by Cynthia Lord

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Student Question

How do you complete a plot chart?

Expert Answers

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Hmmmmm, ... I have always referred to it as a plot "diagram" or a plot "timeline."  Therefore, let me tell you what I teach my students and see how we could fit it into a "plot chart" that you refer to in your question.

A plot diagram/timeline is simply a line that (at some point near the beginning slopes slowly upward), ends at a point, slopes steeply downward, until it levels out into the same flat line as the beginning.  I have attached the exact worksheet that I often use with my classes.  The image can be found clearly at the link below.

The different parts of the line correspond with the different parts of the plot.  The line is flat at the beginning representing the exposition (the part of the plot where we learn about the characters and setting).  At some point, that line starts a slope upward, that angle represents the inciting incident/conflict (the incident or problem that begins the suspense of the story).  The upward sloping line represents the rising action (the part of the plot when suspense builds).  The crest of the "mountain," or the point at the very top of that sloped line represents the climax (the highest point in the tension of the story).  The line will slope quickly downward after this which represents the falling action (the part of the plot where things are trying to reach equilibrium after the climax and/or the suspense lessens).  Finally, the line will even out flat again which represents the resolution/denouement.  This is the part of the plot where most everything is resolved and characters resume their normal lives with the "problem" solved.

In conclusion, let's adapt the diagram/timeline to a chart.  My guess is your teacher will have a different "box" on the chart referring to each of the five plot elements:  exposition, inciting incident/conflict, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution/denouement.  These would correspond exactly with the elements in the plot diagram/timeline above.

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