The parts of a plot in a story include the exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution. The five parts work together to build suspense, and flow together smoothly to create a unified story line.
Exposition: Beginning of the Story
The exposition is the beginning of the story and prepares the way for upcoming events. In the exposition, the author introduces the major characters, establishes the setting and reveals major conflicts in the story. The author often discusses the characters' backstory, so readers gain insight as to why characters act or respond as they do. For example, the exposition in "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain centers on the introduction of Huckleberry Finn, an adolescent who's unhappy living with a strict widow, and has a shallow relationship with his greedy, unfit father. The setting is the mid-1800s in a small river town along the Mississippi River; the conflict revolves around Huck's desire to experience adventure, and his running away. The exposition sets the stage for his tumultuous, life-changing journey on a riverboat.
The rising action occurs when the main problem or conflict is addressed with a form of action. The rising action always leads up to the climax. During the rising action, the protagonist often encounters some sort of crisis that creates tension. For example, in "The Maze Runner" by James Dashner, the rising action occurs when Thomas -- the protagonist -- enters the maze to try to escape his prison-like existence and save his friends.
Climax or Turning Point
The climax is the pivotal point in the story when the protagonist deals with the culmination of events. The climax often centers on the protagonist's most difficult challenge or bleakest moment, according to Pasadena City College. For example, in "The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins, the climax occurs when Katniss and Peeta -- the primary protagonists -- decide to eat poisonous berries and commit double suicide, rather than kill one another. The climax is the most exciting part of the story and initiates a turning point in the characters' lives.
The falling action occurs immediately after the climax and details the consequences -- good or bad -- that the characters must deal with after the turning point of events. It leads up to the resolution and sets the stage for the final chapter of the story. For example, in "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee, the falling action occurs when the antagonist, Bob Ewell, assaults two of the primary protagonists -- Scout and Jem Finch -- and the town recluse saves the children by killing Ewell. The altercation is a direct result of the climax -- Ewell wants revenge after the children's father, an attorney, defends an innocent black man and rebukes Ewell for lying about the case and mistreating his own daughter.
Resolution: End of the Story
The resolution tells us what happens to the characters after the conflict is resolved. All the loose ends are tied up, unless the author plans to write a sequel and purposely leaves room for further plot developments. Some stories have happy endings; others have sad endings. The resolution leaves readers with a sense of closure, so they understand the fate of the protagonists and antagonists.
- Boise State University: Mrs. Welty's Guide to Literary Elements; Stefanie Welty
- Annenberg Learner: Elements of a Story
- Pasadena City College: Definition of Plot
- The University of Arizona: Plot Structure; Jill Emmons and Scott McDaniel
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Mark Twain; 1912
- The Maze Runner; James Dashner; 2009
- The Hunger Games; Suzanne Collins; 2009
- To Kill a Mockingbird; Harper Lee; 1970
- Photo Credit Purestock/Purestock/Getty Images
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