Elements of Storytelling

Elements of Storytelling

An overview of basic storytelling elements for photography, film, and writing.


6 - 8


Storytelling, Filmmaking, Photography

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Idea for Use in the Classroom:

Explain to students that a good story explains, engages, and can enlighten an audience. Also remind students that building a story—whether using words or images—is as much about planning as it is about the actual telling of the story. Reading a story allows the reader to experience a sense of place, time, and the characters’ viewpoints and emotions. Images can do that too—and the most powerful ones often do not need captions or words for the viewer to understand the story.

Direct students to the infographic and ask how a story told with words or images is similar. After hearing responses, point to the infographic and suggest that every story starts with an idea and a plan. The following questions can be used to begin planning a story:

  • What do you want to say?
  • Why are you telling the story?
  • Who will express your point of view? (a character, a place, or a symbol)
  • Will you use words and images? Just words? Just images?

For film and photography, a script or storyboard can help map out your idea. For writing, an outline provides a framework to build a story.

Review with students the ideas in the diagram and ask how those elements can help make for a better story. Then review the four boxes and tell students that effective storytelling means taking chances and being willing to make changes if something does not work. Point out that stories can change direction as needed, especially if it will make for a more effective narrative.

Ask: why is being concise important to a story? What does honesty mean in telling a story?

Then have students discuss how to implement these concepts into their storytelling project.

Media Credits

The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited.

Tyson Brown, National Geographic Society
National Geographic Society
Production Managers
Gina Borgia, National Geographic Society
Jeanna Sullivan, National Geographic Society
Program Specialists
Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Margot Willis, National Geographic Society
Last Updated

March 6, 2024

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