narrative elements


The order in which events occur in time.


The process by which one event leads to or influences another.

Spatial Relationships

The relationship that characters and objects have to the space they are in, and to one another.


The time and place in which the events of the narrative occur.


The totality of the all the dramatic events in the order in which they originally occur, including events that are both presented in the film and which are surmised or assumed by the audience.


Story material that has been structured and arranged by the storyteller/filmmaker, which often differs from the story because it is not necessarily in order or complete.

Diegetic Element

An element of the film that is from the world of the story, e.g. the sound of a character playing the piano.

Non-diegetic Element

An element of the film that is not from the world of the story, e.g. a music track added to heighten mood.


Individuals who populate the story.


The main character around whom the action revolves and with whom the audience identifies.


The character who opposes the protagonist.

Dynamic Characters

Characters who change during the course of the film.

Static Characters

Characters who remain the same during the course of the film.

Character Development

Also known as character evolution, it is the change or growth of a dynamic character during the film.


A person, situation or event that propels a character to change.


A struggle between opposing forces.

External Conflict

A struggle between a character and his/her environment and/or other characters.

Internal Conflict

An internal struggle that a character has with herself/himself.


The lines that characters speak (usually to one another) during the film. (diegetic)


The lines that a character outside the world of the film speaks about the narrative (non-diegetic). Same as voice-over.

Classical Narrative Structure

A narrative paradigm, used frequently in Hollywood- style films, that is linear and employs a three-act structure.

Opening Balance

The established order at the beginning of a film.

Disordering Event(s)

An event or events that disturbs the established order.


Background information about characters, places and objects that is needed for the storyteller to set-up the story.

Set Up

The first act of a film with a classical narrative structure, in which the viewer learns about the characters and their situation. Sometimes called the Exposition.

Rising Action

A pattern of increasingly intense action that occupies the bulk of the film. Action may be psychological and/or physical.

Plot Point

An event in a film that spins the action around in a new direction.


The culmination of rising action: the moment of greatest intensity.

Dénouement or Resolution

After the climax, the action diminishes or falls off as the complications of the conflict resolve.


A pattern of repeated elements in a film.


A unifying idea or motif in a film that relates the film to larger issues in the world.


A set of values, beliefs or assumptions about the world.