Story: Definition and Examples | Literary Terms (2023)

  • Quiz

I. What is a Story?

A story or narrative is a connected series of events told through words (written or spoken), imagery (still and moving), body language, performance, music, or any other form of communication. You can tell a story about anything, and the events described can be real or imaginary; covering both fiction and nonfiction; and leaving no topic, genre, or style untouched. There are stories about all things and all times; past, present and future. Whenever you’re telling somebody about a series of events, you are telling a story, no matter what the subject nor when they occurred. As such, stories are of great value to human culture, and are some of the oldest, most important parts of life.

Aside from being a part of every single type of literature, stories are at the foundation of creativity and part of just about everything we do, particularly when it comes to entertainment, recording, and reporting of any form. So, they are shared in all different ways—from oral and written storytelling or journalism; to TV, film, and radio; to fine arts, stage performance and music; and so on.

In one form or another, stories have been a part of human culture and society for thousands of years—likely since man has existed! They’re found in the past and present of people from every culture, religion, and ethnicity; in every region and language. So, all of that considered, the concept of a story is actually a bit difficult to fully cover or describe. Some would say that life is made up of a series of never-ending stories. From a simple commute to school or work, to all the events of our lives, everything has a story.

II. Examples of Story

Here are a few examples of the same story told different ways.

You can sometimes tell a story in just one line:

The girl met the love of her life and lived happily until the day she died.

Or, it could be more detailed:

(Video) "What is a Setting?": A Literary Guide for English Students and Teachers

When the girl was 22, she met the love of her life. It was her last day of college, and when she saw him, she knew he was the one she was going to be with forever—and the boy knew the same. After graduation, the boy and the girl ran away together to elope. They lived together happily for the rest of their days.

Now really, even the second example is just a tiny story. We can tell it in all kinds of ways and of all different lengths, from one line to a series of novels. After all, if the couple lived an entire lifetime together, there would be countless events that together make up the story of their life.

III. Types of Stories

The range of types of stories is pretty much endless. For that reason, this article will divide stories into two very broad categories—fiction and nonfiction. Within each there are a huge number of possibilities in terms of subject matter, genre, type of delivery (oral, written, performance), narrative style, and so on.

Fiction stories

Fiction stories are based on made-up or imaginary events. There are dozens upon dozens of types of fiction stories and genres, including but not at all limited to:

  • Fairy tales
  • Folklore
  • Mythology
  • Legends
  • Epics
  • Dramas
  • Adventure stories
  • Historical fiction
  • Fantasy
  • Science-fiction
  • Love stories
  • Horror stories
  • Ghost stories
  • Bedtime stories

Non-fiction stories

Non-fiction stories can cover any kind of real-life event or experience. But, they often fall into these kinds of categories:

  • Historical events
  • News and current events
  • Biographies and autobiographies
  • Memories and experiences
  • Cultural history
  • Crime and justice
  • Science
  • Love
  • Family
  • Travel stories
  • Survivor stories
  • War stories

IV. Importance of Story

Stories are, have been, and always will be an absolutely essential part of human culture. Stories are how we learn about each other, our past, and our cultures. Whether they are created for entertainment or to recount a real-life event—new stories are literally being lived, told, and created every second of every day. So, even if there was only one story for every person who ever lived, that would still be billions of stories in the world; it would be impossible to measure how many have existed.

V. Examples of Story in Literature

As literature is, first and foremost, written storytelling, there are limitless examples of stories in literature; across every style and genre of writing. We’ve been writing down stories for thousands of years—truth be told, written stories have taught us most of what we know about mankind’s history and culture! That said, here are a few examples:

Example 1

Author Shel Silverstein is known for the quirky and memorable stories he tells through poetry. Here is “Masks” from his collection of poems Everything On It:

She had blue skin.

And so did he.

(Video) Literary Elements MADE EASY

He kept it hid

And so did she.

They searched for blue

Their whole life through,

Then passed right by—

And never knew.

As you’ve just read, Silverstein tells a whole story in just eight short lines of poetry. Tons of poems do the same in even fewer lines. Either way, you can see that a story definitely doesn’t have to be lengthy.

Example 2

A fairy tale is a classic type of story about imaginary events. When we want to tell a fairy tale, we often start with the famous words “Once upon a time,” which adds a more whimsical feel to what we are about to share. Here’s an example from Rapunzel of Grimm’s Fairy Tales:

Once upon a time there was a man and a woman who had long, but to no avail, wished for a child. Finally the woman came to believe that the good Lord would fulfill her wish. Through the small rear window of these people’s house they could see into a splendid garden that was filled with the most beautiful flowers and herbs. The garden was surrounded by a high wall, and no one dared enter, because it belonged to a sorceress who possessed great power and was feared by everyone.

The fairy tale’s intro is just a small part of the story, telling us about the beginning and a bit about the characters who will be the focus.

