's examine how these story elements function and interact with one another.

Let's Review the Elements of a Story

In order to discuss how the elements of a story interact with one another, we must review how each element functions within the story. Check out the definitions below:

Plot: Plot is what happens in the story. It includes the major events of the story, including exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.

Setting: Setting includes the time and place of the story's events. The author may give you very specific times and places or clues that require you to infer the time and place.

Character: Characters are those who play a role in the story. They can be major characters around which the story revolves, or minor characters that are only present to interact with the main character(s).

Conflict: Conflict represents the problem in the story. It can be internal if the character is battling with them or external if they are battling outside forces, such as another character or nature.

Theme: Theme is the main point of the story. It can include what you take away from the story, what you learn about life because of the story, or simply a main idea presented through the events of the story.

Interaction of the Elements of a Story

Now that you understand the basics of story elements, think about how they interact with one another to help drive the events and outcomes of the story. While each can be studied individually, it is when they work together that their real power emerges.

Elements of a story have a basic cause and effect relationship. Each one affects the other, and the change, addition, or removal of even one element can dramatically impact the story. As a reader, you can examine the interactions of these elements in an if/then situation as well. If the character is an astronaut, then they should be placed in a spaceship. You would not expect to see that same astronaut in the middle of the ocean, so the setting and character go together.

An author will choose a specific setting because the where and when of a story has a direct impact on how the characters will think, act, perceive their situation, and even interact with one another. Furthermore, the presence or absence of one character could dramatically change the conflict, or plot, of the story. If the conflict is changed, then the theme becomes something altogether different.

Interactions of Story Elements in Action

Now, let's look at a specific story example and how the elements interact with one another:

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