Plot is the pattern of related incidents or episodes.
A standard plot will begin at the beginning of a story, but occasionally, and more often than not recently, a plot can begin in the middle of the story; a plot of this type is known as in media res.
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The standard plot usually has a shape that follows this order:
- Exposition – this is when all the background is set up – setting, conflict, main character(s), etc.
- Rising Action – events that lead to a high point, this is the climb toward the climax and is full of plot complications.
- Climax – the turning point in the plot when everything is resolved and sorted out and all of the loose ends are tied up
- Resolution – the events after the climax also known as the denouement or falling action
Do not confuse theme and plot. If you are asked for the theme and you find yourself talking about the events of the story, you are dealing with plot. Many different stories/plots could have the same theme –they may all be on the theme of jealousy, for example– but their plots will be completely different.
An essential ingredient of the plot is conflict. There are many different conflicts that could occur in a story which could be:
- Woman vs. Woman – Man vs. Man
- Woman vs. Self – Man vs. Self
- Woman vs. Society – Man vs. Society
- Woman vs. Technology – Man vs. Technology
- just to name a few.
Any number of different conflicts, or continuing struggles, could be active in a story at the same time.
For instance, in Freak The Mighty
- Max, the main character) struggled
- with Blade (Man vs. Man),
- with his true ability to achieve (Man vs. Self)
- Kevin struggled
- with Blade (Man vs. Man)
- with his disability (Man vs. Self)
- Max’s father, Killer Kane, struggled
- with laws (Man vs. Society)
- with his own conscience (Man vs. Self)
- Can you think of other struggles/conflicts?
- How is the book structured?
- Does the novel have a standard plot outline, including: Exposition (introduction), Rising Action (crisis and conflict), Climax (turning point), Resolution (falling action or denouement), and conclusion? OR
- Does the plot begin in the middle of things (en media res)?
- Does the author effectively introduce characters and setting?
- How has the use of conflict and crisis been used to effectively build up to a climax? List as many different conflicts as you can discern. (Hmmm, what’s discern mean?)
- Do the events in the novel lead to an exciting or thought-provoking climax? Why is it thought provoking for you? Explain.
- Is the conflict and crisis in the novel resolved to your satisfaction? If you wrote the ending, how would you end the story? Your ending must be plausible based on the events,charcters, setting of the story.
- What is the effect of the conclusion on the reader’s understanding of the plot, character development, and ideas expressed in the novel?
- How does the plot of the novel differ in construction from that of the standard plot outline?
- Does the novel begin with details from the end, then shift to some point in the past and tell the story leading up to the present?
- Does the novel shift between a series of flashbacks and flash-forwards?
- Does the novel tell the story from several different perspectives, through different characters?
- Does the book tell a good story?
- Does the plot have action and suspense?
- What is the effect of action or suspense on your emotions?
- How does each episode/event further the plot?
- How do the conflicts help to develop the charcters? Explain with details.
- How do conflicts get resolved in the climax?
- Are there any unexpected “twists” to the plot?
- Is the plot plausible (could things really have happened this way)?
- Is the plot credible (believable)?
- Is the plot well constructed?