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The Elements of Fiction: Plot


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Plot lecture for undergraduate general education course in fiction

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The Elements of Fiction: Plot

  1. 1. G-EN270 INTRO TO FICTIONThe Elements of FictionPlot Bruce Clary, McPherson College, McPherson, Kansas
  2. 2. G-EN270 FICTIONPlot is a sequence of events that “hasa beginning, a middle, and an end.” —Aristotle, Poetics
  3. 3. G-EN270 FICTION“A plot is a series of eventsdeliberately arranged so as toreveal their dramatic, thematic,and emotional significance.” —Janet Burroway
  4. 4. G-EN270 FICTIONTwo dynamics of plot• Movement in time• Movement in dramatic tension
  5. 5. G-EN270 FICTIONMovement in time / chronology• Unified plots• Episodic plots
  6. 6. G-EN270 FICTIONThree chronological techniques• Flashbacks• Foreshadowing• Discontinuity
  7. 7. G-EN270 FICTIONMovement in dramatic tension“Conflict is the first encountered and thefundamental element of fiction, fundamentalbecause in literature only trouble is interesting. “Only trouble is interesting.” —Janet Burroway
  8. 8. G-EN270 FICTIONMovement in dramatic tension• Conflict (internal and/or external)• Rising action• Crisis and climax• Dénouement or resolution
  9. 9. G-EN270 FICTIONThe beginning of stories• Exposition• In medias res
  10. 10. G-EN270 FICTIONThe middle of stories• Rising action • Characterized by a series of reversals, called peripeteia
  11. 11. G-EN270 FICTIONShort story endings• Closed ending• Open ending• Epiphany
  12. 12. G-EN270 FICTIONOther models for analyzing plot• 3-D: Drama equals desire plus danger• Story as war (Mel McKee)• Connection – disconnection
  13. 13. G-EN270 FICTIONWhat readers demand from plots• Unity – plausible cause-and-effect, not just dominoes falling• Significance – shows us something about human nature and human nature. A model of reality.