Elements of Plot


Last week we talked about what plot is and why it’s important. If you remember, I brought up questions like, does the cause lead to the effect? And, would it make sense for your character to act out this way after such-and-such happened? By beginning to think about these questions at the beginning of your study of plot, you’ll be able to focus on what elements you want to develop in each step of the process. Which brings us to the next part of the process.

What are the Elements of Plot?

Here is where you often run into Freytag’s pyramid. There is good reason for that too. Freytag’s pyramid identifies the five key elements of plot. These are: Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution. Even throughout the myriad of plot structure guides, plotting templates, or any other plotting resource, these five elements guide every form of writing known to writers everywhere. Often called the five point plot structure, Freytag’s pyramid is a great tool to guide you through writing your novels. Let’s look at what these elements of plot offer and how you can adapt them into your writing.

Exposition: This is often the beginning of your story, where the reader meets the protagonist, experiences the “normal world” and sets the baseline expectations for character behavior. But the reality is that Exposition is more often scattered throughout the story at the best, or worst, possible moments.

Rising Action: The Protagonist decided, of their own accord or not, and moved on from their normal world and into whatever new world they may be facing. This isn’t always a literal world change, but it could be a culture change, a new life in a new area, a change of how the world around them operates. There are so many ways to list how this transition occurs, but recognize this as the transition point where things either improve or descend into chaos for your protagonist.

Climax: Often shown at the three-quarter mark, this is the biggest moment for your protagonist, where they either put what they’ve learned into practice or fail miserably. Everyone views the climax as a grand battle and where the protagonist finds victory, but it can also be the greatest downfall and descent into madness. It all depends on the story you’re trying to tell. While we enjoy our cheerful stories, not everyone walks away from their own lives grown into a better person.

Falling Action: Think of this as the immediate aftershock of the climax. You’ll often find this section of the story like coming off of an adrenaline rush. You’re still excited and shocked by what occurred during the climax, but you’re also tapering back into the real world. The breadth of this section can range from a paragraph to a chapter or two. The length, and how much you give it attention, depends on the type of story your writing, and the climax it follows.

Resolution: Resolution is the so what of the story. It should tie together everything learned through trial and error before solidifying the reason the reader read that story. While that justification should be sprinkled throughout the novel, short story, or whatever form you’re working with, it should reflect on why the book ends the way it does.

Why is it important to know the elements of plot?

Knowing the elements of plot is key to keeping your writing focused as you work through the drafts. I can’t tell you how many webinars, in-person classes, and books I’ve read on plot. I still don’t feel like I have it down pact as a skill. But the repetition cements the information in your subconscious and eventually you write with these elements and you might not recognize it until you re-read your work. So take the time to study the elements of plot whether from Myers Fiction or another source of information. Recognize your learning style, whose teaching styles you prefer, and how you best practice what you’ve learned.

Previous: An Introduction to Plot

Next: The Elements of Plot: Exposition

2 thoughts on “Elements of Plot

  1. Pingback: Elements of Plot: Exposition – Myers Fiction

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