Aristotle’s Unified Plot structure Aristotle identified the basic linear plot structure in 350 BC as a simple triangle of beginning, middle and ending. He observed that the middle section might involve some form of crisis, resolved by the end of the story. Beginning Middle End
In 1863, the German novelist Gustav Freytag published Die Technik des Dramas in which he outlined his pyramid structure for plot. Adapting Aristotle’s basic triangle he added the idea of the plot complicating, introducing conflicts and building to a climax point, after which it falls away as the conflicts are worked out, the mysteries solved and finally left with a satisfactory resolution. Exposition Climax End Falling Action Rising Action Freytag’s Pyramid
This structure was developed in the 1960s by Tzvetan Todorov into his theory of equilibrium - disequilibrium - equilibrium. Exposition - the start of the story, the established situation before the story begins. Climax - the turning point and the point of highest intensity emotionally or through action Resolution - any disruptions caused by the rising action are returned to a state of normalcy: mysteries are solved, and as far as possible the established order of the start is returned. Where it cannot be returned, justice is served. Rising Action - the series of complications, conflicts and layers of mystery that build towards the climax Freytag’s Pyramid Falling Action - action following the climax and pieces of a jigsaw falling into place to solve the mysteries
Freytag’s structure is noticable in Hollywood output and is striking feature of Hollywood film trailers. The form of the triangle used below best represents the timing and structure used in many trailers where a quiet opening builds to a punch in the music followed rapid action and a falling away to quiet sounds and credits at the end.