Gustav Freytag was a German novelist who observed a similar pattern in the plots of almost all the stories and novels, including children’s stories. Based on analysis, he developed a pyramid like structure to explain the narrative structure of a story.
Freytag’s Pyramid (1863)
The Five Components of Plot Structure
The five components of Feytag’s Pyramid in a narrative can be explained using the story of “Little Red Riding Hood”.
- Component #1: The Exposition (Beginning)
This is where the main characters in the story make their appearance. The scene is set; the relationships and the background are put in place. Also the motivation the characters (or at least of the main character) are made clear.
Introduction of Little Red Riding Hood, her family, grandmother and the wolf. Red Riding Hood has to go to her grandmother’s cottage; the wolf makes a wicked plan. (Characters and their motivation are in place.)
- Component #2: Rising Action (Introduction of the Problem or Conflict)
A conflict or complication occurs, which involves the main character. This crisis is dealt with by some kind of action. There is a build-up of excitement and tension as the battle begins to resolve the crisis.
The wolf puts the grandmother in the cupboard, disguises himself and waits. (Narrative pace is quicker, stage is set for climax)
- Component #3: Climax (The High Point)
This is the high point of the story, often the most exciting part of the narrative. This is the part where the characters face their greatest challenge and the outcome of the story depends on how they resolve the conflict.
The wolf tricks Red Riding Hood and swallows her. (The main character faces the darkest hour of the narrative. Stage set for resolution of crisis.)
- Component #4: Falling Action (Winding Down)
The conflict is resolved by the main character or someone solves it for him. The pace of the action begins to slow and the story begins to wind down. The narration begins to move towards the ending.
The woodcutter rescues Red Riding Hood and her grandmother.
- Component #5: Denouement ( Ending)
Denouement (which is French for “to untie” or “unraveling”) is the conclusion of the story. The secrets, questions and mysteries are solved and explained to the reader. The conflict is resolved and loose ends tied up.
Red Riding Hood returns home; promises never to chat with wolves again!!
For children’s writers, the plot is one of the most critical aspects of effective storytelling. And being aware of the technical aspects of a story is important for crafting a narration that will hold the attention of the young reader all through the book.