Plot and structure

Plot refers to the deliberate sequencing of events in the text while the 'story' is simply an account of what happens.

Writers may play about with time scales, so a plot sequence may not be chronological (as it happens in real time). You should always ask yourself why a writer might have structured a story in sections. How does it add to your understanding of the story or themes?

Part of good storytelling is ensuring readers want to find out what happens next. Writers use different devices to maintain the reader's focus and attention.

Examples of common storytelling devices you might come across:

  • Cliffhangers are deliberate breaks in the story at points of heightened tension.
  • Turning points are moments that have an important effect on the characters and/or the unfolding of the plot.
  • Final resolution depends on what the writer has decided will happen to the characters at the end. What questions are answered or raised?

Texts have a 'shape'. Think of the structure of a poem, play or novel as being like an architect's plan. The words are the bricks, but underlying them is an overall shape or design.

Structure refers to how a text is divided up. Acts, scenes and chapters usually indicate structure and are deliberately used to divide up the text in a meaningful way.

Characterisation

Characterisation is the way a writer creates a fictional character. Understanding characterisation is central to analysing fiction.

A writer might develop a character through:

  • narrative voice
  • appearance
  • behaviour/actions
  • other characters' comments
  • other characters' actions

By showing us the motivations, feelings, actions, regrets, limitations, aspirations and experiences of their characters, writers can give us an understanding of the themes they are dealing with.

Setting can also be used to tell us something about the characters, as well as representing the broader themes within a text.