narrative elements


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.


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


A struggle between opposing forces.

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.


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