The Plot Structure of Fiction

The plot structure of fiction is the foundation that supports your story. It’s like the steel frame of a building or the skeleton of a person. Without it, there would be no story to tell.

When you write fiction, you often start with an idea for your story — something you want to write about and explore through your characters. But before you can begin writing that novel-length manuscript, you need to know how it will end — and how it will get there!

This article will help you understand how fictional plots work so that you can create one that makes sense and keeps readers turning pages (or scrolling down) until they reach the story’s conclusion.

What is Fiction?

Fiction is generally a narrative form, in any medium, made up of people, events, or places that are imaginary — in other words, not strictly based on history or fact. It also applies more often to written narratives in literature and often explicitly novels. In films, this typically corresponds to narrative film as opposed to documentary film.

The Plot Structure of Fiction

Identifying the plot structure of a text sounds difficult at times, so here’s a simple definition for each of the stages of the plot structure.


The exposition is the part of the narrative where you introduce your characters and setting. You need to set the scene: provide descriptions and background information. You can use dialogue, narration, or other devices to do this.

Rising Action

The story builds and gets more exciting. The rising action consists of all the events leading up to the climax of your story. It may include rising conflict between characters or between a character and nature (such as a storm).


The moment of greatest tension in a story. This is often the most exciting event in a story. It is when everything comes together at once: all conflicts are resolved, all secrets are revealed, etc.

The climax is sometimes called “the turning point,” because it changes everything for one or more characters — for better or worse — after which there is no “going back.” The climax usually occurs somewhere near the middle of your story; however, some novels have multiple climaxes scattered throughout their plot structure (e.g., David Almond’s Clay).

Falling Action

Events happen as a result of the climax, and we know that the story will soon end.


(a French term, pronounced: day-noo-moh) the ending. At this point, any remaining secrets, questions, or mysteries that remain after the resolution are solved by the characters or explained by the author. Sometimes the author leaves us to think about the THEME or future possibilities for the characters.

Sample Activity for Teachers

You may also try out this activity for your students. Feel free to download it.


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