(Video) Literary Terms

Example 3

Of course, newspapers and magazines are filled with stories. As you know, a news story reports on real events that have happened. Here’s a passage from a CNN Tech article:

There’s no other shopping bonanza quite like Alibaba’s Singles Day, which has once again smashed records. The tech giant reported $17.8 billion in sales during this year’s frenzy, breaking the record of $14.3 billion set in 2015. That’s more than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.

Reading a news story gives you an update on events that are happening throughout the world. Here, Tech Crunch writes about China’s 11.11 Singles’ Day, the world’s biggest shopping event. The story specifically reports on the money that Alibaba made in their latest Singles’ Day event.

VI. Examples of Story in Popular Culture

Stories are a part of every type of today’s media, from TV, film, and radio; to what gets shared on social media platforms; music; stage performance; art exhibitions, celebrity magazines—you name it, and you’ll find stories. But here are a few examples of stories in popular film and TV culture, told through performance, music, and animation.

Example 1

Cult-classic fantasy film The Neverending Story is about a story that goes on as long as time exists. It unfolds in real time as the reader is reading it, who in this case is a boy named Bastian. But it’s soon revealed that he has more of a stake in the story than he ever imagined…

The Neverending Story (9/10) Movie CLIP - Call My Name (1984) HD

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Bastian finally realizes that he’s a part of the story he’s been reading, so in a way, it’s actually about him. So long as he keeps reading, the story will continue.

Example 2

Everybody knows Will Smith’s retro anthem “Prince of Bel Air,” the theme song to the hit ’90s sitcom Fresh Prince of Bel Air. In the show’s intro, Smith uses this rap to fill the audience in on his backstory:

The fresh prince of Bel Air theme song [short version]

The song quickly reviews the story of his past, which serves as an intro to what the show is about. He recounts the events that led to his life being turned “upside down”; the story of how he became the Prince of Bel Air.

Example 3

In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Hermione reads the story of the Three Brothers, which is part of the wizarding world.

The Story of the Three Brothers is actually a story within a story—Harry Potter’s story. Rowling tries to make the wizarding world seem as real as possible, and adding background is a big part of that. By sharing stories that her characters read, she is giving evidence of the wizarding world’s storytelling and literary culture…and perhaps even some history.

(Video) Literary Elements (Parts of a Story) - Video and Worksheet

VII. Conclusion

Stories are a major part of every aspect of our lives, from what we read to what we do to what we talk and think about. They’re also crucial to our understanding of history and culture, and have been recorded and passed on since man’s earliest days. Stories have always been and will always be at the core of not only literature, but life!


What is story explain with example? ›

a narration of an incident or a series of events or an example of these that is or may be narrated, as an anecdote, joke, etc. a narration of the events in the life of a person or the existence of a thing, or such events as a subject for narration: the story of medicine; the story of his life.

What is a short definition of a story? ›

: an account of incidents or events. : a statement regarding the facts pertinent to a situation in question. : anecdote. especially : an amusing one. : a fictional narrative shorter than a novel.

What is the best definition of a story? ›

a narrative, either true or fictitious, in prose or verse, designed to interest, amuse, or instruct the hearer or reader; tale. a fictitious tale, shorter and less elaborate than a novel.

What are the 7 elements of a story and their meaning? ›

There are seven elements of fiction that can be found in any story, regardless of the form the narrative takes. These elements are character, plot, setting, theme, point of view, conflict, and tone. All seven elements work together to create a coherent story.

How do you write a story definition? ›

  1. Step 1: Determine Your Setting. ...
  2. Step 2: Make Memorable Characters. ...
  3. Step 3: Understand the 2 Types of Conflict. ...
  4. Step 4: Give Your Plot a Twist. ...
  5. Step 5: Recreate Natural Dialogue. ...
  6. Step 6: Articulate Voice Through Point of View. ...
  7. Step 1: Determine Your Setting. ...
  8. Step 2: Make Memorable Characters.
Sep 8, 2021

What makes a story a story? ›

A story has five basic but important elements. These five components are: the characters, the setting, the plot, the conflict, and the resolution. These essential elements keep the story running smoothly and allow the action to develop in a logical way that the reader can follow.

What are elements of a story? ›

Story Elements
  • Setting.
  • Characters.
  • Plot.
  • Conflict.
  • Resolution.
  • Point of View.
  • Theme.

What are the 5 characteristics of a story? ›

What makes these authors such remarkable short story writers? They are true masters at combining the five key elements that go into every great short story: character, setting, conflict, plot and theme.

Is a true story definition? ›

: an account of something that really happened.

What words mean story? ›

Synonyms of story
  • tale.
  • novella.
  • narrative.
  • yarn.
  • history.
  • short story.
  • fable.
  • anecdote.

