Plot is an element of literature that explains what happens in a story. Stories often have a clear beginning, middle and end, which can also be called the introduction, body and conclusion, respectively. Each event in a story has a purpose, which might be to show relationships or create conflict between characters. By outlining the parts of a story, students might be better able to identify conflict or the meaning of the narrative.
The introduction, more formally referred to as the exposition, is the beginning of the story. During this stage of the plot, the narrator introduces the setting and characters. The author might also introduce the main conflict in the exposition. The exposition is important because it gives the reader necessary background information, which might give insight to a character’s personality. If you drew a plot diagram, which often looks like a pyramid, the introduction would be found at the bottom left of the pyramid.
The body accounts for the bulk of a story, and it includes a few stages of the plot. The rising action, found at the ascending line on the left side of a plot diagram, draws readers into a story and develops the conflict between characters. Just as the side of a pyramid rises to a point at the top, the rising action continues to build until the peak, known as the climax. The climax, often seen as the most suspenseful or exciting part of a story, is the turning point. The falling action follows, represented by the descending line on the right side of the plot diagram. During the falling action, conflict might begin to resolve, or you might see a change in characters, such as catharsis or development that leads the characters into a new way of thinking.
The conclusion of a story, often called the resolution or denouement, is represented by the bottom of the pyramid on the right side. During the conclusion, loose ends are tied up and the conflict is resolved.
Many stories have clear-cut plots that follow a simple pyramid shape, but other stories might have a slightly different structure. The dramatic, or progressive, plot is one that follows the pyramid diagram and tells events in the story in chronological order. Episodic plots, also in chronological order, have several little pyramids, with rising action leading to a climax in each event. Parallel plots weave two separate story lines together, which are often linked with a central character or theme. Flashbacks or nonlinear stories tell events out of order, but they also have an introduction to set up characters or conflict. This introduction is followed by the body, in which incidents occur out of sequence but ultimately lead to a climax. The ending might take the reader back to the present moment and wrap up the story.