Though you may not have enough space to cover every aspect of classic plot structure, keep in mind that a tale is made up of exposition, conflict, rising action, climax, and conclusion. These elements are what turn a book into a movie or a play.
The first thing to understand about classic plot structure is that there is no one right way to do it. Any formula will work for any story, as long as the formula is followed correctly. Some popular formulas are the three act structure, which we'll get to later, and the simple plot, which has a beginning, middle, and end but doesn't detail specific events within those areas.
One benefit of using a formula is that it gives writers clear guidelines on how to build their stories. A formula also ensures that a story follows a predictable pattern that readers expect. This helps them relish each chapter instead of reading it passively, which allows them to connect with the story more.
Some writers like to use a formula because they find it helpful to think in terms of acts or scenes. This method works well if you're looking at your story from the outside in, rather than the other way around. Start with an outline or diagram of some sort to help you visualize the major events that will occur in your story.
This leads us directly to plot structure, or the arrangement of events in a tale. There's a reason why no excellent narrative has its climax at the beginning—or resolves its key problems in the middle and spends the final half of the novel filling in the exposition! The plot of a novel or movie must have a rising action and a falling action to be effective.
In the context of storytelling, the term "plot" refers to the sequence of events in a work of fiction that progresses the central character from start to finish. This progression can be linear (the character goes from point A to point B) or circular (the character repeats actions to reach a particular place).
The terms "story arc" and "arc of the story" are also used to describe this progression. They refer specifically to the large-scale pattern of events that drives a work of fiction, but we can use them interchangeably with "plot."
Finally, the entire sequence of events in a story is called its "plotline."
Now that we know what the plot structure of a story is, let's look at some examples.
The Five Plot Elements
The storyline of the tale, the topic, the genre to which the story belongs, the characters, the setting, and the audience are all vital parts of drama. Overall, they serve as a foundation for analyzing and evaluating dramatic works.
Characters, story, conflict, place, and point of view are all aspects of narrative composition. A character is anything that exists in the imagination of the writer or speaker.
All fiction is narrative fiction, which means it consists of events that happen to characters who desire something (i.e., a goal) and try to achieve it through these events. Characters may change over time due to events in the story or decisions made by the character themselves. Characters may also remain the same throughout the story.
Narrative fiction is divided into several categories depending on the type of story being told:
Fiction includes novels, short stories, comic books, movies, television shows, and video games. Nonfiction consists of articles, reviews, interviews, and the like. Biography, history, and journalism are examples of nonfictional writing.
The term "story" can be used to describe any sequence of events that unfolds before an audience or reader, such as a play or movie. A story can be based on actual events or people, or it can be completely fictitious.
In film and television, the term "narrative" is often used to describe the overall structure of a work.
Character (fewer is better), setting (short but poetic and vivid), narrative (as simple and engaging as possible), conflict (intense but one), and theme are the five fundamental aspects of tale creation (relating to the majority of readers).
A character-driven plot tells us what happens to a collection of characters over a defined period of time. Characters come in all shapes and sizes: some are witty, some are dull, some are brave, some are not. It is the writer's job to make each character unique and well-rounded so that we can identify with them. A character-driven plot often features several subplots which allow the author to show different periods in the main character's life or different relationships between characters.
A situation-based plot is exactly what it sounds like - a plot based on situations rather than characters. This type of plot is usually very dramatic and involves unexpected twists and turns. One example is a crime novel where we follow a series of incidents that lead up to the discovery of a murder victim. There is no real character development apart from the fact that we learn something about each person's nature through their interactions with other people and objects.
A plotline is the sequence of events in a story. It can be told in first or third person. We will discuss these forms of narration later.
A tale is made up of five basic yet crucial aspects. These five elements are as follows: characters, setting, storyline, conflict, and resolution. These crucial parts keep the tale moving forward and allow the action to unfold in a logical manner that the reader can follow.
Without clarity on any of these levels, your readers will be left wondering what the heck is going on. And they'll most likely leave the story early on, which is exactly when a writer wants them to stay.
So take a few minutes to think about each of these elements and how they might affect your writing process. Are your characters realistic? Do they feel true to life? Can the reader connect with them? If not, consider changing something about your character(s).
Now, think about your setting. Is it described in enough detail so that your readers won't need to ask questions about where things are located? If not, consider adding a bit more description for your surroundings.
After you've thought about your characters and setting, move onto the storyline. Does it make sense? Would an ordinary person understand it? Could events happen in this order? If you can't figure out how certain things will play out, then change something about the order in which they occur.
Next, think about the conflict.