What are the essential elements of narrative? Here's the consensus

  • Jan 13, 2021
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It is kind of hilarious that when you Google "the elements of narrative," the first page of search results include the following. 

The Five Essential Elements of a Story
The 6 Elements of Every Complete Narrative
Understanding The 7 Key Elements of A Narrative
8 Elements of a Story Explained

We looked at these and a dozen or so more pages on the subject, mainly resource guides written by and for language arts educators. While they couldn't quite agree on a fixed number of elements, there was general agreement on the main candidates, even if not on the exact definition of the terms.

We kept track of all the elements named on the pages weighted by the order of mention, in the manner of a baseball hall-of-fame ballot. To simplify and standardize the voting, we grouped synonymous terms together. 

For example, every ballot included Plot as one of the standard elements. However, many of them called out also "Conflict" or a similar notion as a separate element. Since we consider conflict and resolution, as well as story arc, as essential synonyms for the element we call Plot, we grouped them together and gave credit for both mentions in the rankings. 

The same kind of grouping is significant in our sixth ranked element, Tone, where a number of similar terms appeared on the ballots.. 

Without further ado, here is our consolidated ranking of necessary narrative elements, based on our analysis of crowdsourced expert opinion..

Rank Element Synonyms Points
1 Plot Arc/Conflict/Resolution 260
2 Character Characters/Characterization 178
3 Theme Symbolism/Moral/Issues 143
4 Setting Time and Place 139
5 Point of View Perspective 98
6 Tone Style/Pacing/Mood/Dialog 86

This list gives us a useful framework to use when creating family stories and storyboards on Family History Machine. As this blog series goes along, we will dig deeper into using each element in your storytelling.