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Plot Structures: Linear, Non-Linear, and Parallel

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Travis Washmon

on 15 October 2013

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Transcript of Plot Structures: Linear, Non-Linear, and Parallel

Plot Structures: Linear, Non-Linear, and Parallel
Linear Plot
Non-Linear Plot
Point of View
Three Part Structure
The Five Part Structure
drama should not take place in more or less than five acts
use of the deus ex machina should be rare
proselytizes use of "in medias res"
argues for "ut pictura poesis" or the contemplative style of imaginative writing (plan and contemplate like a painter)
Dramatic Pyramid (AKA Plot Diagram)
Gustav Freytag
Exposition-introduces characters, setting, and motivations-ends with introduction of major conflict
Rising Action-interaction with internal/external conflicts increase, builds suspense
Climax-most dramatic point in a story-protagonist at the crux of action
Falling Action-conflict unravels, final moments of suspense are released-fate of protagonist is sealed
Resolution-all the loose ends are tied up-several types of resolution can be substituted (denouement, "cliffhanger", etc)
Foreshadowing is considered a non-linear plot structure (also a literary device) because it gives you a look into the future and therefore acts out of the continuum of time. As an author's craft element, foreshadowing should be used carefully to hint at possible future outcomes without overtly shouting, "hey, don't you think you should look under the bed for the monster?"

Classic examples of foreshadowing are weather elements such as rain or thunder, and phrases or doubt, like, "I've got a bad feeling about this."

"The Landlord" by Roald Dahl
Flashback (Analepsis)
A transition (in literary or theatrical works or films) to an earlier event or scene that interrupts the normal chronological development of the story.
An unexpected but vivid recurrence of a past experience
Usually in the first person, but can be in other points of view
Prolepsis is the opposite of analepsis and flashes forward in the story
Parallel Plot
Two or more major plots that occur within a story and usually intersect.
These plots usually take place within the same frame of time in the linear progression of the story, but in some cases, internal and external analepsis or prolepsis can occur within the separate parallel plot structures to add complexity to characters and conflicts
Remember that in parallel plot structures, each plot is as essential to the story as the other
A great example of parallel plot structure is in the movie Pulp Fiction by Quentin Tarantino
A secondary story in a narrative. A subplot may serve as a motivating or complicating force for the main plot of the work, or it may provide emphasis for, or relief from, the main plot.

The hit TV series and a personal favorite, House M.D, is a great example of a television show that utilizes sub plot very well.

First Person
In first person point of view, the story is told by one of the characters.

Look for the narrator's use of pronouns like I, Me, My, Mine,We, Us, Our, and Ours.

A good example of a first person narrator is Huck in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Second Person
This is the rarest of the points of view. In the second person, the narrator would be talking directly to YOU, the reader, as if you were a character in the story. It is very difficult to maintain the second person seamlessly-without breaking parallelism or becoming awkward. Thus, its rarity.

Second person is most often used in song lyrics, although it can be found in some novels and stories and in non-fiction. Some examples are self help books, choose your own adventure books, If on a Winter's Night a Traveler, and Bright Lights Big City.
Third Person
This is the most common point of view used in novels and storytelling as a whole. In this point of view, the story is told by someone who is not necessarily a character in the story. The narrator simply recounts the action without allowing himself to take part in it.
look for pronouns like: he/she/it, they, him/her/it, them, his/hers/its, their
there are three types of third person narrators
Protasis-beginning (introduction, usually the first act)
Epitasis-middle (main action develops)
Catastasis/Catastrophe-end (action heightens and unravels)
So what is linear plot?
Plot, by definition, takes place over time. Therefore, plot is always linear. But, within the five points of plot, there are great opportunities to complicate-sometimes for the betterment of a story, and sometimes to the detriment of a story-the plot by using non-linear story elements.

"Linear Plot" is when the story is in chronological order and does not skew from that order.
In a Nut-Shell
Nonlinear narrative is a technique sometimes used in literature wherein events are portrayed out of chronological order. It is often used to mimic the structure and recall of human memory.

In a Nut-Shell
POV determines who is telling the story—the perspective, or vantage point from which an author presents a story.

There is always a narrator-always. Sometimes, there are more than one!

Look for key pronouns to figure out what POV the story is told from .

With a limited third person narrator, the reader sees the story from only one perspective. In other words, the narrator latches on to a single character and tells the story as it pertains to that character only-using only his actions and thoughts. Other characters may interact with this character, but you only see the external interaction, never the internal thoughts or background actions of those characters.
All-knowing or God-like narrator who knows all the thoughts of all the characters and all the background information on the story.
The narrator knows none of the internal information such as thoughts or background or motivations, but rather simply recounts the events much like a camera would. This narrator rarely offers his own emotions or thoughts on the subjects either.
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