What is Plot in Literature: Definition and Examples

What is Plot in Literature: Definition and Examples

What is plot in literature? Plot is so many things to different people and it has generated plenty of discussions among scholars and critics of Literature. In this article, we will discuss the plot extensively, and identify the types and examples.

The plot of any literary text is primarily just what happens. It is the action, the conflict, and the events that occur. It answers the question, “What happened?”

Plot also covers the reasons why events occur (think characters’ motivations and backstories) and the cause-and-effect relationships between events.

What is a Plot?

Plot is the sequence of interconnected events within the story of a play, novel, film, epic, or other narrative literary piece. More than simply an account of what happened, the plot reveals the cause-and-effect relationships between the events.

Some additional key details about the plot:

The plot of a story illustrates not just what happens, but how and why the major events of the story take place.

Plot is a major element of novels, plays, most works of nonfiction, and many (though not all) poems.

Since ancient times, writers have worked to create theories that can help categorize several types of plot structures.

Elements of Plot

Oftentimes, the plot follows a developmental pattern known as Freytag’s pyramid: it starts with exposition, then rising action, next the climax, then falling action, and finally the resolution. It looks like this:

1. Exposition

The exposition could also be referred to as the introduction; it is the part of the story where characters and settings are introduced, and the stage is set.

In the movie The Lion King, this would be the first several minutes when the animals are gathering on the savannah, Simba is presented, and the audience gets the first glimpse of the conflict between Mufasa and Scar.

In a murder mystery, this would be the part where the key characters are introduced, but before the murder has occurred.

2. Rising Action

The rising action portion of the story is when the conflict develops between the major character (also called the protagonist), and the villain or antagonist. Throughout the rising action portion of the story, the tension is rising.

Using the Lion King example, the rising action would be everything that occurs between the exposition and Simba returning to Pride Rock (the elephant graveyard, the wildebeests, Timon and Pumba, Hakuna Matata, etc.).

In a murder mystery, this would start with the murder, and include all the investigating that takes place while the murder is being solved.

3. Climax

The climax is the point in the plot that the entire story has been leading up to; in The Lion King, the climax is when Simba returns to Pride Rock and defeats Scar.

In a murder mystery, this would be the part of the narrative where the detective (amateur or professional) reveals the killer.

4. Falling Action

The falling action includes the events that occur following the climax. The resolution/denouement is how the primary conflict is (wait for it…) resolved.

In The Lion King, this is the part of the film where Simba reunites with Sarabi and takes his rightful place as king.

In a murder mystery, this would be the part where the detective explains how they solved the situation. Typically, the falling action and resolution are comparatively shorter than the other aspects of the plot.

5. Dénouement

Dénouement is a French word that means “outcome.” It is also called the resolution. In literary theory, it means the part of the plot which ties up loose ends and reveals the final consequences of the events of the story.

During the dénouement, the narrator resolves any final or outstanding questions about the characters’ fates, and may even reveal a little bit about the characters’ futures after the resolution of the story.

In a five-act play, the dénouement occurs in the fifth act.

The plot is the sequence in which stories, events, and conflicts all occur in a work of art. It does not limit itself to drama and novels alone, other sub-genres of Literature have a plot.

In the next article, we will discuss the types of plots and how the different types of plot structures influence a literary work. Kindly share your opinion in the comment section and do not forget to appreciate our writers for putting up a comprehensive article of this nature.

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