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The Plot Diagram - The Structure of a Story

plot, plot diagram, Freytag's Pyramid, story, story structure, characters, themes, conflict
by

Janis Bellon

on 4 September 2012

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Transcript of The Plot Diagram - The Structure of a Story

The Plot Diagram
A plot diagram is a map of a story from start to finish. The diagram lists events in order of occurrence according to a specific formula. There are several pieces to the puzzle, as well as some story elements we will review.
Exposition
Inciting Incident
Rising Action
Climax
Falling Action
Resolution
Dénouement
The exposition provides background information needed to truly understand the story.
In the exposition, we learn about
-Main characters, especially the protagonist and antagonist
-Established settings (place AND time)
-Basic conflicts that drive the story
Stories tend to follow an arc with a defined beginning, middle, and end. They also have dynamic characters, lots of action, multiple settings, and different conflicts. Without these pieces, a story fails. It will not hold the readers attention because it is incomplete.
The inciting incident sets the rest of the story in motion by beginning the rising action. It is a primary conflict within the story, but probably not the only one.
The climax is the turning point in the story, the moment of the most intensity. This is a "point of no return"; it is impossible for the story arc to go back to the way things were in the past.
Falling action is any action in the text that follows the climax. Conflicts are resolving, problems are ending. We know that the story is wrapping up.
At this point, the protagonist has solved the main conflict or problem solved for her/him.
Think of the dénouement as the opposite of the exposition. Any remaining questions are answered, and any remaining mysteries are solved. We, now, know the rest of the story.
Rising action is a series of events that build tension between the inciting incident (our biggest conflict) and the climax. This is where an author hooks a reader, with lots of interesting details and events.
A German novelist named Gustav Freytag began noticing patterns that emerged throughout fiction works. He constructed the following pyramid, highlighting major plot points which move fiction stories forward.
This system of analyzing literature is not perfect, but it does show the connection between a primary conflict, the major climax, and ultimate resolution - a writer's trifecta for a successful story.
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