Elements of the Short Story – The Plot

What Is A Plot?

Simply stated, ‘A plot is a series of events that make up a story.’

All plots have beginnings, middles, and endings. For reference, the first quarter of your book is the beginning, the second and third quarters are the middle, and the last quarter is the ending.

In an 80 000-word novel, this generally means that your beginning is 20 000 words long, the middle is 40 000 words long, and your ending is 20 000 words long.

Do not get your story idea confused with the plot. A plot involves much more than a basic idea.

There is a conflict for the protagonist, which was caused by the antagonist. These two characters have opposing story goals – and they are concrete – meaning that they are expressed with certainty. The inciting moment will reveal these goals and problems and tell how the protagonist’s world is changing.

  • To further define how you structure your story around the plot: (Keep in mind that NOT every story has all of these plot elements.)

According to Gustav Freytag, a German writer, a traditional plot is made of:

1. Exposition: The exposition is generally the first quarter or beginning of your book. The story begins when the main characters and setting are introduced. The conflict or main problem is also established. The inciting moment presents the problem.

2. Rising Action: This usually is the middle of your book (the second and third quarters). Rising action means that a series of events occur that move us closer to the conflict. The storyteller uses tension, cliffhangers, and pacing to get the most out of the rising action.

3. Climax: The climax occurs in the last quarter, or ending, of your book. Your protagonist must overcome their enemy, their own fears, or challenges. This part is packed with drama, action, and excitement. Your characters also undergo some sort of change here.

4. Falling Action: The falling action occurs in the last quarter, after the climax. The author ties up loose ends. This is sometimes known as the winding up of the story. The conflict is mostly resolved, and the main character evaluates their part in the story.

5. Resolution: This is at the end of the falling action. The conflict is over. The story has ended. You can also have a denouement here. This is generally a paragraph (or a few concluding paragraphs) that resolves any remaining issues and ends the story.

Plotting your story is essential. When I think back on how I used to write stories – without thinking about the plot, I can see where it was easy to get lost, go off on tangents, and worse – bore the reader.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~

Published by Mustang Patty

I am finally a full-time author, who writes legal thrillers, how-to- books, short stories, flash fiction, a tiny bit of poetry, and Blog posts. My published works include 'Guilty until Proven Innocent,' 'Innocent for the Moment,' and 'Moment by Moment.' This is a trilogy called the Jill Adair Series. Additionally, I've written a collection of short stories about my dogs, Howie and Bernie - with a 2nd Collection coming in late 2021. I'm also coordinating an Anthology of Short Stories called, '2021 Indie Authors Short Story Anthology.' This book will be available on Amazon.com on August 1st of 2021. (The 2020 Indie Authors Short Story Anthology is currently available on Amazon.com - the collection includes 30 stories, written by 18 different Authors from three continents.) I am married to my wonderful hubby of over 37 years, and I have two grown children, named Heather and Gregory. I've been blessed with two beautiful grandbabies, Heather Rose and Logan Ernest.

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