We all love our stories; don’t we? But each story, whether it be in a novel, an epic poem, a play or a film, has one thing in common and that is a plot. Webster defines a plot in two ways, first definition is that it plan made in secret by one or more persons to do something evil. And the second definition states that it is the sequence of events in a story as written by an author. But often these two definitions intersect because a story usually has both a hero on a quest for something good and a villain who is planning and plotting to thwart him or hinder him or her in some way. But sometimes the villain is not a person at all, but a thing, obstacle or an insurmountable problem that the person faces on an internal level. And sometimes our obstacle is often personified by a person that represents the problem.
Plot formation itself, however, follows a specific pattern that takes the shape of a kind of a bell shaped curve with an introduction, rising action, a climax, falling action, and resolution and conclusion. These are the important working parts of a story. In the introduction, we meet the main characters and find out their agendas and motivations, and with the rising action of the interactions between the characters we have our conflict because without conflict we have no story. In the climax we have the main dramatic event take place which is the turning point of the story. And in falling action we have a gradual winding down of the story in which all the loose ends are tied up and problems are resolved. And in our conclusion we either have a firm ending, happy or sad, or and open ending in which the reader concludes the story in his own mind and which often paves the way for a sequel.
A good example of plot formation would be in Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” in which you have a conflict between two feuding families to keep two young lovers apart and their quest to stay together. The story climaxes when the pair run away to be together with the help of a clergyman and the whole thing is resolved with the untimely deaths of both lovers by suicide which leads to a pretty firm and final sad ending. The falling action lies in the priest’s internal reflections on the situation and the grim consequences for both the families.
This is just one bare bones example of a plot, but often a story contains one or more subplots with conflict also involving of the minor characters to flesh the story out. For an example, in an old movie called “The Paper” we have a major competition between two major newspapers in New York for survival in the marketplace and to be the first paper to publish the most important crime story of the year. But we also have a subplot playing out at the protagonist newspaper with the conflict between two editors for control of the newspaper, one male and one female, which climaxes with a physical fist fight between the pair which ends in bloody noses and the two rivals becoming friends, Also there is an even smaller subplot in the story involving a rooky photographer and her quest to get the perfect photo of the suspect in a crime of the century. This movie had a firm happy ending with all the heroes in the story winning the day. These subplots give an extra dimension to the story and the reader added insight into the personalities of the characters.
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