literary elements

Literary Elements Of A Story: The Complete Guide

Literary elements are the basic building blocks of a story. You can create a richer, more layered literary work by understanding and using them correctly. This guide will teach you everything you need to know about literary elements. With this knowledge in hand, you’ll be able to craft powerful and memorable stories!

What are literary elements?

Literary elements are the building blocks of literature. They are the essential ingredients that make up a story, poem or play. Without literary elements, there would be no literature. Literary elements include plot, conflict, character, setting, point of view, and theme. They are essential because they provide a framework for the writer to tell their story.

They give the reader a way to follow the story and understand what is happening. Literary elements are also essential because they can help create an emotional response in the reader. By evoking certain emotions, literary elements can make a story more powerful and memorable. Literary elements are an essential part of literature, and you should not ignore them.

What are the ten essential literary elements?

There are ten basic literary elements, and each one is important. This guide will teach you everything you need to know about the ten essential literary elements.

1. Plot

One of the most important aspects of a story is the plot. This is the sequence of events in the story, and it can be divided into three parts: the beginning, the middle, and the end. The beginning sets up the conflict and introduces the main characters. The middle is where the conflict is resolved, and the ending is where everything is tied up.

The plot is important because it gives a story its structure and helps to keep readers engaged. Without a strong plot, a story can quickly become dull or confusing. Literary elements like plot are essential for writers to consider if they want to produce a well-crafted tale.

2. Character

Characters are the people (or animals) that populate a story. They can be major or minor, good or bad, round or flat. Significant characters are typically more fully developed than minor characters. Good characters are those who the reader sympathizes with, while flawed characters generally are the antagonists. Round characters are complex and multi-dimensional, while flat characters are more straightforward and one-dimensional.

An author typically develops a character by revealing critical information about them throughout the story. This might include their backstory, personality traits, motives, etc. By gradually showing these things to the reader, the author can create a well-rounded character that feels like a real person.

Characters are an essential part of any story, and they can play a significant role in determining how enjoyable the story is to read. Next time you’re writing a book or reading one, pay close attention to the characters and see how they contribute to your overall experience.

3. Setting

The setting is one of the literary elements that refers to where and when the story occurs. The setting can be real or imaginary, and it can be specific or general. In some cases, the setting is just as important as the other elements in the story because it can help to create a certain mood or atmosphere. For example, if a story takes place in a dark and gloomy forest, it is likely to be much different from a story in a bright and sunny meadow.

In addition to mood, the setting can also affect the characters and plot of a story. For instance, if a character is trying to escape from a dangerous situation, the setting may play a role in whether or not they are successful. Therefore, writers must consider the setting when creating their stories carefully.

4. Point of view

The point of view is the perspective from which an author tells a story. Authors can choose three different points of view first person, second person, and third person. In the first-person point of view, the narrator is a character in the story and uses “I” to refer to themselves. This point of view is often used in autobiographies or memoirs.

From a second-person point of view, the narrator speaks directly to the reader and uses “you” to address them. This point of view is less common but can be seen in some self-help books or how-to manuals. The third-person point of view is when the narrator is not a character in the story and uses “he,” “she,” or “they” to refer to the characters. This is the most common point of view used in fiction stories.

The author’s point of view will affect the way the story is told and how readers experience it. For example, a novel written from the first-person point of view will feel more personal than one written from the third person point if all other literary elements are kept constant. As you can see, point of view is a significant literary element that authors use to tell their stories.

5. Tone

When it comes to literary elements, the tone is often thought of in terms of the emotions that a piece of writing evokes in its readers. However, tone can also refer to the overall attitude or mood that a piece of writing conveys. For example, a piece with a light-hearted tone might make use of humor, while a piece with a severe tone might deal with more somber topics.

You can convey the tone of a piece through its choice of words, its sentence structure, and even its font choices. As such, writers need to be aware of their choices’ effect on the tone of their work. By carefully considering the tone they wish to convey, writers can ensure that their work speaks to its intended audience in the way that they desire.

6. Theme

One of the most important literary elements is the theme. The theme of a story is its central idea or message. It is what the story is ultimately about. Sometimes the theme is stated directly, while other times, it is implied. But regardless of how it is presented, the theme is always an integral part of the story.

There are many different ways to approach a theme in a story. One common way is to look at the story’s protagonist and antagonist. What do they represent? What does their conflict mean? Another way to look at the theme is through the lens of symbols and motifs. What do these literary devices represent? What do they contribute to the overall themes of the story?

