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Elements of Fiction


Understanding and Writing About Literature

Every story has the elements of fiction whether it is a short story, a novel, a play, a movie, or even a television sit-com. The story you told your husband at dinner last night probably had these elements as well.

And your child, even if he has not formally studied the elements of fiction, has already internalized many of the elements of fiction merely from exposure to stories, television, books, and drama. When it is time to introduce the literary terms of character, plot, climax, setting, conflict, and point of view, be sure to connect the ideas to the stories he already knows.

It's not hard to understand the elements of fiction, and a strong foundation in these elements is the cornerstone of writing literary analysis or even just a simpler book report. Furthermore, competence with literary elements is always part of reading scope and sequence charts for most all grade levels.

Weekly Reader Let's Write a Great Book Report

Weekly Reader Let's Write a Great Book Report

Introducing the Elements of Fiction

Plot, Setting, and Character

Like anything you teach, keeping concepts in context is important. So I suggest you introduce the elements of fiction in relation to a book you've recently read with your children. Here is how I first formally introduced my daughter, then 10 years old and in fifth grade, to the elements of fiction.

At the recommendation of a fellow homeschool mom, I bought Writing A Great Book Report from Weekly Reader Publishing at Currclick. (At $5, I thought I really couldn't lose!) I like that it's an e book so that I can reprint another copy of the pages for use a second or third time.

It turned out to be a great step by step introduction to the elements of fiction and a guide for writing a book report. My daughter really enjoyed working through the pages, making notes about her novel Bud, Not Buddy. Let's Write A Great Book Report includes character, setting, and plot. No other elements of fiction are mentioned, so it is an easy first activity.


NOTE: If your child has already been writing about the elements of literature, you may find this resource too simplistic. I used it as a first time exposure and it was very easy to work through. Be sure to check the preview at Currclick to make sure this is just right for your child's level. It is designed for 3rd - 4th grade.


The Elements of Fiction - Compared to Vegetable Soup

When I taught eighth grade language arts in a public school, I came up with this visual aid to help my students remember the various elements of fiction. The first letter of each element is also the first letter of an ingredient in vegetable soup.

Soup Ingredients

C - Carrot/Character

P - Pepper/Plot

S - Salt/Setting

T - Tomato/Theme

P - Potato/Point of View

C - Corn/ Conflict

Just like good vegetable soup has lots of different ingredients, literature is full of the ingredients of fiction. You can use the printables here, or have your child make her own like my daughter did.

Scroll to Continue

Cards or Banners

For the entire set of elements of fiction soup-themed printables click HERE. It includes the pages pictured above and below plus many more.

flashcards, labels, or minibooks & notebooking pages

Elements of Literature Printables - Prewriting, Book Report Forms, and More

Here is a variety of free printables that can complement your study of the elements of fiction.

  • Book Report Template
    A nice format for helping students write a book report essay. Includes character, setting, conflict, evaluation,theme, and plot.
  • Graphic Organizer: Story Map
    Use this Scholastic freebie to help students identify key elements that make up a story: characters, setting, problem, and solution.
  • Story Maps Download! - Early Bird Homeschool
    Five favorite story maps and flap books, perfect for early elementary age, but even older students can use these as graphic organizers for writing book reports or as a refresher!
  • Plot Diagram
    Outlines the five parts of plot with definitions and then a blank form to fill in. Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, Resolution.
  • Literary Elements Posters
    Two options of design -- stripes and apples. These PDFs are really large and really attractive. Right click to save. Consider printing them 4 per page and using a paper brad to make a reference minibook.
  • Graphic Organizers for Reading
    Lots of reading graphic organizers with story maps that are great for recording plot, character, setting, theme, and so on.
  • Free Point of View Notebooking Page and Minibook Template
    Here is a great PDF with two point of view options -- a notebooking page plus a split matchbook.
  • Book Report Forms from ABCTeach
    A wide variety of layouts and levels.(The top half are free; the bottom half are for paid subscribers.)

Literary Elements - Activities for plot, setting, character, theme, conflict, point of view, and more.

Implementing the Independent Reading Management Kit

I gave the book to my daughter as she started reading a new novel -- Don't You Know There's a War On? by Avi --and assigned her

one activity from each of these sections: setting, plot, character and theme


her choice of one activity from either point of view or conflict.

Activity One: Setting


First my daughter chose a setting activity from the choices. She created a (time) travel packet for the setting of her book. The packet included a detailed map, a brochure for a hotel, notices about possible blackouts, ration cards, and movie tickets.

Each item in the packet was based on facts learned from the book, and in looking over her work, I realized that not only was she outlining the setting of the book, but she was also including a lot of historical fact from the time period of World War 2.

Activity Two: Theme

For theme, my daughter chose to create a jigsaw puzzle that states the theme.


Activity Three: Point of View

Sprite chose to re-write a scene in the book from the perspective of another character.


Activity Four: Character

This is a reproducible page from the Scholastic book. She made a report card on the main character, Howie.

Going Deeper

with literary analysis

Once your child has a good grasp of the main elements of fiction and can discuss them in relation to a specific novel, you can go deeper with some of these ideas and resources.

Start with a quality reference such as the Write Source 2000 or this free glossary of literary terms (suitable for middle school).

Deepen your understanding of CHARACTER by learning about these types of characters:

  • round
  • flat
  • dynamic
  • static
  • antagonist
  • protagonist
  • foil

Learn how to write a character analysis.

