Plot and structure


Once you have your story, you need to plot it in order to give your story a structure. This means you need to sequence the events of the story and when and where they occur.

Stories have a beginning, middle and end. The beginning part of the play is often called the orientation or exposition period. In this part of the play the writer presents the audience with important information that is necessary to understand or follow the story. Usually in this first part of the action we locate the story in time and place and introduce the main characters. We also give the audience some idea to what the play is about (theme) and how we intend to present the story (style). Part of letting the audience in on the theme of the play and the direction of the story is through disturbances in the story line of the story. When a play begins is can have many possible directions. Disturbances, sometimes called turning points, are instances of dramatic tension that help to reduce the play’s number of narrative directions so that the audience knows where the story is heading and what the story is about. A turning point is often an important event in the story that causes the story along a certain course (see “Rats!”case study for an example).

After the initial period the play builds towards the middle, where complexities/conflicts in the story are added or developed. Dramatic tension is built which leads towards the climax of the story. One way of thinking about climax is as the highest point of tension in the story, where major story conflicts are expressed.

After the climax, no further dramatic tension usually occurs. This leads to the last part of the play – the resolution or denouement. Here the play is concluded. The audience experiences a sense of completion to the story, the “tying up” of events, maybe even given an explanation (for example, as in detective stories). The resolution is usually quite short compared to the other structural segments.


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