plot outline





C.                 E.


  A.        B.                                                                 F.




A.  Introduction/ Exposition – This is the beginning of the story.  It is here that we are introduced to the characters and the setting.  The setting tells us when and where the story takes place.  This is not always important.  Sometimes a story takes place in Anytown, USA in the “present.”  At others times, such as in “The Sniper” the time and place are integral to the story.  The protagonist is the main character.  The protagonist may or may not be a good guy.  The main character of a story could be a serial killer.  The antagonist is whatever force opposes or interferes with the protagonist as he attempts to reach the end of his journey.


B.  This struggle is called the conflict.  There are six types of conflict: (hu)man vs (hu)man, man vs nature, man vs society, man vs machine/ technology, man vs the supernatural, and man vs self.  

            - Man vs Man includes conflicts between men and women, parents and children, siblings, teachers and students… any time two humans (or more) come into disagreement with each other.

            - Man vs Nature – Man is the aggressor toward nature when he hunts, pollutes, or destroys the rain forest.  Nature is the aggressor when a man is trying to survive a snowstorm, or in the case of earthquakes and tornadoes and tsunamis.  Nature is the aggressor when animals attack!

            - Man vs Society can also go both ways.  A terrorist or serial killer or child predator is a menace to society.  Sometimes, though, society opposes the individual.  Anytime “society” discriminates against a person for race, sex, religion, age, or style of dress, etc., this is man against society (or society against man).

            - Man vs Machine – A lot of students have never be taught this, but any one who has every had an ATM eat your card, had a computer freeze up or a printer jam knows about Man vs Machine.  If robots attack you, this is man vs machine, too.

            - Man vs Supernatural is another conflict not discussed much, but that’s what ghost stories are and mythology and werewolves, vampires, etc.  What about Stephen King’s stories about machines that become animated and terrorize the humans?  Is this man vs machine, or man vs supernatural.

            - Man vs Self – This is the only internal conflict.  Do I study for English or hang out with my friends?  Do I eat the triple-chocolate-delight desert or stick to my diet?  Should I stay or should I go?  To be or not to be?

C.  There’s more to the journey than just the big conflict.  There are a multitude of little problems we call complications.  This is the Rising Action part of the story.  Students are all in a big struggle to get through school.  This is the conflict/ problem they must conquer.  All the trials and tribulations along the way make up the complications.  A traveler in a story may be on the way to town to get medicine for her grandchild.  Along the way, she must deal with fatigue, a stray dog, a scarecrow, she must cross a fallen log over a stream and climb a hill.  These are her complications.


D.  The climax of the story is the turning point.  It is here that things change for the better or for the worse, where there is no turning back.  Sometimes it’s is defined as “the point of highest interest or suspense.”  This is not a good definition. 


E.  Falling Action – I don’t have much to say about this, but my students have been taught it, so I always include.  Once the turning point of the story has been reached, it’s just quick slide to the conclusion.


F.  Conclusion, denoument, resolutionDenoument is French for “untying the knot.”  The end of the story unravels the mystery, answers the questions, and resolves the conflict.  Most of the time….