How to Find a Story Plot

A story's plot consists of the chronological series of events that occur in it. Plot is different than theme, which deals with the bigger ideas a story seeks to explore. Often, readers confuse plot and theme when thinking of what a story is about. To find a story's plot, you must pay close attention to the events of the story.

Steps to Finding the Plot of a Story

Read the story slowly, paragraph by paragraph. Each time an event occurs that moves the characters forward in some way -- either moving them to a new place or to have a new conversation or experience -- draw brackets around the passage.

Number each passage you have bracketed. This will help you create a timeline of the story's plot.

On a sheet of paper, number and list the events of the story, from the beginning all the way to the end. This will comprise a plot outline, which will tell you the exact plot of the story, without switching focus to theme, setting or symbols.


Stick to the actual events of the story -- not its symbols, references, backstory or themes.


Remember that a story's plot is the total outline of the series of events that occur in it -- not just one or two major events. Plot involves not just the events by themselves, but also the causal relations between them -- the ways in which one event leads to another, thereby creating a series of events. For this reason, it is especially important to diagram the plot from beginning to end.