What are the three 3 most important story elements? ›

You can use endlessly different story structures and styles, but each story or novel is going to boil down to three fundamental elements: character, setting, and plot.

What are the 12 elements of short story? ›

All great stories can be broken down into twelve essential elements.
The 12 elements of every great story
  • A protagonist. ...
  • An antagonist. ...
  • Setting. ...
  • Perspective. ...
  • Something to fight for. ...
  • Something to lose. ...
  • Rising action. ...
  • Falling action.
Jan 6, 2022

What are the 4 main story elements? ›

To keep your reader engaged and interested, your story should include these plot elements: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. Let's explore each one.

How do I write a definition? ›

A formal definition consists of three parts:
  1. The term (word or phrase) to be defined.
  2. The class of object or concept to which the term belongs.
  3. The differentiating characteristics that distinguish it from all others of its class.

How do you write a definition word? ›

You need to clearly state what your word is along with its traditional or dictionary definition in your introductory paragraph. By opening with the dictionary definition of your term, you create context and a basic level of knowledge about the word. This will allow you to introduce and elaborate on your own definition.

How do you start a story example? ›

Starting Stories: 5 Great Beginning Strategies
  • Strategy 1: Begin with action or dialogue. ...
  • Strategy 2: Ask a question. ...
  • Strategy 3: Describe the setting. ...
  • Strategy 4: Begin with background information. ...
  • Strategy 5: Have the main character introduce himself or herself.

What 3 things does a story require? ›

Regardless of plot, twists, and approaches, good stories (even in business) have three essential elements:
  • Characters: introduce the people involved. ...
  • Conflict: the lesson is often illustrated in how the character transforms through challenge. ...
  • Resolution: how did the character(s) change?
Dec 2, 2014

How do you identify a story? ›

A story is a set of events linked together in a way that explains what happened or what could happen. It differs from a clinic example because a story includes emotions and sensory detail. “The King died and the Queen cried,” is a statement of fact. “The King died and the Queen cried of a broken heart,” is a story.

Why is it called a story? ›

Answer: Back in the era of kings and queens, the floors of a castle were used for storage during sieges. Each floor would be used to store various different items, including weapons and food. The floors were referred to as 'storeys'.

What is a theme of a story? ›

A theme is an important idea that is woven throughout a story. It's not the plot or the summary, but something a little deeper. A theme links a big idea about our world with the action of a text.

What are the 7 parts of a story? ›

What are the Elements of a Story?
  • 1 — A Theme. Plot (#5) is what happens in a story, a theme is why it happens—which you need to know while you're writing the plot. ...
  • 2 — Characters. I'm talking believable characters who feel knowable. ...
  • 3 — Setting. ...
  • 4 — Point of View. ...
  • 5 — Plot. ...
  • 6 — Conflict. ...
  • 7 — Resolution.
Aug 28, 2020

What are the 5 parts of a story structure? ›

The 5 Elements of Plot
  • Exposition. This is your book's introduction, where you introduce your characters, establish the setting, and begin to introduce the primary conflict of your story. ...
  • Rising Action. ...
  • Climax. ...
  • Falling Action. ...
  • Resolution/Denouement.

What makes a quality story? ›

The best story is a well-told tale about something the reader feels is relevant or significant. The best stories are more complete and more comprehensive. They contain more verified information from more sources with more viewpoints and expertise. They exhibit more enterprise, more reportorial effort.

What are the 6 important aspects of a short story? ›

Storytelling 101: The 6 Elements of Every Complete Narrative
  • Setting. The setting is the time and location in which your story takes place. ...
  • Characters. A story usually includes a number of characters, each with a different role or purpose. ...
  • Plot. ...
  • Conflict. ...
  • Theme. ...
  • Narrative Arc.

What is a short story and its elements? ›

A short story is a work of short, narrative prose that is usually centered around one single event. It is limited in scope and has an introduction, body and conclusion. Although a short story has much in common with a novel, it is written with much greater precision.

What is real story called? ›

What Is Nonfiction? Nonfiction, by contrast, is factual and reports on true events. Histories, biographies, journalism, and essays are all considered nonfiction. Usually, nonfiction has a higher standard to uphold than fiction.

Whats a true story called? ›

"Nonfiction" refers to literature based in fact. It is the broadest category of literature.

What is a short True Story called? ›

A short, amusing true story is an anecdote. You might come back from a crazy spring break with a lot of anecdotes to tell.

What is a 6 word story example? ›

The most famous example of a six-word story is frequently credited to Ernest Hemingway (though there's little evidence that he actually wrote it): “For sale: baby shoes. Never worn.” In six simple words, a heartbreaking narrative is told—from the few words but also from what is left out.

