What Is a Plot Diagram?

Generally, diagrams represent a process or a relationship among various parties. It mostly consists of lines and shapes with only short words or phrases in it. Some types of diagrams include activity diagram, computer network diagram, timeline, Venn diagram, and concept map. In literature, there is one type of diagram which bears great significance in summarizing a lengthy storyline. We refer to this graphical representation as a plot diagram. A plot diagram is a visualization tool, shaped like a pyramid, whose purpose is to map narratives and organize stories into various segments. Learn more about it as you go along this article.

The Roller Coaster Ride

A tale about the boy named Harry, whose lightning scar on his forehead pave the way for the adventure of his lifetime, was one of the best-selling novels of all time. With over 500 million copies sold worldwide, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series made it on the top of the list of books with the highest sales. But what made the series so special? The magical yet relatable plot. Outlined below are the parts of a story reflected on a plot diagram.

Exposition: The first element of a plot diagram is the exposition. It is the beginning of the story, where the author introduces the main characters and the setting of the story. Aside from that, the writer may also give the readers a gist of the conflict and the kind of adventure that is waiting for the characters.Rising Action: This where the plot thickens—the suspense is building up, and the problem gets complicated. During this part of the story, the main character or the protagonist starts dealing with the challenges he or she encounters. This will then lead us to the climax.Climax: The climax or the turning point of the story circles around the protagonist’s endeavors in trying to resolve the problems and ease the tension. Here, the main character faces his or her greatest obstacle and comes face to face with the antagonist. For most readers, this is the most exciting and important part of the story.Falling Action: This element of the plot diagram provides details about the consequences of the characters’ actions, be it good or bad. It is a wrap-up of the narrative, which ties up loose ends. These events will then lead to the resolution or denouement of the story.Resolution: All beginnings must come to an end, and so are stories. While most of us wanted to witness a happy ending or resolution, it does not apply to every story. Some authors write a sad ending, while those who are planning to write a sequel create cliffhangers. No matter what the end is, one thing is certain—we close the book and go on with our lives, bringing a newfound life lesson we got from the narrative.

Papers and Books: A Brief History

Let’s start with ancient times. Around 3500 BC, when there was no processed paper, symbols that convey messages were inscribed on a tablet. Scholars believe that the Sumerians from ancient Mesopotamia were the ones who first attempted to create a transcription of symbols onto different canvases, such as clays and stones. Years later, circa 2400 BC, came the existence of scrolls, which originated in ancient Egypt. The material used for this rolled manuscript was a papyrus. It is a thick paper made from a papyrus plant’s pith used as a medium of communication back then. These scrolls were about 14 to 52 feet long. During 500 – 200 BC, people from the ancient times found a substitute for papyrus—the parchment. Unlike the papyrus, it is made from an animal’s skin (e.g., calf, sheep, goat). Apparently, people made use of this material for over two millennia. A parchment with a finer quality, referred to as vellum, was also developed during this time. This medium has better quality since it utilizes the skins of young animals.

We’re already in the era where papers exist, 105 AD. Reportedly, it was the start of the paper revolution. During those times, the purpose of the paper varies. People used it for wrapping, padding, and as a writing material. Then, the introduction of paper mills during the 11th century spurred the use of papers across Europe, until people in different corners of the world started using it. Despite the continuous production of papers, there were still issues in the creation of books and documents. The reproduction of essential documents would mean that writers have to hand-write the text on the paper, which obviously took a longer time than printing.

The printing revolution then started during the 1400s, when Johannes Gutenberg introduced the printing press to the people. As time went by, there was an increase in the production of papers, books, and pamphlets. Then an Italian humanist, seeking to preserve Greeks’ rich literature, printed the first form of pocketbook during the 1500s. Nowadays, there are various book formats motivated by the evolution of technology. The 21st century kicked off the use of the digital version of books, or popularly known as e-books. Despite the existence of these types of books, though, there are still bookworms who prefer physical copies—believing that papers are still superior to screens.

How Can You Effectively Present a Storyline?

In the United States alone, Statista estimated that there were more than 675 million copies of printed books sold last 2018. Moreover, digital versions of these books also generated billions of revenue every year. These books tell diverse stories of love, life, and adventure. If you are in middle school, you might be tasked to present a summary of a story through a plot diagram. And if you are having a hard time completing this task, worry no more! We have outlined a step-by-step guide for you so you can finish your assignment right on time.

Step 1: Read the Story

It would be impossible for you to create a summary of a literary work if you don’t have a full comprehension of the story. That is why before you start writing the content of your diagram, you first have to read the story from the beginning to the end. This way, it would be easier for you to categorize the plot or determine what part of the narrative is the exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.

Step 2: Extract

Now that you already know the flow of the story, the next thing you will do is to extract its crucial events. Although the series of scenes make up the whole tale, it is not necessary for you to write a point by point account. The diagram would lose its purpose if it would still include every piece of information from the narrative. You would not want to write lengthy sentences on your plot diagram, right? For this reason, make sure to select the most significant events and create an outline of it on a blank sheet of paper.

Step 3: Draw the Diagram

After creating an outline, it is now time for you to draw the diagram. Typically, it is a mountain-like appearance, which starts from the exposition and ends with the resolution. In doing so, see to it that you will have enough space to insert the text later on. Check the sample documents compiled above for reference.

Step 4: Start Writing

After doing the steps mentioned beforehand, this task should be easier for you. In this guide, we have discussed the parts of the plot. Now, all you have to do is to refer to the outline you made and determine which ones belong to the exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. Then, write these events in your plot diagram. The exposition should be on the base of the left part of the triangle, followed by the rising action. The climax should be at the peak, then the falling action, and lastly, the resolution.

Step 5: Finalize

Before submitting your work, double-check the content of your document and make sure that it is free from grammatical and typographical errors, for a sure-fire A+. If you want to be more creative, you can add illustrations in your plot diagram.


What is a plot summary?

As the term suggests, a plot summary is a concise and simplified version of a story. In other words, it is an overview of the events that happen in a particular storyline. Note that a plot summary should be an account of the essential details of a story. For this reason, the writer needs to find the perfect balance between elaboration and concision. The summary should be long enough for the readers to understand the context, yet short enough for them to remain engaged.

What are the five elements of fiction?

The primary building blocks of fiction are the following:

1. Plot: It is the most significant element of fiction. The plot is the flow and sequence of events that leads from one incident to another, through the cause-and-effect principle. These events make up the whole story.

2. Setting: In a narrative, the setting is the time and the location where the events take place. It helps the readers picture out the main backdrop of a story. Most importantly, the setting sets the mood for a tale.

3. Characters: The characters bring a story to life. It can be a human, animal, plant, or any creature that speaks the dialogues and carries out the actions. Two types of characters are the protagonist and the antagonist.

5. Theme: This is the main idea of the story. The theme or the meaning of a literary work may be implied or directly stated.

5. Point of View: It is how the narrator tells the story or the perspective on how the story is presented. Three types of POVs are first person, second person, and third person.

What is a subplot?

In literature, subplots are secondary stories involving supporting characters. They may be connected to the main plot, which could further provide the readers with a clear understanding of a character’s identity and personality.

We all have a story to tell. But unlike fairytales, what started with a once upon a time doesn’t necessarily end with a happily ever after. Our endings may not always be happy, but we know that like novels and movies, we learn something from the storyline. And regardless of how good our exposition may be, there is no guarantee that in this life, our denouement will be as good. Nevertheless, we must learn how to deal with the surprises life may bring us—for the way we handle challenges determines how our ending would be.