Quote of the Week

Quote of the week: “If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.” - Toni Morrison

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Breakdown of Plot Diagrams

Plot diagram is also called the structure of the story. It is the main outline of what is going on and everything else exists solely to support that structure. There are a couple of different types of plot structure but the basic one consists of Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution. Learning Through Listening explains each of the five elements of plot and even breaks down the Cinderella story to help make it even more understandable. Exposition sets up the story and lets the stakes become known, Rising Action is the problem and/or conflict the character attempts to resolve, Climax is where the story is at it's worst, Falling Action is where the character begins to solve the problem, while Resolution brings the story to a close in some manner. Exposition, Rising Action, and Climax (or beginning, middle and end) is what is called the 3 acts of a story, each plays an important part to the story.
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There is also another plot diagram that some use called Gustav Freytag's Pyramid.
This has the same 5 elements as above but adds two more for a more complete understanding of plot (this is mostly done in literature). It adds Inciting Incident and Denouement. Your 5 acts would be Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action and Denouement. What is Denouement?

A denouement (pronounced day-noo-maun) is the part of the story just before the conclusion and after the climax. It is the winding down of a story. Where in the book the "Hobbit" Bilbo would be on his way home.
The denouement is the resolution or outcome of a story. The winding down of a story is referred to as the falling action, which comes immediately after the climax. -Wiki.Answers.com

What is the difference between Denouement and Resolution? The Resolution happens when the character solves the main problem/conflict or someone solves it for him or her. The Denouement is the very ending. At this point, any remaining secrets, questions or mysteries which remain after the resolution are solved by the characters or explained by the author. Sometimes the author leaves us to think about the THEME or future possibilities for the characters.

Want to know more about plot and how to build it in your story?  Checkout my blog post to find more out about my free ebook on The Building Blocks of Plot.

What about plot for nonfiction? Does nonfiction even have plot? Check out my blog post Does Nonfiction Have Plot to find out!


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  2. My understanding of denouement is slightly different - it is the unraveling of the twists of plot. The reader is given an understanding of the outcomes of the various conflicts of a story. We know what happens. Resolution of a narrative is knowing what life will be like after the story ends. If we have an understanding of what the main character's life will be like we have resolution. In the short story "The Monkey's Paw," we know that the story has a resolution because nothing more will change. If a story ends with no resolution, which often happens with stories built on a sequel, we may have denouement but no resolution.

  3. I have been scanning online for a proper definition of story plot outlining, to help my niece understand, and I still haven't found one. Your sentences also contain misspellings: "the Climax is when the story is at it's [sic] worst." "It's" is a contraction for the two words, "it is," and is not a possessive pronoun (its). Its "worst" what? What is "worse" about a climax? That is not the best adjective, because I can't be sure what point you're trying to make. Exciting, tense, strongest, unpredictable, the event that transforms the protagonist, et cetera, would all be more helpful, if this is what you mean by "worst." These diagrams also keep putting the climax at the center of the story, which is yet another foolishness I've come across repeatedly. The climax happens close to end, not the center, and the short amount of details that follows the climax, and quickly (unlike the conflict and gradual exposition -- what you and others are calling "rising action") ties together any loose ends, is known as the denouement. A better "shape" to describe parts of a plot would be an obtuse triangle, not the isosceles or equilateral shape I keep finding. Why would any good writer place as many details after a climax as they had before it? That would be quite unbalanced for a story (creating confusion about its end point), not realistic, and boring.

  4. The climax is the main event that leads to the resolution of the conflict.