What are Literary Elements

If you are a student of literature, then, you must know the correct answer to the question ‘what are literary elements.’ Knowing the correct answer for this question is important because  literary elements consists of some general factors that are necessary in creating a piece of writing. This is not another term that refers to literary techniques such as metaphor and simile. So let us see what literary elements are in detail. First we will see what literary elements are and then we will examine a few of these elements.

Definition of literary elements

Literary elements are a part of literary devices. Literary devices are those different styles the writers use in their creation to deliver the message they want to deliver to their readers. Literary elements are essential for piece of literature. You cannot build a story without them. They are the foundation on which a work of fiction is created. Literary elements are the basic elements in a story that create a story. For example, plot, setting, narrative method, narrator, protagonist, antagonist, themes, moods, etc. As you can see, a writer cannot create a piece of writing without these basic elements. Therefore, these elements are unavoidable.

Literary elements

Let us now have a look at a few of the literary elements in detail.


Plot is the foundation of any story. A plot describes how one event leads to the other. The plot of the story should make sense to the reader. Plot twists can make the story interesting. For example, think about ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee. From the beginning of the story, the incidents are created in such a way that the reader along with Scout is expecting to see a dangerous maniac called Boo Radley, until he finally comes out of the Radley house. However, the person who emerges from the house at the end to save Jem and Scout is not a dangerous maniac who would hurt kids. It is a human who is ill and very compassionate about these two kids that he ends up killing the man who tries to harm them. That is a plot twist. That plot twist makes this story better.


Setting is the time and place where the story is taking place. For example, if you take The Great Gatsby by Scott Fitzgerald, it takes place in New York and Long Island of United States of America in the early 1920s. So, the story goes according to that. The popular music of the time was Jazz. So, that is the music people hear in the parties organized by Gatsby. If the setting and story do not match, there is problem because the story becomes unrealistic.

What are Literary Elements 01


Every story is woven around one central idea. This is the reason for a story to be written. If this central idea is not good, the story will not be good. Also, if the central idea is good and the presentation of the story is not good, then also the story will not be good. A story can have sub-themes too. Let’s take an example. Let’s take Lord of the Rings. At the end of the day, that story talks about how avarice can lead people to destruction. The ring signifies this unquenchable desire people have in their minds. There is also the battle between good and evil. Without talking about a man who goes and fights an evil man, the writer takes the good and evil battle to a land of magic. The battle is made into a battle between the evil, which is literally presented by Sauron and his supporters and Aragorn and the rest of the good people of the Middle Earth. See, how beautifully the idea is presented by the writer.

What are Literary Elements 02



Literary devices are used to make a work of creativity more appealing to the reader. Under literary devices, come literary elements. These are the basic factors a story needs in order to be told. Without literary elements, you cannot create a story. They are unavoidable. Examples for literary elements are plot, setting, themes, narrator, protagonist, antagonist, etc.


Images Courtesy: Ray Miller Orchestra and Sauron via Wikicommons (Public Domain)

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