The Elements of Fiction

Fiction is a form of literature that comprises of novels and short stories which describe imaginary events. All good fiction should have certain elements. These elements are: a setting, characters, a problem, a plot, suspense, a point of view, and a theme.


The setting is when and where the story takes place. When determining the setting of a story, one should be mindful of the place, time, date, season, weather, and the character’s state of mind.


There are a few different kinds of characters. The protagonist is the main character of the story and is usually “the good guy.” The character who opposes the protagonist is known as the antagonist and is usually “the bad guy.” There can be several antagonists in a story, but there is usually one major antagonist, while the others are minor antagonists.

Dynamic characters are characters that change, especially their personalities, the way they think, or their status, during the course of the story. Usually, the protagonist is a dynamic character. On the other hand, static characters are characters that always remain the same. Minor characters in stories are often static characters.

Round characters are characters that are fully developed. Readers will know information about round characters, such as their background and their motivation. Flat characters are characters that readers know very little about and are usually stereotypical representations (for example, a loving and caring mother).


The problem is an internal or external problem that the protagonist faces in the story. An internal problem is a problem that the character has with oneself. An external problem is a problem that the character has that is not internal. A few examples of different kinds of problems are: character vs. nature, character vs. society, character vs. self, and character vs. character.


The plot is what happens in the story. A plot is comprised of an introduction, rising action, a climax, falling action, and a conclusion. The introduction introduces the setting, most major characters, and the problem. Next, the rising action is when the protagonist tries to solve the problem or the problem grows. Following the rising action is the climax, which is the height of action or intensity in the story. After that, the falling action is when the story is wrapping up and the problem is either solved or remains unsolved. Finally, the conclusion is when the story ends.


Suspense foments uncertainty about what happens next in a story. Things that generate suspense are cliffhangers, foreshadowing, flashbacks, flash-forwards, and red herrings. Cliffhangers are parts in the story that leave the reader hanging and don’t immediately tell you what happens next. Foreshadowing makes the reader predict what is going to happen. A flashback returns the reader to a time earlier than the current point in the story. A flash-forward is similar to a flashback, except future events are seen instead of past events. A red herring is something that keeps the reader wondering, but actually doesn’t mean anything.

Point of View

There are four different kinds of point of view that the narrator can have. The first-person point of view is a point of view from a person in the story and uses the word “I” to refer to his or herself. The second-person point of view has a narrator that never refers to his or herself and uses the word “you” to refer to the protagonist. The third-person omniscient point of view is a point of view from an all-knowing person who is not in the story. This narrator knows where characters are, what they are doing, how they are feeling and what they are thinking. The limited omniscient third-person point of view is similar to the third-person omniscient point of view, except the narrator doesn’t know what characters are thinking or feeling. Only things that can be seen are known by the limited omniscient third-person narrator.


The theme of a fictional work is a central idea that often teaches a lesson or a moral that is drawn from the events in the story. Short stories and novels can have multiple themes.