What Is A Plot Diagram?

A plot diagram is a graphical representation of the plot of the story. A story plot diagram is a line graph of story's events, beginning with the story’s start on the left and continuing toward the right, ending with the story’s conclusion.

What is a plot diagram

Whether writing creatively or analyzing another author’s writing, you can study the plot structure and storyline using a plot diagram.

Elements Of Plot

The plot of a story is the unfolding sequence of events. Just about every story has the same parts of the plot. The six parts of a story are:

  1. Exposition
  2. Conflict
  3. Rising action
  4. Climax
  5. Falling action
  6. Resolution

Elements of plot

These six elements break down into three chronological segments. Each segment of the story usually has two elements.

  1. Beginning – contains the exposition and establishes the story’s conflict.
  2. Middle – contains the rising action and the story’s climax.
  3. Conclusion – contains the falling action and resolution.

Exposition

Exposition in a plot introduces of the story’s setting, mood, the main character, supporting characters, and time. Character development happens during this part of the story.

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Conflict

Conflict is the problem, crisis, challenge, dilemma, or obstacle presented to the main character.

Rising Action

The rising action is a sequence of solutions to the conflict that the main character tries; it is all the events leading to the turning point of the story. It can be identified by increasing tension, emotion, difficulty, or challenge.

Plot diagram plot rising action

Climax

The climax of the story is the peak of excitement, the moment when the story changes (a turning point), the main character, and the problem is resolved.

Plot diagram plot climax

Falling Action

The Falling action is all the plot points wrapping up, the consequences of the climax, and reflection on the changes in the main character. It can be identified by decreasing tension, an approaching resolution, and relaxation of emotion.

Plot diagram plot falling action

Resolution Of A Story

The resolution is the plot’s end, whether that resolution is a happy ending or sad ending, fun or frightening, satisfying or unsatisfying. The resolution might tie up loose ends or leave important elements of the story unresolved.

Plot diagram plot resolution

Plot Diagram Example

We can take the simplest of tales, such as Little Miss Muffet, to practice constructing a plot diagram. Here is the original nursery rhyme:

Little Miss Muffet Sat on a tuffet, Eating her curds and whey; Along came a spider Who sat down beside her And frightened Miss Muffet away.

What is the story’s beginning? Who is the main character? What is the setting? At the story’s beginning, we are introduced to Miss Muffet, who is sitting on a tuffet (a hassock), eating cottage cheese.

Miss Muppet beginning and rising action

In the rising action, what conflict does our main character face? She must deal with the arrival of a spider.

The climax of the story is how our main character solves her problem. Miss Muffet’s solution to her conflict is to run away. The conclusion of the story is abrupt; Miss Muffet left.

Miss Muppet climax and conclusion

Little Miss Muffet is, admittedly, not a complicated or very interesting story.

With this short story, we see that our graph looks like a triangle. The story plot makes a pyramid shape with an even amount of story on either side of the climax.

For pieces more complicated than a simple nursery rhyme, the story’s divisions may not be equal. The rising action may consume much of the story, moving very slowly toward a climax in the story’s middle. The middle part may take up more of the total story; the ending may be very brief. This means the plot diagram is no longer symmetrical.

From Shakespeare to Sci-Fi, just about every work of fiction can be worked out on a plot diagram. Using a plot diagram helps you sort out and identify the plot’s elements, whether you are studying an existing work or writing your own creative fiction.

A plot diagram provides the bare bones of a story. The author’s skill and artistry are in adding depth, detail, supporting characters, and many events up to and after the climax to hold the reader’s attention.

What you learned:

After working your way through this lesson and video, you have learned:

  • The definition of a plot diagram
  • Six elements of plot
  • Examples of plot and story plot diagram
Instructor: Malcolm M.
Malcolm has a Master's Degree in education and holds four teaching certificates. He has been a public school teacher for 27 years, including 15 years as a mathematics teacher.

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