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Plotting a Short Story

Plot Diagram

The Five Elements of Plot Structure

1. Exposition: The Beginning
Every story must have a beginning. The start, or exposition, is where the characters and setting are established. During this part of the novel, the conflict or main problem is also introduced.

2. Rising Action: Introduction of the Problem or Conflict
After the characters and main problem have been established, the main problem or conflict is dealt with by some kind of action. In this part of the story, the main character is in crisis. This is the place for tension and excitement. The complication can arise through a character's conflict with society, nature, fate, or a number of themes. In this part of the story the main character is aware a conflict has arisen and takes some kind of step to battle this crisis.

3.Climax: The High Point
The climax is the high point of the story. It is the main event or danger that the character faces. This is the darkest moment, the worst challenge the character must oppose. At this point it looks as if the character will fail, and will never get what he/she wants. The turning point may be either physical or emotional. In a romance, the girl may turn the hopeful lover down, in an action story, the character may be surrounded by enemies with no chance of escape.

4. Falling Action: Winding Down
Following the climax, the story begins to slowly wind down. Falling action, one of the two final story elements, shows the result of the actions or decisions the character has made. This eventually leads to the final part of the novel, the crisis resolution.

5. Resolution: The End
The resolution, also often called denouement, which is French for "to untie" or "unraveling", is the conclusion of the story. Here, the conflicts are resolved, all loose ends are tied up, and the story concludes with either a happy or sad ending.

Plot Structure: Test Yourself!