How do I order events, and name and describe the plot parts?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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One easy way to organize and name plot points is by creating a plot diagram. A plot diagram will be in the shape of an uneven triangle, uneven because the right side of the triangle will be much shorter than the left due to the fact that much less action happens in a story between the climax and the resolution. The University of Minnesota Duluth shows us an excellent image of a plot diagram.

To begin creating your plot diagram, start by identifying what is called the exposition. The exposition of a story simply refers to the "characters, setting, and main conflicts" of a story (Boise State University, "Plot and the Plot Diagram"). Identifying the conflict is especially critical and will help you identify other major plot points.

The conflict of a story is simply a struggle between two opposite sides. Most often, a conflict is between the protagonist, meaning the main character of a story who undergoes change, and the antagonist, the character who opposes the protagonist. However, there are also a few other different types of common conflicts. Since the conflict is the opposition or struggle in a story, we can easily describe conflict by identifying it as something vs. something else. Common types of conflict include character vs. character, character vs. society, character vs. nature/fate, and character vs. self.

Once you have identified the central conflict in the story and labeled it on your plot diagram as part of the exposition, skip to identifying the story's resolution. Doing so will make it much easier for you to identify the climax, rising action, and falling action. The story's resolution simply refers to the way in which the story's conflict is resolved. Think about whether or not the protagonist succeeds or fails in the task and what the protagonist gains or loses.

Once you have identified and labeled the resolution, it will be easy to identify and label the climax. A story's climax is understood as the story's turning point, the point in which "things finally start to move in a different direction" ("Plot and the Plot Diagram"). It also helps to think of the climax as the point in the story when the resolution is in sight--the reader is no longer clueless as to how the story will end; yet, the story has also not quite ended.

Since, you will have already identified the resolution, you can next very easily identify both the falling action and the rising action. The term falling action refers to any events in the story that must still take place after the climax to finally bring the story to its resolution. The term rising action refers to any events in the story that occur once the characters and conflict have been identified. More specifically, the events of rising action help lead the story towards the climax.