Bedford/St. Martin's virtuaLit Interactive Fiction Tutorial Notebook VIEW SEND
Fiction in Depth Approaches and Contexts
Select a StoryElements of FictionCultural ContextsCritical Approaches
Plot
Character
Setting
Point of View
Style, Tone, and Language
Theme
Symbolism, Allegory, and Image



DEFINITION OF PLOT

Plot refers to the series of events that give a story its meaning and effect. In most stories, these events arise out of conflict experienced by the main character. The conflict may come from something external, like a dragon or an overbearing mother, or it may stem from an internal issue, such as jealousy, loss of identity, or overconfidence. As the character makes choices and tries to resolve the problem, the story's action is shaped and plot is generated. In some stories, the author structures the entire plot chronologically, with the first event followed by the second, third, and so on, like beads on a string. However, many other stories are told with flashback techniques in which plot events from earlier times interrupt the story's "current" events.

All stories are unique, and in one sense there are as many plots as there are stories. In one general view of plot, however—and one that describes many works of fiction—the story begins with rising action as the character experiences conflict through a series of plot complications that entangle him or her more deeply in the problem. This conflict reaches a climax, after which the conflict is resolved, and the falling action leads quickly to the story's end. Things have generally changed at the end of a story, either in the character or the situation; drama subsides, and a new status quo is achieved. It is often instructive to apply this three-part structure even to stories that don't seem to fit the pattern neatly.

conflict: The basic tension, predicament, or challenge that propels a story's plot
complications: Plot events that plunge the protagonist further into conflict
rising action: The part of a plot in which the drama intensifies, rising toward the climax
climax: The plot's most dramatic and revealing moment, usually the turning point of the story
falling action: The part of the plot after the climax, when the drama subsides and the conflict is resolved


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