Understanding the Definition of Plot: A Comprehensive Guide
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 9 min read


  1. What is Plot?
  2. Elements of Plot
  3. Types of Plot
  4. Examples of Plot in Literature
  5. How to Develop a Plot
  6. Difference between Plot and Story
  7. How to Analyze Plot
  8. Why Plot Matters

If you've ever enjoyed a thrilling book or got lost in a captivating movie, you've experienced the power of plot. But what exactly is it? Well, you're in the right place for a friendly chat about the definition of plot. So, let's dive right in!

What is Plot?

At its simplest, the plot is what happens in a story. It's the sequence of events that take you from the beginning to the end. Sounds pretty straightforward, right? But there's more to it than that.

A plot isn't just a random series of events. It's a carefully crafted structure that guides the reader or viewer through the story. Think of it like a road trip: you don't just hop in the car and drive aimlessly, right? You have a map (or, more likely, a GPS) that guides you from where you start to where you want to end up.

Similarly, a well-crafted plot guides you through the story, making sure you don't get lost along the way. It has a few key elements that help to build a satisfying and engaging narrative:

  • Introduction: This is where we meet the characters and learn about their world. It sets the stage for the rest of the story.
  • Rising Action: Here, the story starts to get exciting. Problems arise, and the characters have to face challenges. This part of the plot keeps you turning the pages or glued to the screen.
  • Climax: This is the turning point of the story. It's the most intense, exciting, or dramatic moment. The climax is the peak of the plot mountain.
  • Falling Action: After the climax, things start to wind down. The problems begin to get solved, and the story moves towards its conclusion.
  • Resolution: This is the end of the road trip. All the loose ends are tied up, and the story concludes. After a great plot, this is where you lean back and say, "Wow, what a ride!"

So there you have it, a simple but thorough definition of plot. It's the roadmap for a story, guiding you through a journey of ups, downs, twists, and turns. But remember, every plot is unique, just like every road trip. So, buckle up and enjoy the ride!

Elements of Plot

Now that we have a basic understanding of the definition of plot, let's dig a bit deeper. The plot is constructed with certain elements that make the narrative flow smoothly. These elements are like the nuts and bolts that hold a story together. Let's take a closer look at them:

  1. Exposition: This is the introduction of the story, where we are given the background information about the characters, setting and the basic premise.
  2. Conflict: It's the main problem or struggle that drives the narrative. This can be a conflict between characters, within a character (internal) or with external forces.
  3. Rising Action: The series of events that lead to the climax of the story. The suspense, tension, or interest of the reader/viewer is heightened during this stage.
  4. Climax: The highest point of tension or drama in the story. It's the moment where the main conflict heads towards a turning point.
  5. Falling Action: These are the events that happen after the climax, leading towards the resolution. The conflict unravels and the tension decreases.
  6. Resolution/Denouement: The final outcome of the story where all loose ends are tied up. It's the conclusion that brings the plot to a close.

Just like a chef uses ingredients to create a delicious dish, a writer uses these elements to cook up an engaging plot. These ingredients, when mixed together in just the right way, can create a story that will captivate the reader from start to finish. So, the next time you're reading a book or watching a movie, see if you can spot these elements of plot. You might be surprised at how much more you can appreciate the story!

Types of Plot

Have you ever wondered why some stories make you laugh, while others make you cry, and some even give you a good scare? Well, that's because there are different types of plots in storytelling. Each type has a unique structure that helps to shape the story and evoke a specific emotional response from the reader. Let's check out some of the most common types of plot:

  1. Overcoming the Monster: In this type of plot, the protagonist sets out to defeat an antagonistic force (often evil) which threatens the protagonist and/or protagonist's homeland.
  2. Rags to Riches: Simply put, the protagonist starts off in a lowly state and eventually achieves a state of high status, often including wealth.
  3. The Quest: Here, the protagonist, often accompanied by companions, sets out to acquire an important object or to get to a location. They face obstacles and temptations along the way.
  4. Voyage and Return: The protagonist goes to a strange land and, after overcoming the threats posed by this new environment, returns with experience.
  5. Comedy: A light-hearted plot, often involving misunderstandings, with a happy or cheerful ending.
  6. Tragedy: The protagonist has one or more tragic flaws that lead to his or her downfall, often followed by a moment of clarity and self-realization.

This is not an exhaustive list, and many stories combine elements of more than one type of plot. But understanding these basic types can help you recognize patterns and structures in the stories you read and watch. And if you're thinking about writing your own story, this knowledge can help you decide what kind of journey you want your characters to embark on. Remember, the type of plot you choose can set the tone for your entire story.

Examples of Plot in Literature

Alright, now that we've got the gist of the different types of plots, let's see some of them in action in popular literature. Here are a few examples that perfectly illustrate the definition of plot:

  1. Overcoming the Monster: "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" by J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter embarks on a mission to defeat Lord Voldemort, a dark wizard who poses a threat to the wizarding world.
  2. Rags to Riches: "Cinderella". From a mistreated servant to a beautiful princess, Cinderella's life takes a dramatic turn when a fairy godmother helps her attend the royal ball.
  3. The Quest: "The Lord of the Rings" by J.R.R. Tolkien. Frodo Baggins and his company set out on a dangerous quest to destroy a powerful ring and save Middle-earth.
  4. Voyage and Return: "Alice in Wonderland" by Lewis Carroll. Alice enters a fantastical world and, after a series of bizarre encounters and challenges, returns to her normal life.
  5. Comedy: "Much Ado About Nothing" by William Shakespeare. A classic comedy filled with romantic misunderstandings and witty dialogue that leads to a joyful resolution.
  6. Tragedy: "Romeo and Juliet" by William Shakespeare. A tragic love story where the protagonists' flaws and family feud lead to their untimely death.

