Five Elements of a Story

"Five Things"



This song covers the five main elements of a story: setting, plot, characters, conflict and theme. Whether you’re studying a short story, a novel, an epic poem, a play or a film, if you don’t find these five elements, you’re not looking hard enough. With a catchy chorus that’s hard to forget, this “five elements of a short story” rap will get you or your students hooked.



Setting, that's like where it's going down,
Could be the train compartment, a castle or a town,
Could be the Arctic winter - like To Build a Fire,
The temperature's dropping, excitement is getting higher,
Setting sets the scene so the scene seems set,
Could be the Italian restaurant where we met,
Setting gives us the where and the when,
Could be modern day, the future, or way back when.

Plot, Character, Conflict, Theme,
Setting, yes these are the 5 things
That you're going to be needing
When you're reading or writing
A short story that's mad exciting. (x2)


Plot is the action, the quest for satisfaction,
What's going down, what's going to happen.
Four men at sea in an open boat,
Rowing and hoping that they can stay afloat. The plot:
They have to make it to the beach,
But the waves are big, and the shore seems out of reach,
Plot is a series of events... like Lemoney Snicket,
It could be crazy, wild or straight wicked.

Plot, Character, Conflict, Theme,
Setting, yes these are the 5 things
That you're going to be needing
When you're reading or writing
A short story that's mad exciting. (x2)


Knock knock, who's there? Oh, it's the characters,
The people in the story who carry out the action.
Characters can be pretty, tiny or clean,
Characters can be silly, whiney or mean,
Juliet is a character, and so is Romeo,
Pokemon has characters and so does Yu-gi-oh,
Characters could be dogs, lions, or hippos,
JK Rowling chose Harry Potter. "Why?" Who knows!

Plot, Character, Conflict, Theme,
Setting, yes these are the 5 things
That you're going to be needing
When you're reading or writing
A short story that's mad exciting. (x2)


Uh-uh! Put your snack back in your backpack we're not finished!
Something gone wrong! That's the conflict kids,
A struggle in the plot, now who's on top,
Could be a fight for money, like some robbers and cops,
Could be an internal conflict - a struggle inside,
Like I don't want to tell the truth but I don't ever want to lie,
Flick something in your eye, now you're conflicted,
What created drama? The conflict did.

Plot, Character, Conflict, Theme,
Setting, yes these are the 5 things
That you're going to be needing
When you're reading or writing
A short story that's mad exciting. (x2)


The theme of the story is the main idea,
The central belief or the topic that's in there,
It's usually something abstract like sacrifice,

Isolation or resurrection: we're back to life,
Like don't lie, don't practice libel,
The theme of To Build a Fire is survival,
Survival on your own like Fievel Moskowitz,
Flocabulary's something that you HAVE TO GET...

Plot, Character, Conflict, Theme,
Setting, yes these are the 5 things
That you're going to be needing
When you're reading or writing
A short story that's mad exciting. (x2)


Check out the complete "Five Things" lesson plan.

"To Build a Fire" is a short story by Jack London. It was first published in 1902. Set in northern Canada, the story tells of a protagonist who must survive the harsh cold. The story is a good example of the classic "man vs. nature" conflict.

Setting isn't just about where a story takes place. It's also about when it takes place. There's a pretty big difference between New York City in 1600 and New York City in 2100.

"The Open Boat" is a short story by Stephen Crane that was first published in 1897. The story is based on Crane's experience surviving a shipwreck off the coast of Florida. Crane was stranded for 30 hours when his ship sank. He and three other men had to get to shore in a small boat. When the boat overturned, one of the men drowned.

Lemony Snicket is the pen name of author Daniel Handler. He is the author of the popular children's books called A Series of Unfortunate Events.

In the 1500s, it was much more common for authors to borrow plots, characters and themes from other authors. While William Shakespeare did indeed write Romeo and Juliet, he adapted the story from many other authors.

There are hundreds of Pokemon characters. Some of the names are strange, but they make sense. Swoobat, for example, looks like a bat. Pidove is a lot like a pigeon…or a dove.

Characters do not have to be human, but to be considered "characters" they have to have some human qualities. They have to be capable of action, thought or feeling. So a talking train engine could be a character. But a tree that doesn't talk or do anything except being a tree: that's not a character.

Harry Potter is one of the most popular characters of all time. The Harry Potter books have collectively sold more than 450 million copies. They've been translated into 67 languages!

A story isn't interesting without some sort of conflict. Not knowing how the conflict will be resolved makes us want to read more. Imagine this story: A young boy named Hairy Plotter goes to school. He does his homework. He goes to bed. The end. Would you buy a book with no conflict?

Conflicts in stories can be large. In The Lord of the Rings, we read about gory battles between all kinds of amazing creatures. But conflicts can also be smaller, or even internal. If you have to choose between obeying your parents and meeting up with your friends, that is an internal conflict.

Of the five main elements of a story, theme is the hardest to get. That's because the main idea or message of a story is usually something abstract. And authors rarely come out and state the main message. Instead they imply the theme through the other elements of the story. Themes usually explore timeless and universal ideas.

Fievel Moskowitz is the main character from the animated 1986 movie An American Tail. The movie tells the story of a family of immigrant mice that comes to America seeking a better life. At one point, Fievel gets separated from his family and must survive on his own.
Click here for the complete lesson plan.
What does the setting tell us?
Where the story takes place
What two questions does setting answer?
Where? and When?
What are the five main elements of a short story?
Plot, character, conflict, theme and setting
What is the plot?
The action; what is going down
What is the plot for the men at sea in an open boat?
They are rowing and hoping they can stay afloat.
Who are the characters?
The people in the story who carry out the action
Who did J. K. Rowling choose for her main character?
Harry Potter
What is a conflict?
A struggle in the plot
What creates drama?
The conflict
What is the theme of a story?
The main idea

Tests and answer keys are only available for paid subscribers.


Click below to sign up for a digital subscription.


Start your free trial.

Copyright ©2014 FlocabularyTerms|Privacy Policy|Credits