Ultimately, one of the most important literary elements is that it gives a story its purpose and meaning. It helps readers understand what the author is trying to say, and it allows readers to connect with the characters and events on a deeper level.

7. Conflict

A story needs conflict to be interesting. Conflict is the struggle between two opposing forces. It is what drives the plot forward and creates tension. There are four main types of conflict: man vs. man, man vs. nature, man vs. society, and man vs. self. In a story, one or more of these conflicts will be present.

Each type of conflict creates a different kind of tension. Man vs. man conflict is the most common and often the most interesting for readers. It pits two characters against each other, creating suspense as the reader wonders who will win. Man vs. nature conflict can be thrilling, as the protagonist struggles against an overwhelming force like a hurricane or an avalanche.

On the other hand, man vs. society conflict occurs when the protagonist goes against an institution or social norm. Man vs. self-conflict happens when a character must overcome his weaknesses or fears. No matter what type of conflict is present in a story, it is essential to create tension and keep the reader engaged.

8. Imagery 

Imagery is the use of words and descriptions to create mental images. When used effectively, imagery can help readers feel as though they are experiencing the story firsthand. Good imagery can also help set the mood and atmosphere of a piece and create a stronger connection between the reader and the characters.

When used well, imagery can be one of the most powerful tools in a writer’s toolbox. However, it’s also important not to overuse imagery, which can lead to confusion and frustration for readers. However, if you’re able to strike the right balance, you’ll be well on your way to creating a truly immersive and engaging reading experience. 

9. Symbolism

In literature, symbolism is a significant literary element that can be used to add depth and meaning to a text. Symbols can be objects, characters, or ideas representing something else, such as a concept or feeling. For example, a white rose may symbolize purity, while a red rose may symbolize love or passion.

In addition to adding symbolic meaning to a text, symbols can also help to create mood or atmosphere. For example, dark colors may symbolize gloom or despair, while light colors symbolize hope or happiness. By understanding and using literary symbols, writers can create rich and complex texts that engage and enlighten readers.

10. Narrative structure

The narrative structure is one literary element that is particularly important in shaping a story. It refers to how the events of a story are ordered and how they are related to one another. A well-crafted narrative structure can help to create a sense of suspense, excitement, and coherence and can ultimately make work more enjoyable to read.

While there are many different ways to order the events of a story, there are some basic principles that all suitable narrative structures share. In general, a good narrative structure will have a clear beginning, middle, and end will be well-paced; and will focus on a limited number of characters and events. By following these principles, writers can create engaging and satisfying stories for readers.

Five types of literature imagery

literary elements

There are five main types of literary imagery. Each type can convey different kinds of information to readers and create a unique atmosphere or mood.

1. Visual

Visual imagery is one of the literary elements that authors use to create a vivid picture in the reader’s mind. By using descriptive language, an author can help the reader visualize the scene, setting, or characters in a story. For example, if an author wants to describe a beautiful sunset, they might write something like, “The sky was ablaze with colors, and the sun was a huge orange ball that was sinking towards the horizon.”

Using strong language like this, the author creates a clear image that the reader can easily visualize. In addition to helping to create a visual picture, you can also use imagery to create an emotional response in the reader.

For example, if an author wants to describe a character who is feeling sad and lonely, they might write something like, “She felt like she was a small boat adrift on a vast ocean.” The images of being small and alone help convey the character’s feelings of isolation and despair. When used effectively, visual imagery can be a powerful literary tool.

2. Tactile

Tactile imagery is a language that evokes the sense of touch. You can use it to create a vivid picture in the reader’s mind, and you can also use it to convey emotions. For example, imagine you’re reading a description of a cold winter night. The author might use tactile imagery to describe how the protagonist’s hands feel when they’re holding a cup of hot coffee.

Or, if the protagonist is feeling sad and lonely, the author might use tactile imagery to describe how their hands feel when reaching out into the empty darkness. By using tactile imagery, authors can create unforgettable scenes and characters that stay with readers long after they’ve finished reading.

3. Olfactory

Olfactory imagery is a literary element that authors use to help readers connect with a character or scene by evoking a particular smell. Unlike other senses, smell is closely linked to memory and emotion, making it a powerful tool for writers. Authors can give readers a more immersive and intimate experience by including olfactory imagery in their work.

For example, the scent of fresh-baked bread might remind a character of a home, while the stench of rotting flesh could signal danger. In either case, the smells would provide important clues about the characters’ inner lives and the world around them. Olfactory imagery can be a powerful tool for writers who want to create richer, more textured narratives.

