What is Rising Action in Literature?

Rising action in literature refers to all the events in a story on the way to the climax. The rising action pushes the plot along, building tension to keep us invested in the story as it moves forward. It is the second stage in the plot, after the initial exposition.

The rising action is a vital part of the plot in any piece of literature. It is a device authors use to keep us interested in the story, making us want to find out what the climax will be and how the initial conflict will get resolved. But how is rising action conveyed in narrative writing? And what does the rising step of a story usually involve? Here we take a look at increasing activity in literature so we can answer these questions. We’ll also suggest plenty of tips and resources to help you teach your classes how to write rising action in their compositions.

The plot of a story refers to all the events that occur within the narrative. It almost always has a logical structure, containing five distinct elements in the same order. These are:


The exposition is where every story begins. In this report section, the author introduces us to the main characters and settings and suggests some of the story’s themes. The exposition section is usually where the story’s central conflict is introduced. The conflict is the whole reason for the story – ultimately, the story is about how the conflict is resolved.

Rising Action

In most stories, the rising action forms most of the plot. We learn about characters and settings and the novel’s themes. The events of the rising action often present numerous challenges that build on the initial conflict of the story. The rising action raises the stakes, keeping us invested in the story and making us want to keep reading to find out how the story will evolve and resolve.


The climax is the point of the story where the tension has built to a maximum, and the initial conflict must be resolved. The climax is the inevitable event we’ve been waiting for as readers. It may involve a confrontation between the hero and the villain of the piece or a couple finally realizing how they feel about each other, for example. It is the most exciting part of a story that all the previous rising action has been building towards.

Falling Action

The falling action is what comes after the climax of the plot. It serves as a way of reducing the tension and allowing the characters, and the reader, some much-needed breathing space. The falling action will sometimes include characters speculating what will happen now that the central conflict has been resolved.


The resolution is where the author wraps up the story, neatly tying up any loose ends and establishing what the characters’ lives will look like now the story is over; this provides a satisfying ending for the reader. But, of course, if the author plans a sequel, not everything will be wrapped up neatly!

What makes effective rising action?

As we can see, the rising action is probably the essential part of any plot, as this keeps us caring about the story. Ultimately, the rising action has to persuade us to keep reading until the climax and the resolution. Because of this, the increasing action needs to have several elements to create a successful story:


The point of the rising action is to build suspense and tension. It has to make us care about the story’s central narrative by raising the stakes; this means the increasing action needs an element of conflict to keep pushing the story along – the protagonist has to be on a journey we can care about. The ultimate purpose of the rising action is to keep us turning the pages, so there has to be enough interest in this section of the story to make us want to keep reading!


The rising action has to be relevant to the rest of the plot; this won’t build tension if it’s just a series of unconnected events. The reader won’t be invested in the story unless they believe it will all fit together and all the elements will resolve in the end. Of course, introducing subplots is fine; these can be part of the rising action. However, the story has to fit together as a cohesive whole, rather than the different elements not having any relationship with each other.


The rising action has to show us more detail and depth about each character. A lot can be revealed about a character by how they react to events and deal with crises that might happen during the rising action. In addition, the character’s actions and reactions during the increasing action make them more understandable and relatable – this is where we decide whether we like or dislike each character.


As the rising action usually forms the bulk of the plot of any story, this is the part where we get to explore the novel’s themes. The author may convey these in several ways – through events in the story, contemporary social commentary, or symbolism, for example. We need to see how the characters’ journeys illustrate the story’s themes so that we’ll feel we’ve learned something by the time we resolve.

What are some examples of rising action in literature?

All stories have rising action, from fairy tales to Booker prize winners! Here are some examples of rising action that you might be familiar with:

  • Cinderella. In this classic fairy tale, the rising action begins when Cinderella’s family receives the invitation to the Prince’s ball. It continues through Cinderella’s transformation to the climax, where she loses her slipper at the ball.
  • A Christmas Carol. The rising action in A Christmas Carol begins when Scrooge is visited by Jacob Marley’s ghost, who warns him that three spirits will see him. The visits from the Ghosts of Christmas Past and Present are both parts of the rising action, building towards the climax of the visit from the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.
  • The Lord of the Rings. When Frodo leaves the comfort of the Shire, this is when the rising action begins. So it continues for the entire quest until the story’s climax, when he reaches Mount Doom.
  • Romeo and Juliet. The rising action in Shakespeare’s tragic story begins as soon as Romeo realizes Juliet is a Capulet; therefore, he’s not supposed to associate with her. The rising action builds tension by having them meet and marry secretly. However, there is some disagreement about where the climax occurs in this text. Some critics argue that it occurs when Romeo kills Tybalt. However, most people agree that the story’s ending is where Romeo finds Juliet, believes her to be dead, and then kills himself.
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