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Story Plot

Teacher/Instructor Katie Aquino
Katie Aquino

Writing, Grammar, Literature, ACT Prep
Education: M.Ed.,Stanford University

Katie is an enthusiastic teacher who strives to make connections between literature and student’s every day lives.

Plot is often defined as the structure of a story. Plot has a few main parts including exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution. When writing about a plot, it is important to not get stuck retelling it and consider the plot order instead.

Let's talk about the plot of different stories. So essentially there's one basic structure to plot and it is exposition, rise in action, climax, fall in action, resolution. Let's talk about each of those parts.
So the first is exposition and that tends to be the boring part. It's characterized by a flat line when we look at the diagram, but it's where you meet the characters and learn the findings. In some books or stories, it's really short. In some like 'To Kill a Mockingbird', it's the whole first half of the book. So you'll have to adjust to meeting your characters and you're learning your setting. After you do that, you'll hit the rise in action which are, a series of many conflicts and actions that lead you up to the climax. So it kind of works to build suspense where you meet the climax which is the turning point, the point in the story which you feel the most suspense. After you hit that climax, then you'll come to the falling action, where things are starting to get wrapped up. And then finally, you'll come to the resolution or the final conclusion of the story. And just beware, just because it says resolution doesn't mean that it's always a good or positive resolution. So your stories aren't necessarily always going to be wrapped up into a nice little bow.
This is what a diagram of a plot would look like and here would be your exposition, your rise in action, your climax, your fall in action; which you'll notice happens a lot quicker and more steeply than the rise in action, and then your resolution out here. So let's talk about a story you guys may have read or may know about; Romeo and Juliet, alright? In the beginning, we meet our characters. We get introduced to the feuding families, the Montagues and the Capulets. So that would be our exposition. And then we've got the series of rise in action. Now that would be where we see the feuding of the families. We hear the prince give out his warning about what will happen if there's another fight. We see Tybalt get killed, we see Benvolio and Mercutio going at it and then we get to the climax where we have Romeo banished out of Verona and we see that Friar tell Romeo and Juliet about his plan to take secret portion. Things then go aerie and in the resolution we have the families finally coming together and building that wonderful, lovely statue in honor of their two kids and promising not to fight. So that's one of the stories that follows that basic plot lines.
Just a couple of tricks when you're talking about plot though, when writing about plot, I find it actually one of the most difficult part of the story to write about because it's really easy to get stuck in just re-telling it. But when your teachers are asking you to actually analyze the plot, what you want to think about is the order. Why did the author decide for certain things to happen in certain order. For instance, in Lord of the Flies, some of the characters die and the order of those specific deaths is really chosen for an important reason. So it's really important to look at those. If you notice in the short story by Edgar Allan Poe, the 'Tell Tale Heart', you're dropped right in the middle, that's called in media res and so you're trying to figure out what's going on with the death of this man. And then finally I think the best example of plot order would be 'Law and Order Criminal Intent. That show if you notice, lets you have the point of view of the killer in the beginning, so you come in in the middle of the action, you see the murder and then it backs out and lets you see the investigation. So these are all different examples of how a plot can really work effectively and differently for a story. So hopefully, now this will help you guys understand why stories are constructed the way that they do, or the way that they are and then let you analyze them a little bit better.