What is the rising action in the story?

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The rising action is one of the elements of plot postulated by the German writer Gustav Freytag, in Techniques of Drama (1863).  The rising action leads to the turning point in the story, which is called the climax.  Thus, the rising action includes all of the events that lead to the climax.  

For an example of the rising action, think of the children's story, "Little Red Riding Hood."  The climax of the story is when Little Red Riding Hood discovers that her granny has been replaced by the Wolf, who has disguised himself to deceive the little girl.  All of the action that leads up to this climax (packing the basket of food, setting out to Granny's house, initially encountering the Wolf in the forest, etc.) are all part of the rising action.  

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A traditional dramatic plot structure has five elements: Exposition, Complication, RISING ACTION, Climax and Resolution. The Exposition introcuces the main character and the initial situation. A complication arises that calls the main character's future in doubt--Suspense or tension is created. The Rising Action runs through the middle part of the plot structure and each detail of it increases the suspense, making one side or the other seem the likely outcome. (The main character will succeed or fail.) The Climax is the moment in which the suspense is brought to an end. The tension is suddeenly released. The Resolution is the wrapping up of loose ends. This structure is also called Fryetag's Triangle.

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The rising action is the series of events that lead up to the climax.  It occurs after your introduction.  The rising action creates the tension and action necessary to make the climax the cultivating moment in the work. The rising action gives a background to the climax; without it, the climax would not seem placed on any solid foundation.

For example, in Death of a Salesman, the rising action includes Willy getting fired, Biff divulging that he knows Willy is a fake, Biff being turned down by Willy's old boss and stealing something, etc.  All of these events lead up to the climax, in which Willy and Biff have an incredible argument that culminates in Willy killing himself.

Each of these events put one more thing on Willy's plate; they 'rose' the action of the story.  This all lead to the big blow-up, the climax, of the story.

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What is the rising action of a story?

The rising action of a story usually takes place after the occurrence of some kind of inciting incident, and it ends with the story's climax. The inciting incident is some event that initiates the story's main conflict between the protagonist, or the main character, and the antagonist. The antagonist can be the main character themself, another character, nature, or even society.

The rising action, then, is constituted by any development of the conflict between the protagonist and the antagonist. Rising action is not to be confused with exposition, which is the revelation of any background information that the narrator might provide about the setting or the characters in order to help us understand the story and its messages more fully. Exposition can be offered right at the beginning of a story, or it can be sort of sprinkled throughout.

The rising action ceases with the climax, which is the moment of the most tension in the story; the climax can also be a kind of turning point. It is when we see either the protagonist or the antagonist gain ascendancy over the other. After the climax comes the falling action and, eventually, the denouement or resolution—the tying up of any loose ends and the eventual closure and ending of the story.

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