What are the 5 most common words? ›

Here's the List of the 1000 Most Common English Words
  • be – “Will you be my friend?”
  • and – “You and I will always be friends.”
  • of – “Today is the first of November.”
  • a – “I saw a bear today.”
  • in – “She is in her room.”
  • to – “Let's go to the park.”
  • have – “I have a few questions.”
  • too – “I like her too.”

What is the beginning of a story called? ›

This is called the EXPOSITION. It is the background information on the characters and setting explained at the beginning of the story. The EXPOSITION will often have information about events that happened before the story began. The EXPOSITION is often the very first part of the PLOT.

What are the three story structure? ›

The three-act structure is a model used in narrative fiction that divides a story into three parts (acts), often called the Setup, the Confrontation, and the Resolution. It was popularized by Syd Field in his 1979 book Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting.

What's the end of a story called? ›

An epilogue is the final chapter at the end of a story that often serves to reveal the fates of the characters. Some epilogues may feature scenes only tangentially related to the subject of the story. They can be used to hint at a sequel or wrap up all the loose ends.

What are the 5 types of short stories? ›

Short Fiction Forms: Novella, Novelette, Short Story, and Flash Fiction Defined
  • Novella. A work of fiction between 20,000 and 49,999 words is considered a novella. ...
  • Novelette. A novelette falls in the range of 7,500 to 19,999 words. ...
  • Short story. ...
  • Flash fiction. ...
  • Short Fiction Challenge.

What is the basic structure of a short story? ›

As stated, there are two parts within any short story structure. The first is the plot which is 'what happens' or the chain of events that occur in your short story. The other is 'story elements' which is the 'underlying factors that drive the narrative action: protagonists, conflicts, setting, etc.

What are the 4 Ps of storytelling *? ›

What are the 4 P's of storytelling? A: The four Ps of storytelling are people, place, plot and purpose.

What is the most important aspect of a story? ›

According to House of Cards showrunner Beau Willimon, the answer is a simple one: "The most important element in a good story is conflict.

What are the 3 types of stories? ›

A list made by Foster-Harris in 1959 claimed there are only three types of stories:
  • Happy ending.
  • Unhappy ending.
  • Tragedy.

What are the 4 types of stories? ›

Narratives have been around since the beginning of storytelling, from folk tales to ancient poetry.
Here are four common types of narrative:
  • Linear Narrative. ...
  • Non-linear Narrative. ...
  • Quest Narrative. ...
  • Viewpoint Narrative.
Sep 8, 2021

What are the 5 types of stories? ›

But so much of writing a great story is knowing and mastering the type of story you're trying to tell. What are the types of stories?
The 10 Types of Stories
  • Adventure Story Type. Value: Life vs. ...
  • Action Story Type. ...
  • Horror Story Type. ...
  • Thriller Story Type. ...
  • Mystery Story Type. ...
  • Romance/Love Story Type.

What are the 7 types of stories? ›

The 7 story archetypes are:
  • Overcoming the Monster.
  • Rags to Riches.
  • The Quest.
  • Voyage and Return.
  • Comedy.
  • Tragedy.
  • Rebirth.
Oct 31, 2011

What 3 elements make a story? ›

You can use endlessly different story structures and styles, but each story or novel is going to boil down to three fundamental elements: character, setting, and plot.

What are the 7 elements of a story in order? ›

Most storytelling experts agree that there are 7 key elements of a story that must exist.
What are the Elements of a Story?
  • 1 — A Theme. ...
  • 2 — Characters. ...
  • 3 — Setting. ...
  • 4 — Point of View. ...
  • 5 — Plot. ...
  • 6 — Conflict. ...
  • 7 — Resolution.
Aug 28, 2020

What are the 4 C's of storytelling? ›

Most elements of short stories can be characterized as falling under one of four C-word descriptions. (“Most” because there is always evidence of breaking writing rules effectively.) They are character, conflict, change, and context.

What are the four 4 parts of a story *? ›

What Makes a Good Short Story? The four elements necessary for your story structure are character, plot, setting, and tension. Balancing these elements is the first step to making your creative writing amazing.

What are the six main elements of storytelling? ›

These terms include: plot, characters, point of view, setting, theme, conflict, and style. Understanding how these elements work helps us better analyze narratives and to determine meanings.

What are the 6 rules of storytelling? ›

6 Rules for Great Storytelling
  • Great stories are universal. ...
  • Great stories have a clear structure and purpose. ...
  • Great stories have a character to root for (an underdog) ...
  • Great stories appeal to our deepest emotions. ...
  • Great stories are surprising and unexpected. ...
  • Great stories are simple and focused.
Mar 21, 2018

What are the 9 elements of a story? ›

So, keep in mind that you need a main theme, characters, setting, tension, climax, resolution, plot, purpose and chronology for a powerful story.

What are the 11 elements of short story? ›

  • Rising Action. Foreshadowing. Flashback. Subplot. Suspense. Complications and Crises. Dilemmas.
  • Climax.


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