What is the plot in literature?

We explain what the plot of a work is and what are the parts that make up its structure. In addition, what types of frames exist.

  1. What is the plot?

When we talk about plot, in the context of stories and narratology, we refer to the chronological thread of the events presented in a narrative work to the reader , that is, to the set of events that take place in the story. Some more or less synonymous terms of it are  argument ,  anecdote  or  story .


The plot events vary according to the story told . However, its structure and its way of advancing responds to recognizable patterns, which have been dealt with by scholars of the story since ancient times. The Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BC) was one of the first to propose a method for the study of these matters in his  Poetics  (355 BC).

According to Aristotle, every plot consisted of three parts: an introduction , a complication and an outcome. This structure is considered classic in the study of stories even today.

  • Introduction . In this first section the characters and the context in which the story will take place are announced: place, time, and the basic conditions from which the climax of the story will unfold. The rules of the game of the story and the elements that the reader will have later on should be clear.
  • Complication, development or knot . Here are the impediments, obstacles or complications that lead to the climax of the story, that is, to its point of greatest emotional tension.
  • Outcome or solution . The final segment of the plot, in which the events of the complication find a final solution, not necessarily beneficial to the protagonists, nor happy, but a final, final solution. It is the end of the plot, there is nothing more to tell after the outcome.

Many other writers and thinkers have contributed to the definition of the plot. The Russian Formalism school, which emerged in the twentieth century in pre-revolutionary Russia, was one of the intellectual groups that made the greatest contributions in the field of the study of the plot ( syuzet  in Russian) by the Literary Theory.

Similarly, Sergio Pitol, a contemporary Mexican writer, affirmed that one must “love the plot more than the outcome”, explaining with it that in literary creation, rigor must be placed in the plot and not in surprising or mysterious endings.

  1. Frame types

Disclosure frames occur when the main conflict ends.

We can talk about various types of frames, according to different classification criteria, for example:

  • According to his term . That is, according to the recurring criteria on the closing moment of the story.
  • Resolution frames . Those in which the end occurs when an impediment or an obstacle has been saved for better or worse: when a sick person is cured (or dies), when a rival is defeated (or defeated by), when conquered (or is lost) to the girl, etc. They can usually be summed up in what is achieved (or not) what was sought.
  • Revelation frames .  Are those in which the closure occurs when a main conflict, greater than the situations witnessed by the protagonist, have their term. For example, when a war ends, when old age or death is reached, when the years pass, etc.
  • According to their presentation modes . That is, according to the textual strategy you use to advance your story.
  • Narrative plot . That which is composed of events, actions, a count of events.
  • Descriptive plot . The one that advances through the description, that is, the detail of characters, scenarios, etc.
  • Argumentative plot . It is the one that advances based on the defense or attack of certain specific positions within the text .

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