The 8 essential elements of a story

One of TVWriter™’s favorite writers – and writing consultants – is here with a guide to storytelling that every single one of us needs to memorize (or maybe even worship?)

This is Kurt Vonnegut’s classic diagram. We find Nathan Bransford’s take more helpful. For reals.

by Nathan Bransford

Not only do I find editing novels and helping authors achieve their vision incredibly meaningful, it’s such an interesting exercise because it forces you to think very deeply about storytelling.

It’s a wonderful challenge to be forced to articulate what’s working and not working in a story and, most importantly, why it’s not working.

Lately I’ve been thinking about the essence of storytelling. What’s that essential framework that undergirds every good story? What are the core elements?

If you can’t readily identify each of these components in your novel… well, you have a big problem on your hands.

  1. Perspective
  2. Setting
  3. Inciting incident
  4. The protagonist’s big goal
  5. Obstacles in increasing intensity
  6. The protagonist’s strengths, weaknesses, and quirks
  7. The protagonist’s evolution
  8. The climax


A perspective is the ultimate foundation of any story. It’s the lens through which everything happens. It is the point of view that contextualizes the reality of the novel.

You must know your novel’s perspective and keep it holy. Decide early, stick to it, and be consistent.

For further reading:

Read it all at Nathan Bransford’s super helpful blog

Check out Nathan’s new book