Plot is how a novella, short story or novel progresses. It is also the succession/order/sequence or arrangement of events in a story. Plot is a literary term used to describe the events that make up a story, or the main part of a story. These events relate to each other in a pattern or a sequence. The structure of a novel depends on the organization of events in the plot of the story.
Plot is known as the foundation of a novel or story, around which the characters and settings are built. It is meant to organize information and events in a logical manner. While writing the plot of a piece of literature, the author has to be careful that it does not dominate the other parts of the story.
Plot refers to the way events or actions of a story are arranged, especially the way they relate to each other in a cause and effect manner. In short, plot is the cause and effect arrangement of the actions or events in a story. The plot is a planned, logical series of events having a beginning, middle, and an end. See also key aspects of prose.
The plot development is the succession of events/actions in the story. It is a literary term used to describe the events that make up a story. These events relate to each other in a sequence. The structure of a story depends on the organization of the events in the plot. The events of a story are not always arranged in a straight line.
Linear/chronological plot: It is when the story is in chronological order and does not skew from that order. It is constructed logically. A linear plot is a plot which starts from a certain point and ends at another point. The events in the story flow a chronological/sequential order, from the beginning, to the middle and then to the end. At the end of a linear plot, the main character finds a solution to his problems or not.
Circular plot: It is the plot which ends at the same place where it began. It is the unfolding of events that begin and end in the same place. It is when the story starts with the end and then jumps back in time, to the beginning. Although the starting and the ending points are the same, the character(s) undergo a transformation, affected by the story’s events. In a circular plot the solution to a conflict/problem is never reached.
A circular plot is also a non-linear plot that progresses more or less chronological and ends with its protagonist returning to a situation similar to the one at the beginning of the story. The characters in a given story end up in the same place that they were at the beginning of the story.
Non-linear plot: At this time the events do not flow a chronological order. Nonlinear plot uses flashbacks or flash-forward.
The parts/elements of a plot
The elements of a plot are also referred to as the plot development/progression/organization. Every plot is made up of series of incidents that are related to one another. There are five essential parts of plot: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution. The plot starts with the beginning/exposition of the problem and goes on with the rising of the problem. It then reaches to the climax. Then, the climax is the part in the novella, short story or novel that everything leads up to. The story comes down to reach the resolution.
a. Exposition/introduction: It is the opening/beginning of a story where the author provides the background information, establishes the setting and the primary characters’ names, mood and time. Sometimes the main conflict or problem is also introduced.
b. Rising action: This is where the events in the story become complex. The conflict is revealed at this stage. The first important thing happens; and causes or leads to the central conflict. Rising action occurs when a series of events build up to the conflict. It includes all the events that lead to the climax, including character development. The main characters are established by the time the rising action of a plot occurs, and at the same time, events begin to get complicated. It is during this part of a story that excitement, tension, or crisis is encountered.
The rising moment may come before the exposition. Some writers like to open the story with the rising action to attract the reader’s attention.
c. Climax: It is the highest point of interest, emotion, tension and suspense and also; the turning point of the story where the reader wonders what is going to happen next. It is the decisive moment at which the rising action turns around toward to the falling action. This is the peak of the story, where a major event occurs: either the main character faces a major enemy, fear, challenge, or other source of conflict.
d. Falling action: Falling action, or the winding up of the story, occurs when the events and conflicts/complications begin to resolve. It includes everything that happens as a result of the climax, including wrapping-up of plot points, questions being answered and character development. Events show the results of how the characters begin to resolve the conflict. The result of the actions of the main characters are put forward.
e. Resolution/ denouement: It is the part of the plot that concludes the falling action by revealing or suggesting the outcome of the conflict. The resolution is not always happy, but it does complete the story. It can leave a reader with questions, answers, frustration or satisfaction. Simply, it is the end of the story which may occur with either a happy or a tragic ending.
Plot, also known as storyline, include the most significant events of the story and how the characters and their problems change over the time.
Recognizing plot devices
Plot devices are very important in the story, some of them are:
a. Suspense: Suspense is a technique that authors use to keep their readers’ interest alive throughout the work. It is a feeling of anticipation that something risky or dangerous is going to happen.
b. Foreshadowing: Foreshadowing is a technique in which a writer gives an advance hint or clue of what is to come later in the story. It often appears at the beginning of the story or chapter and helps the reader develop expectations about coming events in a story. Foreshadowing in fiction creates an atmosphere of suspense in a story which makes the readers be interested to know more. It is generally used to build anticipation in the mind of readers about what might happen next.
Moreover, foreshadowing can make extraordinary and bizarre events appear credible as the events are predicted beforehand so that readers are mentally prepared for them. Generally, it is the use of clues or hints to suggest what will happen later in a literature.
c. Flashback: The flashback (analepsis) occurs when the writer breaks away from the current action of a story to recount events that happened earlier. It is an interjected scene that takes the narrative back in time from the current point. It is also the interruption of the normal flow of events to the events that happened earlier. Flashbacks are often used to recount events that happened before the story’s primary sequence of events to fill in crucial backstory. In literature, internal analepsis is a flashback to an earlier point in the narrative while external analepsis is a flashback to a time before the narrative started.
Flashback is used when:
The narrator tells another character about past events
The narrator has a dream about past events
The narrator thinks back to past events, revealing the information only to the reader
The narrator reads a letter that prompts back to an earlier time
The difference between a memory and a flashback is that a memory is brief and does not interrupt the normal flow of a story.
d. Flash-forward (or prolepsis), on the other hand reveals events that will occur in the future. This means that it is an insertion of a later event into the chronological structure of a story. It is a sudden jump forward in time; which involves the scene that interrupts the present action of plot to shift into the future. Flash-forward is also a scene that takes the narrative forward in time from current point of the story in literature.
Both flashback and flash-forward are used to cohere a story, develop a character, or add structure to the narrative.
The difference between flash-forward and foreshadowing is that foreshadowing uses clues or hints of the possible outcome in the future, without any interruption. Flash-forward, on the other hand, is an interjected/inserted scene in a narrative, which takes the narrative forward in time. The events presented in a flash-forward are bound/likely/obliged to happen in the story. Foreshadowing predicts the future events, but those events do not necessarily take place in the future.
e. Surprise ending: This one occurs when something unexpected happens at the end of a story. The story has a surprise ending.