Understanding the Basics of Plot Structure

Master the world of storytelling by understanding one of its core components—plot structure. This fundamental element provides a roadmap for your narrative and influences how your story unfolds.

What Is Plot Structure?


Plot structure is simply just the sequence or organization of events in a story. It provides the necessary framework that dictates the flow of the narrative, including the introduction of characters, the development of conflict, and a resolution.

Importance of a Solid Plot Structure

Creating a solid plot structure is important for keeping your readers interested and ensuring your story has direction. It helps with pacing, keeps the narrative focused, and provides satisfying resolutions to conflicts or questions raised in the story.

Basic Elements of a Standard Plot Structure

The standard plot structure usually has five key elements. But these are just the basics of what you need to create your plot or story outline. Think of it as the skeleton or the bones of your book.

  1. Exposition: This sets the stage for the story by introducing characters, setting and initial conflicts.
  2. Rising action: Conflict begins to develop, building tension and complications.
  3. Climax: The turning point of the story where the tension is at its peak.
  4. Falling action: Events and complications start to resolve.
  5. Resolution/Denouement: Final loose ends are tied up, providing a satisfying end to the narrative.

Common Types of Plot Structures

There are many plot types out there, but these are the most basic and common ones.

  • Linear: Events that unfold chronologically.
  • Non-linear: Events are revealed out of chronological order, usually through flashbacks and dreams or by introducing other characters’ points of view.
  • Circular: The narrative ends where it begins. Start with the ending, then rewind and unfold the events that lead up to the end.
  • In media res: This is when your story begins in the middle of the action. This one isn’t as common, but it can really add some punch to a suspense story.

The Three-Act Structure: Breaking It Down

Starting out with the Three-Act Structure is a classic method of storytelling. It consists of:

  • The Setup (Act 1)
  • A Confrontation (Act 2)
  • The Resolution (Act 3)

It’s similar to a play’s structure and is widely used in films, novels and short stories.

Using Plot Structure to Enhance Your Story

A well-crafted plot structure can enhance your story by providing direction, maintaining pace, and ensuring a satisfying resolution. Experiment with different structures to discover what best serves your narrative and characters.

Spend some time watching TV shows and movies to study what plot structures they use. Pay attention to how they’ve worked it as a tool to deliver the full story, and make note of how you can apply the same technique to your writing.

Common Mistakes to Avoid in Plot Structure

Avoid plot inconsistencies, unresolved subplots and poorly paced narratives. Also, steer clear of predictable plot structures unless they serve a specific purpose. Originality is key in engaging readers.

Understanding and effectively utilizing plot structure can elevate your storytelling. Remember, while plot structure serves as a guide, it’s not set in stone. Feel free to be creative and adjust it to serve your story best.