Plot is an essential element of a good story. This handout helps you understand plot so you can write your own stories or analyze those of others.
Definition of Plot
“The series of events in the story, chronological or not, which serve to move the story from its beginning through its climax or turning point and to a resolution of its conflicts” (Schaefer 210). Plot is also why the story happens and why the protagonist learns or grows, or begins or chooses something.
Characters are an important part of a story’s plot, and there are many different types of characters.
Types of Characters
- Protagonist: The central character on whom the story focuses and with whom we identify. A story could have more than one protagonist.
- Antagonists: The characters aligned against the central character. They can be internal or external.
- Flat characters: Extra characters whose purpose is to highlight what the protagonist is experiencing.
- Round characters: These characters are complex and three-dimensional; they are included to help the reader understand the scene in a way that advances the action.
- Stock characters: Characters who are so obvious and predictable that their roles and personalities are clichés. Stories should not be too full of these characters or else they will be boring.
Most stories follow the same basic sequence of events, and as the character moves through these events he/she grows and develops.
Sequence of Events
- Rising Action: Everything that leads up to the climax
- Climax/Turning Point: The point at which the protagonist decides how to resolve a conflict or faces those conflicts. At this point the story moves from building conflict to resolving conflict. It IS NOT necessarily the most exciting part of the story, but often times it is.
- Falling Action: Everything that happens as a result of the climax.
- Resolution/Denouncement: The part of the story that sums up or brings the conflicts to their conclusion. It should be believable, and not a huge surprise, because the plot should have been building up to that point.
Writers sometimes choose to use special elements of plot to enhance the story and make it more detailed or interesting.
Elements of Plot
- Foreshadowing: used as a way to create tension and rising conflict and to move the story closer to its eventual outcome. It gives hints about what may eventually occur or be decided.
- Stream of Consciousness: The author provides the protagonist’s thoughts through interior monologues throughout the course of the story. These thoughts do not have to be sequential or linear, and they allow the reader to experience both external action and internal thoughts and feelings about the action in the story.
All information on this handout was adapted from: Candace Schaefer and Rick Diamond. The Creative Writing Guide. New York: Addison-Wesley Educational Publishers, 1998.
- http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~leslieob/pizzaz.html offers creative ways to help with writing poetry and fiction. It also provides a link to a site that allows for online publication of creative writing.
- http://www.fsu.edu/~butler/ Pulitzer prize winner Robert Olen Butler takes you deep inside the process of fictional writing. You can learn, from an expert, how to manifest ideas and write creative stories by drawing from some of the most seemingly simple sources, such as artwork from postcards like Butler uses.
- http://www.homepages.dsu.edu/jankej/Writing/tips.htm – This webpage is from Dakota State University. It focuses on fiction writing and gives information regarding the seven major components of a fiction story.
- http://www.writingclasses.com/ – This site from the Gotham Writers’ Workshop provides a multitude of information on various types of creative writing, including non-fiction, poetry, plays, science fiction, and songs. It also provides information about how to publish your work.