The importance of story elements

Ana Ilievska
Customer Success Manager

In this post we will introduce the most important story elements that one should pay attention to when creating their story structure.

In his book 'Story', Robert McKee argues that a cohesive and engaging story consists of several essential elements, of which the most important ones are the characters, the theme and conflict. In our previous blog post, we talked about the importance of storytelling and the 3-act story structure, as defined by Syd Field. We’ll continue in this post by introducing the most important story elements that one should pay attention to when creating their story structure.


As the ones who drive the plot and take the audience on a journey, characters are at the heart of any story. McKee believes that characters should have depth, complexity, and a clear motivation. A character's desires, flaws, and internal conflicts are what makes an audience invested. The audience should be also able to empathize and relate to the characters, as this will create a connection with the story. A compelling character has strengths, weaknesses, goals, and motivations that are consistent with their personality and experiences.

The character's journey should be the focal point of the story. They should be able to learn something from the experiences they go through. By doing so, the audience is able to connect with the characters on a deeper level. When the audience is able to empathize with the characters, they become invested in their journey.

To create good characters, Syd shares four essential qualities:

  1. The characters have a strong and defined dramatic need.
  2. They have an individual point of view.
  3. They personify an attitude.
  4. They go through some change, or transformation.

A dramatic need is what the main character wants to win, gain or achieve during the course of the story. It’s what drives the character through the storyline. It is their purpose, mission and motivation.

A point of view is defined as the way a person views the world. Every person has an individual point of view, which is a belief system, and what we believe to be true is true. So the point of view is neither right nor wrong because no two people are the same.

An attitude is a way of acting or feeling that reveals a person's personal opinion. An attitude, compared to a point of view, is an intellectual decision. So it can, and probably will, be classified by a judgment like right or wrong, good or bad, positive or negative, angry or happy, cynical or naive, superior or inferior, etc.

A transformation is defined as the change the character goes through during the course of the story. What is the change and why? Can it be defined or articulated? Can the emotional arc of the character be traced from the beginning to the end? And so on.

Once these four qualities have been defined, the writer can move onto defining the character's professional, personal and private life, as well as decide which aspects of those will be revealed. Syd suggests that writers take people they know in their life as an example, in order to establish better personality traits: in which year is the person born, what is society like in that time, how were they as a child, how was the parent’s behavior, how was their education, their love interest, etc.


A theme is the underlying message or idea of a story. It is the reason why the story is being told. According to McKee, a theme should be universal, which means it should be something that everyone can relate to. A well-developed theme can give the story depth and resonance and make it more than just surface-level entertainment. The theme can be expressed through the characters, the plot, or the setting (the time and place in which the story takes place, which should be vividly described to immerse the audience in the world of the story), but it should be woven into the story in a subtle way.


Conflict is what drives the story forward and keeps the audience engaged. It creates tension and adds depth to the story. Without conflict, the story becomes stagnant and the audience loses interest. The conflict should be something that the characters care deeply about, and are willing to fight for. When the stakes are high, the audience becomes invested in the outcome. According to McKee, without conflict, you have any action happening. Without any action, you have no character. Without character, you have no story. And without a story, you have no screenplay.

Story structure & elements in VR training

By utilizing the three-act structure and incorporating well-developed characters, a compelling plot, meaningful themes, a vivid setting, and relatable conflicts, writers can create stories that captivate audiences (and deliver more effective training results).

We created a free story writing worksheet to help you create the perfect story outline for any immersive training. It includes learning goals, theme, character development, setting and motivations, conflicts and obstacles, consequences, successful and failed endings, and much more.

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