4. Gustatory

Gustatory imagery is a literary element that you can use to engage the reader’s senses and create a more vivid and immersive experience. By evoking the sense of taste, writers can provide readers with a more concrete and sensual understanding of what is happening in the story.

For example, rather than simply describing the flavor of a character’s meal, the author could use gustatory imagery to describe the individual ingredients and how they come together to create the overall taste. This can be an effective way to add richness and dimension to a character’s world.

Additionally, gustatory imagery can set the stage for a scene or convey the mood of a moment. By evoking particular tastes, writers can create an atmosphere that is either inviting or off-putting, depending on the desired effect. Ultimately, gustatory imagery is a powerful tool that you can use to enhance the literary quality and emotional impact of a piece of writing.

5. Auditory

Auditory imagery is one of the most potent literary devices available to authors. Evoking sounds in the reader’s mind can create an immersive and dynamic experience that draws them deep into the story. When used skillfully, auditory imagery can enhance the mood, intensify the action, and even foreshadow future events. In short, it is a powerful tool that can bring a literary work to life.

While auditory imagery is often used in works of fiction, you can also find it in non-fiction, poetry, and even songs. Any time an author wants to evoke a particular sound or noise, they may use auditory imagery. Typically, this is done by describing the sound in vivid detail or using onomatopoeia (words that imitate sounds). Using these techniques, authors can give readers a more sensory experience that can stay with them long after reading.

Three key concepts of symbolism

Symbolism is a literary device that authors use to create a richer, more textured narrative. By using symbols in their work, writers can evoke a range of emotions and ideas in their readers. Here are the three main concepts:

1. Religion Symbolism

Religion is a vital part of society. It gives people a sense of community and belonging. It also provides a set of beliefs and values that help to guide people’s lives. One of the most important aspects of religion is its symbolism. Symbols are literary elements that are used to represent abstract concepts or ideas. They can be anything from objects to colors to numbers.

In religion, symbols are used to represent different aspects of the faith. For example, the cross is a symbol of Christianity. It means the sacrifice that Jesus made for humanity. The color red is often used to symbolize blood and sacrifice.

In Hinduism, the Lotus flower is a symbol of purity and enlightenment. It represents the spiritual journey Hindus believe we all must take to reach Nirvana. There are many other examples of religious symbols and their meanings. But these are just a few of the most commonly used ones.

2. Romantic Symbolism

Romanticism was a literary movement that began in the late 18th century and lasted through the middle of the 19th century. During this time, writers sought to redefine traditional literary forms and explore new subjects and styles. One of the defining features of Romanticism is symbols to represent ideas or emotions. A symbol is an object, person, or place representing something else, such as a feeling or quality.

For example, a rose may symbolize love, while a stormy sky may symbolize anger. In literature, symbols can be used to deepen the reader’s understanding of the story by providing another layer of meaning. You can also use them to create an atmosphere of mystery or suspense. Whether used to add depth or create atmosphere, symbols are an essential part of Romantic literature.

3. Emotional Symbolism

Emotional symbolism creates a more powerful and impactful story. By using symbols that represent emotions, literary works can explore the human condition more profoundly and meaningfully. For example, you can use color to symbolize different feelings. Red may express anger or passion, while blue may represent sadness or loneliness.

In addition, you can also use light and darkness to symbolize different emotional states. A character bathed in light may represent hope or optimism, while a character shrouded in darkness may represent despair or hopelessness. By understanding the emotional symbolism used in literary works, readers can better understand the characters and the story as a whole.

Frequently asked questions

Here are some frequently asked questions related to literary elements.

What are literary devices?

Literary devices are tools that authors use to add meaning to their writing or to help convey specific messages. There are many different literary devices, and you can use them in various ways. Some standard literary devices include similes, metaphors, and personification. 

Authors may also use literary devices to create mood or atmosphere or make a character more relatable. Ultimately, literary devices are another tool that authors can use to tell their story effectively and engagingly.

Are literary elements and devices the same?

Literary elements are the basic building blocks of a story. This includes things like plot, character, setting, and theme. On the other hand, literary devices are literary techniques that the author uses to bring those elements to life.

This can include things like similes and metaphors, foreshadowing, and flashbacks. So while literary elements are the foundation of a story, literary devices are the tools that an author uses to tell that story. 


Understanding literary elements are essential for all writers, regardless of their experience level. Knowing how to use these elements in your writing can create a more well-rounded and powerful story. While you could include many other elements, these provide a strong foundation for understanding and creating your own stories. Remember, the best way to learn is by practice, so start writing and see what happens! 

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