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PLOT – Key Notes. Plot is – the sequence of incidents or events through which an author constructs a story Is not the action itself, but the way the author arranges the action toward a specific end

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plot key notes
PLOT – Key Notes
  • Plot is – the sequence of incidents or events through which an author constructs a story
  • Is not the action itself, but the way the author arranges the action toward a specific end
  • Commercial author is MORE likely to use a tried-and-true, fairly conventional structure in arranging plot elements
plot cont d
PLOT – cont’d.
  • For literary writers, a complex PLOT structure is often required to convey complex meanings
  • The significance of the action is more important than the action itself
  • Use of Conflict – is a clash of actions, ideas, desires, or wills
  • Are 4 types of conflict: person vs. person; person vs. environment; person vs. himself; person vs. society – may be mental, physical, emotional or moral
plot cont d1
PLOT – cont’d.
  • Literary fiction utilizes ALL FOUR kinds of Conflict
  • Commercial fiction emphasizes ONLY man vs. man conflicts
  • PROTAGONIST - Central character in CONFLICT
  • ANTAGONIST - Any force(s) arranged against the protagonist
plot cont d2
PLOT – cont’d.
  • Plot involves use of SUSPENSE – what happens next in story?
  • In Literary fiction, SUSPENSE often involves not as much the question of What but Why things happen
  • Two common devices used to create SUSPENSE – Mystery and Dilemma
plot cont d3
PLOT – cont’d.
  • Mystery – an unusual set of circumstances for which the reader craves explanation
  • Dilemma – a position in which he or she must choose between two courses of action, both UNDESIRABLE
plot cont d4
PLOT – cont’d.
  • Suspense – usually most important criterion for good Commercial fiction
  • In Literary fiction, Suspense is less important than OTHER ELEMENTS the author uses to engage readers
  • Suspense is closely connected to element of SURPRISE
plot cont d5
PLOT – cont’d.
  • Surprise ending – sudden, unexpected turn or twist
  • Commercial fiction tends to use surprise ending more frequently
  • Two ways to judge the LEGITIMACY and VALUE of a surprise ending:
    • By the fairness with which it is achieved
    • By the purpose that it serves
plot cont d6
PLOT – cont’d.
  • Surprise endings are justified WHEN:
    • It serves to BROADEN or REINFORCE the meaning of the story
    • Other types of endings: happy; unhappy; indeterminate (ambiguous)
artistic unity
Artistic Unity
  • Essential to a good plot
  • There must be nothing in the story that is irrelevant, that does not contribute to the meaning
  • There should be nothing there for its own sake (or just to add excitement)
plot manipulation
Plot Manipulation
  • Defined: When an author includes a turn in the plot that is unjustified by the situation or characters
  • Ex. An unmotivated action
  • Ex. If the plot relies too heavily on chance or coincidence to give a resolution to the story
  • ‘Deus ex machina’
chance and coincidence
Chance and Coincidence
  • Chance – the occurrence of an event that has no apparent cause in previous events or in predisposition of character
  • Coincidence – the chance occurrence oftwo events that may have a peculiar correspondence or relation
understanding plot structure

Understanding Plot Structure

Plot is the literary element that describes the structure of a story. It shows the causal arrangement of events and actions within a story.

types of linear plots
Chronological order


In media res (in the middle of things) when the story starts in the middle of the action without exposition

Types of Linear Plots

Plots can be told in

pyramid plot structure
Pyramid Plot Structure

The most basic and traditional form of plot is pyramid-shaped.

This structure has been described in more detail by Aristotle and by Gustav Freytag.

aristotle s unified plot
Aristotle’s Unified Plot

The basic triangle-shaped plot structure was described by Aristotle in 350 BCE. Aristotle used the beginning, middle, and end structure to describe a story that moved along a linear path, following a chain of cause and effect as it works toward the solution of a conflict or crisis.

freytag s plot structure
Freytag’s Plot Structure

Freytag modified Aristotle’s system by adding a rising action (or complication) and a falling action to the structure. Freytag used the five-part design shown above to describe a story’s plot.

modified plot structure
Modified Plot Structure

Freytag’s Pyramid is often modified so that it extends slightly before and after the primary rising and falling action. You might think of this part of the chart as similar to the warm-up and cool-down for the story.

plot components
Plot Components

Climax: the turning point, the most intense moment—either mentally or in action

Rising Action: the series of conflicts and crisis in the story that lead to the climax

Falling Action: all of the action which follows the climax

Exposition: the start of the story, the situation before the action starts

Resolution: the conclusion, the tying together of all of the threads


Conflict is the dramatic struggle between two forces in a story. Without conflict, there is no plot.

types of conflict
Interpersonal Conflict

Human vs Human

Human vs Nature

Human vs Society

Internal Conflict

Human vs Self

Types of Conflict
final thoughts
Final Thoughts
  • Plot Analysis – the BEST approach is to consider the function of Plot in trying to understand the relationship of each incident to the larger meaning of the story
  • In Literary fiction, Plot is important for what it reveals.