The plot is the main event(s) of a play, novel, film, or similar work, devised and presented by the writer as a complementary sequence. Read through this wiki page to learn the different stages of a plot and how to make a plot graph for a story.

Definition of Plot and Structure

The plot is the sequence of events that make up a story. The structure, also known as the narrative structure, is the overall layout of a story.

While plot and story are often used interchangeably, there are several differences between the two. First, the action picks up on an intentional cause-and-effect relationship between a sequence of events in the narrative. A strong, engaging plot tends to focus on one crucial moment, a disruption of pattern, an emotional turning point, and an action. All these things raise a dramatic question that is answered throughout the story.

Keep reading to learn how to create a plot graph for a story.

What Is Plot Structure?

An essential feature of a plot is that it must follow a logical structure with a starting, middle, and end. It is the basics of a plot structure, but it is more complicated than that. Every plot must contain these five elements in this exact order:

  1. Exposition or Introduction
  2. Rising action
  3. Climax or Turning point
  4. Falling action
  5. Resolution or Dénouement

Let’s dive deeper into what each of these five plot elements means.

  • Exposition or Introduction

The first part of the plot is the introduction, also known as the exposition. This part of the plot is responsible for introducing and establishing the story’s main characters and setting. It is essential for the reader’s understanding of the story.

As part of the exposition, the reader is shown what ‘normal’ looks like for each main character to give context for their actions later in the story. The reader is also given a detailed description of where the story takes place. It helps create a vivid mental image of the story for the reader.

The exposition, or introduction, is also the part of the story where the primary conflict or tension is introduced. Introducing the conflict that the story will revolve around this early on helps to set up the course of events that will lead to that point. It also gives the reader plenty of time to get invested in this tension, making it more impactful when it happens later on in the story.

  • Rising Action

If the primary conflict is not introduced in the exposition stage, it is presented in the rising action part of the plot. On the other hand, if the conflict has already been submitted, it is built upon in this rising action stage to create tension within the story and the reader.

The author must convey clearly what the stakes of this primary conflict are. It means that the reader will fully understand the consequences of the main characters’ success or failure in achieving their goal; this gives the reader more incentive to root for the main characters.

The rising action part of the plot is the section where the rest is put into motion. Everything from this point on builds up to the story’s climax.

  • Climax or Turning point

The climax is the part of the plot that everything has been building towards. The plot’s climax or turning point is often the story’s most exciting and essential part. The choices and events in this part of the plot will affect how the rest of the story plays out.

It is also the part of the plot where the primary conflict in the story will be addressed. It is where the reader will find out what decisions the characters make and what will happen as a consequence. The point in the story where the tension is at its highest.

  • Falling Action

The falling action is the part of the plot that follows the climax. At this point in the story, the tension decreases after the central conflict has been addressed. The reader knows the results and consequences of the climax, so many of the story’s big, looming questions have been answered.

The falling action is also the point in the story when the author ties up any loose ends surrounding the main plot and the various subplots.

  • Resolution or Dénouement

The resolution or dénouement is the final stage in the plot; everything in the story is wrapped up, and a new sense of normalcy is established for the characters. At this point in the story, the primary conflict has been fully resolved, the loose ends have been tied up, and the reader is given closure about the narrative.

An instance where the author may not include this sense of finality in the resolution stage of the plot is if they intend to write a sequel. In this case, the author will want to conclude their story to encourage the reader to feel they have to know what happens next.

The resolution does not have to be a long section in the narrative. It can just be a short paragraph or even an epilogue. An epilogue tends to take place after some time has passed since the story’s main plot.

What Is a Plot Graph for a Story?

A plot graph for a story is a helpful way for authors to visualize their story’s plot definition and structure. A basic plot graph for a story will look like a triangle with a straight line on either side.

Example of a plot graph for a story:

The triangle section of the plot graph is used to indicate the rising and falling of tension in the plot. The flat line at the start of the graph, which is for exposition, suggests a lack of tension as this is where characters are usually in the most ‘normal’ circumstances.

The triangle then forms after this flat line, indicating a rise in tensions, which coincides with the rising action section of the plot. The rising action is placed on an upward line, which demonstrates that tension is progressively being built. This tension is built up to the climax of the story, which indicates that this is the peak point of tension.

Following the climax or turning point of the plot, the line slopes downwards, which shows that tension slowly decreases from this point onwards. It also points out that the main story and the subplots will start to be wrapped up at this stage. You will find the ‘falling action’ stage along this downwards-sloping line.

The last stage in a plot graph for a story is the flat line, along which is the resolution stage. Like the chart’s start, the flat line indicates a lack of tension because the story is coming to a close, and the characters have often reached a new sense of normalcy.

Drawing up a plot graph before you start writing your story is an excellent way of ensuring that you have all of your significant plot points in place.

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