Plot: A Chain of Events Feature Menu What Is Plot? Conflict Complications Climax Resolution Subplots Parallel Episodes Practice
What Is Plot? A story needs more than interesting characters to make you want to read it. Rick just wants people to like him—especially Jen Jen athletic, wants to win every time, thinks Rick is sweet but lazy Something about the story has to make you wonder what will happen next.
Jen challenges Rick to a bike race. Jen and Rick meet on the trail. What Is Plot? Plot is the chain of related events that drives a reader’s interest in a story. Bet I can ride Diamondback Trail faster than you can! EVENT 2 EVENT 1 Bet you can’t! What do you think happens next?
What Is Plot? How are the two events linked together? EVENT 1 EVENT 2 Jen challenges Rick to a bike race. Jen and Rick meet on the trail. cause/effect One of these events causes the other. Jen and Rick meet on Diamondback Trail because Jen challenged Rick to a race. The two events form a chain.
Conflict The event that begins the chain introduces a problem, or conflict. EVENT 1 Jen’s challenge presents a problem to Rick: Jen challenges Rick to a bike race. try to impress Jen by accepting her challenge avoid defeat by choosing not to race OR
Conflict A story’s conflict can be a struggle with another character, a force of nature, such as gravity or a strong headwind, or a character’s own feelings. [End of Section]
Complications What if we add a third event to the chain? EVENT 1 EVENT 2 EVENT 3 Jen challenges Rick to a bike race. Jen and Rick meet on the trail. Rick’s bike chain slips off. Event 3 has made the plot chain longer, but it has also made the plot more complicated. The outcome of the race is no longer a matter of who can bike faster—Jen or Rick.
Complications If Rick can’t repair his chain quickly, he will lose the race. If Jen rides off and leaves Rick stranded, she may win the race but lose Rick’s friendship. EVENT 3 Rick’s chain slips off. Event 3 is called a complication because it makes the plot’s conflict more difficult to resolve.
EVENT 1 EVENT 2 EVENT 3 Jen challenges Rick to a bike race. Jen and Rick race. Jen (or Rick) wins the race. Complications A plot without complications might look like this. This kind of race happens every day, but it doesn’t necessarily make a good story. Where’s the suspense?!
EVENT 3 ? ? ? ? ? ? Complications What other complications might Rick or Jen face? EVENT 1 EVENT 2 Jen challenges Rick to a bike race. Jen and Rick race. What would make the story interesting, exciting or suspenseful? [End of Section]
Climax A story’s climax is the point at which the outcome of the conflict is decided—often in a surprising way. Rick’s chain is off his bike. Jen is circling back to check on Rick. Suddenly, Rick remembers what he learned from his Uncle Eduardo: 1. how to replace a slipped chain 2. how to impress a girl
Climax A story’s climax is the point at which the outcome of the conflict is decided—often in a surprising way. “Enrique,” said Uncle Eduardo, “never try to be the man you are not. Be the man you are.” Rick had rolled his eyes at the time. His uncle was always saying things like that. But now . . .
Climax Where does a story’s climax fit into the plot chain? It overcomes the obstacles presented by complications and makes the ending possible. [End of Section]
Resolution The resolution is the end of the story. It tells how the conflict turned out. How was the conflict in this story resolved? Neither Jen nor Rick won the race, but . . . they took many more bike rides together. [End of Section]
Subplots In addition to the main plot, some stories have subplots. Main plot Rick tries to impress Jen by agreeing to a bike race. Sub plot Rick discounts his uncle’s advice—then finds that he really can use it. A subplot is a plot that is part of the larger story but is not as important.
Episode 1 Episode 2 Episode 3 Rick’s chain slips off. Rick’s front tire goes flat. Jen’s brake cable snaps. Rick replaces the chain, and the race continues. Rick patches the tire, and the race continues. Rick invites Jen to his uncle’s bike-repair shop. Parallel Episodes Some plots contain parallel episodes: repeated events in a story. [End of Section]
Let’s Try It Practice Let’s say three small pink pigs—Rupert, Rosemary, and Desmond—are building cottages when a wolf turns up and watches, his eyes yellow and shifty. The wolf says that the pigs are trespassing and should find another site. The pigs protest that they have a permit to build there. It was given to them by a rabbit who had come by earlier. The wolf declares that the permit is no good, swallows it in one gulp, and says that unless the swine are gone by evening, he will blow their cottages off the map. “What nerve!” says Rosemary. “If we had legal representation, he wouldn’t be so quick to gobble up our permit.” 1. What is the conflict in this story?
Let’s Try It Practice “That’s true,” says Rupert, “but right now let’s keep our minds on construction.” Rupert hurries to finish his house with straw. Rosemary finishes hers with wood, and Desmond finishes his with fiberglass and aluminum siding. Then each pink pig goes inside to await developments. Just as he promised, the wolf turns up as the sun goes down. First he goes to Rupert’s straw house. “Mr. Pig, you have five seconds to vacate! Should you choose to remain, I will not be responsible for your personal safety. Five, four, three, two, one.” The wolf huffs and puffs and blows Rupert’s straw house to dust. Rupert runs to the hardware store to buy more building materials. 2. What complications have occurred in the story so far?
Let’s Try It Practice Next, the wolf goes to Rosemary’s house. “Ms. Pig, you have five seconds to vacate! Should you choose to remain, I will not be responsible for your personal safety. Five, four, three, two, one.” The wolf huffs and puffs and blows Rosemary’s house to smithereens. Rosemary runs to the local university to enroll in law school. Finally the wolf goes to Desmond’s house. “Mr. Pig, you have five seconds to vacate! Should you choose to remain, I will not be responsible for your personal safety. Five, four, three, two, one.” The wolf huffs and puffs, but Desmond’s house is unshaken. 3. What subplot is developed on this page? 4. What parallel episodes have appeared in the story so far?
Let’s Try It Practice “So, wolf, what will you do now?” Desmond called out the window. “I’ll . . . I’ll sue you for all you’re worth!” cries the wolf. “I’ll see you in court, Mr. Wolf,” Desmond replies happily. He knows that Rosemary is an uncommonly fast learner. Rupert, Rosemary, and Desmond live happily in Desmond’s house until the court date arrives. Rosemary represents Desmond, and a nervous sheep represents the wolf. The judge’s decision comes as a surprise to everyone. The pigs must move their home five hundred yards east—onto public land—and the wolf must help them. 5. Which paragraph contains the story’s climax? 6. The boldface words are the story’s ___________.
Practice On Your Own Map out the plot structure of a story you are familiar with. Use a graphic like the one on the right. If you can find subplots in your story, fill out another chart just like this one. [End of Section]
Plot: A Chain of Events The End