These examples should help you better understand how different plots function in literature. Notice how the plot shapes the story's structure, the character's journey, and the overall theme of the story. So, next time you pick up a book or watch a movie, try to identify the type of plot. It'll add a whole new dimension to your understanding of the story!

How to Develop a Plot

Developing a plot isn't as daunting as it may seem. It's all about letting your creativity flow while keeping a few key steps in mind. Here's a simple, step-by-step guide to help you get started:

  1. Think of an Idea: Every plot begins with a simple idea. It could be a dramatic event, a character's journey, or a unique situation you want to explore.
  2. Identify the Plot Type: Reflect on the definition of plot types we discussed earlier. Decide which one best fits your idea. This will guide the structure of your story and your character's journey.
  3. Create Interesting Characters: Characters are the heart of any story. Make them relatable to your audience. How they respond to situations in your plot will shape your story.
  4. Plan the Story Structure: A plot usually starts with an exposition, escalates with rising action, reaches a climax, then descends to a resolution. Outline these stages to guide your story arc.
  5. Add Conflict: Conflict is the fuel that drives the plot. It could be a character's internal struggle, a clash of ideals, or a physical battle. Think about the main conflict that will keep your readers hooked.
  6. Revise and Refine: The first draft of your plot won't be perfect. Revisit it, tweak it, refine it. Make sure it's engaging and makes sense. Don't be afraid to make changes!

Remember, the best plots are those that resonate with the audience, create an emotional connection, and leave a lasting impression. So, think about what you want your readers to feel and learn from your story. Developing a plot is an ongoing process, so don't rush it—take your time and enjoy the journey!

Difference between Plot and Story

Now, let's address a common source of confusion: the difference between plot and story. Many people use these terms interchangeably, but they're not quite the same. Understanding the distinction can help you craft more effective narratives.

In the simplest terms, a story is a series of events or happenings, while a plot is how those events are organized and presented to the reader. The story is what happens, and the plot is how it happens.

Think of it like this: a story is like a pile of puzzle pieces — it's all the pieces you need to complete the puzzle, but they're jumbled and without order. The plot, on the other hand, is like the completed puzzle — all the pieces are arranged in a specific way to create a coherent picture.

For example, let's take the story of Little Red Riding Hood. The story is: a girl visits her grandmother, encounters a wolf, and is saved by a hunter. But the plot? That's the suspenseful journey of Red Riding Hood through the woods, the wolf’s deception, the tense climax, and the final rescue. The plot shapes the story into an engaging narrative, adding depth and meaning to the events.

So, whether you're writing a novel, a short story, or a screenplay, remember: the story is the raw material, and the plot is the structure you build with it. Both are equally important in the art of storytelling.

How to Analyze Plot

Now that you've got a good handle on the definition of plot and how it differs from story, let's talk about how to analyze it. This can be a valuable skill, whether you're a writer trying to understand what makes a story work, or a reader who wants to get more out of their reading experience.

First, start with the basics. Identify the key elements of the plot: the introduction, the rising action, the climax, the falling action, and the resolution. Look at how these elements work together to build tension and momentum. Are they balanced, or does one element dominate? How does this shape the overall narrative?

Next, consider the role of conflict in the plot. Conflict is the engine that drives the plot forward. It can be internal (within a character) or external (between characters, or between a character and their environment). How is conflict introduced, developed, and resolved? What does this tell us about the characters and their world?

Also, take a look at the pacing of the plot. Does it move quickly, creating a sense of urgency, or does it unfold slowly, allowing for character development and world-building? How does the pacing affect your engagement with the story?

Finally, analyze the theme of the plot. The theme is the underlying message or big idea of the story. It's what the plot is ultimately trying to convey. Identifying the theme can give you new insights into the plot and its purpose.

Remember, analyzing a plot isn't about finding a "right" or "wrong" way to tell a story. It's about understanding how different storytelling techniques can create different effects, and how you can use these techniques in your own writing.

Why Plot Matters

If you've ever found yourself completely engrossed in a book or a movie, unable to put it down or hit pause, chances are, the plot had a lot to do with it. But why does plot matter so much?

Firstly, plot is essential because it provides structure. Without plot, a story would just be a series of events with no clear beginning, middle, or end. It wouldn't make much sense, and it wouldn't be very satisfying to follow. So, when you think about the definition of plot, remember that it's the backbone of any good story.

Secondly, plot engages our emotions. It's what makes us care about what happens to the characters. We feel suspense as the plot builds towards the climax, and relief or disappointment when the conflict is resolved. These emotional responses make us feel connected to the story and keep us turning the pages.

Thirdly, plot helps to convey the theme of the story. Through the events of the plot, we can learn about the human condition, about societal issues, about love, loss, courage, and betrayal. The plot allows these themes to be explored in a way that is engaging and relatable.

Finally, a well-crafted plot can make us think. It can challenge our assumptions, make us see the world in a new way, or even change the way we live our lives. That's the power of a great plot.

In short, plot matters because it's the vehicle that carries us on the journey of the story. It's what makes a story more than just words on a page or images on a screen. It's what makes a story come alive.

If you're looking to further develop your understanding of plot and storytelling, be sure to check out Jessy Moussallem's workshop, 'Scriptwriting.' This workshop will provide you with valuable insights and techniques to help you create captivating stories, whether it be for screenplays, novels, or other creative projects.