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Fiction Writing: The Basics of Plot

I am a freelance writer. I write novels, short stories, and nonfiction books. I also specialize in scientific writing.


How to Develop a Cohesive Plot for Your Narrative

If you are an aspiring author, there are several techniques you must master before you can deliver high-quality, engaging prose. The plot of a story is an essential element of a work that writers often neglect. They assume that if you have an account, then you, by definition, have a plot. That is not always the case. A rough draft could have a poorly defined structure and meander in the center or lack a clear ending. Novels, in particular, should adhere to a clearly defined structure so that the work's tone, pacing, mood, and development aren't compromised. This article will briefly introduce essential elements of a plot that can bring your writing to the next level and allow your work to shine.


Elements of A Narrative

Every story has three parts: a beginning, a middle, and an end. It may seem like as long as your account has this structure, you should be fine, but we must first introduce the elements of a plot to adequately assess if the story and your writing adheres to these guidelines. The details of a narrative can be briefly summated as follows:

  1. Exposition
  2. The Incident
  3. Rising Action
  4. Crisis Or Dilemma
  5. Climax
  6. Resolution or Denouement

Let us now clearly define each element and consider how each is essential at driving forward character development.

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This is what we commonly refer to as the beginning of a narrative. It situates the reader in an environment and allows the story to begin. Setting, tone, and mood are critical in this part as these are the first aspects of the world you are creating for the reader. Common errors beginning writers face a weak beginning, verbose description, and frivolous details. These weigh down on the reader and dissuade continued reading. A beginning should be just long enough to establish the setting, mood, and introduction of the protagonist and some of the major characters. Don't focus so intently on it, and the beginning may likely change as the work is written. The exposition should include a hook. This is often confused as the Incident, which we will discuss below in greater detail.


The Incident

The Incident is an "event" that occurs to one of the notable characters in the work that drives the plot forward. This event creates the initial tension that will have to be resolved as the characters develop. Amateur writers incorrectly place this incident, and hence their work fizzles out. They may spend an enormous amount of time on character descriptions and settings. Although these are important, they should not get in the way of establishing an apparent incident that will drive the story forward. The incident has to engage the reader and commit them to continue to read the remainder of your work.


Rising Action

The rising action is the character's response to the incident. It has to be realistic, themed, and adequately capture the tone of your work—this where the meat of your book will be focused. It would be best to dedicate time for character development, world-building through vivid scenes and situational stressors. Beginning writers fail to develop their characters in this part, and hence the story suffers as a result. You must give each character enough time and allow them to be multidimensional and change throughout your work. In this part of the book, you should establish who the characters are, introduce their motivations, add dimensionality to their personality, and develop clear story arches that can pivot from one scene to the next.

Crisis or Dilemma

Now that we have established the characters, we must make them face a crisis. The Dilemma is the conflict of the work. It is closely related to the Incident yet will expose and challenge your characters in unique and engaging ways. Vibrant three-dimensional characters should face this crisis and react differently according to their constitutions you have developed throughout the previous three parts. Beginning writers struggle to develop their characters throughout this period of the narrative, and the story suffers as a result.


The climax of is the most important aspect of the narrative. It is that "Eureka" moment of the piece. It is the major turning point of the work in which the characters change and become fully three-dimensional actors. Often, beginning writers fail to provide an engaging and satisfying climax to their stories. Let your work stand out by having a powerful and inspiring climatic scene. Character development is vital as each significant character should be dynamic and change through this event or series of events.

Resolution or Denouement

The resolution includes falling action and resolution of the work. This is the part of the story that wraps up the narrative refreshingly and originally. Each of your characters should have changed throughout the work. You should focus on closing any loose ends, and give a proper send-off.

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