How to Find a Story Plot

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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.

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.