Using this Character Traits Graphic Organizer may be helpful in the process.

Or better yet, Make your own customized character graphic organizer with these simple directions.

Take your understanding of PLOT farther by diagramming:

  • exposition
  • rising action
  • climax
  • resolution

Online Helps for Elements of Fiction

If your child benefits from online activities, try these links for kid-friendly learning experiences.

  • Interactives: Elements of a Story
    An interactive introduction to the elements of fiction: setting, character, sequence, exposition, conflict, climax, and resolution. Uses the familiar story of Cinderella as a beginning point. Designed for grades 2-5. Includes both instruction and onl
  • Read, Write, Think: The Elements of Fiction
    Designed for grades 6-12, this interactive tool is an updated version of the Story Map. The tool includes a set of graphic organizers designed to assist teachers and students in prewriting and postreading activities, focusing on the key elements of c
  • Read, Write, Think: The Elements of Fiction
    This online interactive Story Map is a set of graphic organizers that focus on the key elements of character, setting, conflict, and resolution development. There is the option to print your work to use later. Designed for grades K-12.
  • Foldables
    Here you will find directions for creating foldables relevant to the elements of fiction: Story Elements Layered Look Book Guide Directions Point of View Looking In Both Windows Plot Graphic

More Helps for Literary Elements - Elements of Fiction


Hattie from Europe on July 09, 2015:

very nice techniques.

mcsburlea on July 08, 2013:

this was super fun to read

Digory LM on November 24, 2012:

Very nice. Thanks.

duslan on February 22, 2012:

I love these ideas! I saved the soup story elements set and will be using it with my students today!

jimmyworldstar on February 05, 2012:

The essentials, you have to have good characters that aren't one dimensional and a setting to help carry out the plot.

anonymous on January 14, 2012:

This lens was enjoyed by this reading teacher. You have done a great service to many by providing us with useful information. Thank you.

yano jl on November 04, 2011:

Good stuff Jimmie - 1 SquidLike for you. I have also enjoyed the writings and teachings of Joseph Campbell; more specifically his concept of the famous "Hero's Journey"; a plot structure found in so many common titles (like StarWars, for example).

gosmart on October 24, 2011:

Great lens. Thanks!

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on October 06, 2011:

Enjoyed reading this well written and informative lens. Blessed.

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on October 06, 2011:

Enjoyed reading this well written and informative lens. Blessed.

Tonto Murray on September 01, 2011:

Cool, helpful lens.

Peggy Hazelwood from Desert Southwest, U.S.A. on August 21, 2011:

Very nice! You seemed to have covered it all here. This is a great refresher for adults, too.

franstan lm on August 05, 2011:

Love the activities you used

Tolovaj Publishing House from Ljubljana on June 29, 2011:

Well written, very imaginative and creative as a fiction writing should be. Thanks for zorlens.

annieangel1 on June 22, 2011:

another wonderful lens a d another Angel blessing - featured on

pheonix76 from WNY on May 10, 2011:

This is a wonderful teaching resource -- I especially like how you linked the elements of fiction with soup ingredients. Genius! :) My aunt homeschools and I will be sending her your website. ~Cheers~

Treasures By Brenda from Canada on April 14, 2011:

Nice discussion of the elements of fiction. Your personal comments should prove helpful for those seeking this information.

Philippians468 on April 14, 2011:

thank you for such a comprehensive list of resources you've gathered here! cheers

kimmanleyort on April 02, 2011:

Wonderful activities for teaching kids about fiction!

VarietyWriter2 on March 17, 2011:

Blessed by a SquidAngel :)

bbudoyono lm on March 12, 2011:

It's a very informative and useful lens. I write a novel so I need it. I owe you for this. Thanks a million.

MargoPArrowsmith on February 09, 2011:

Great presentation

Krafick on January 30, 2011:

Great lens.

FictionWritingChick on January 03, 2011:

@FictionWritingChick: Sorry about the multiple posts. For some reason it told me that my comment didn't get in the first time and I can't find a way to take it down. :(

FictionWritingChick on January 03, 2011:

Fantastic lens. Great place to refresh your memory on the fundamentals. :)

FictionWritingChick on January 03, 2011:

Fantastic lens. Great place to refresh your memory on the fundamentals. :)

FictionWritingChick on January 03, 2011:

Fantastic lens. Wonderful refresher on the basics :)

FictionWritingChick on January 03, 2011:

Fantastic lens. Wonderful refresher on the basics :)

Rhonda Albom from New Zealand on September 20, 2010:

Another great lens. I added it on Homeschool Fun.

Sensitive Fern on September 19, 2010:

This is a helpful lens for me as a writer. It's easy to get caught up in the story while writing and forget the basic elements.

Linda Jo Martin from Post Falls, Idaho, USA on September 11, 2010:

Wonderful and creative! Your kids are lucky to have you.

Moe Wood from Eastern Ontario on April 15, 2010:

¨¨¨°º©©º° This lens has been blessed! °º©©º°¨¨¨

Louis Wery from Sarasota, Florida USA on April 11, 2010:

Excellent lens. Helps us adults, too! Many thanks.

inkserotica on March 30, 2010:

Just a quick note from a Squidoo Greeter! Excellent lens :) Love the downloads! 5*

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