Freytag’s Pyramid


Taken from Wikipedia

Gustav Freytag considered plot a narrative structure that divides a story into five parts, like the five acts of a play. These parts are: exposition (of the situation); rising action (through conflict); climax (or turning point); falling action; and resolution.



The exposition introduces all of the main characters in the story. It shows how they relate to one another, what their goals and motivations are, and the kind of person they are. The audience may have questions about any of these things, which get settled, but if they do have them they are specific and well-focused questions. Most importantly, in the exposition, the audience gets to know the main character (protagonist), and the protagonist gets to know his or her main goal and what is at stake if he or she fails to attain this goal and if he eventually attains this goal

This phase ends, and the next begins, with the introduction of conflict.

Rising action

Rising action is the second phase in Freytag’s five-phase structure. It starts with the death of the characters or a conflict.

“Conflict” in Freytag’s discussion must not be confused with “conflict” in Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch’s critical apparatus to categorize plots into types, e.g., man vs. society. The difference is that an entire story can be discussed according to Quiller-Couch’s mode of analysis, while Freytag is talking about the second act in a five-act play, at a time when all of the major characters have been introduced, their motives and allegiances have been made clear (at least for the most part), and they now begin to struggle against one another.

Generally, in this phase the protagonist understands his or her goal and begins to work toward it. Smaller problems thwart their initial success and, in this phase, progress is directed primarily against these secondary obstacles. This phase shows us how the protagonist overcomes these obstacles.

Inciting Incident

Right before the Climax is the Inciting Incident. This is the point of the plot that acts as a turning point and prepares the audience for the climax. In other structural criteria, the Inciting Incident is the event at the end of the Exposition that initiates the plot. The event in the middle is the Technical Climax, or the Reversal.


The point of climax is the turning point of the story, where the main character makes the single big decision that defines the outcome of the story and who he or she is as a person. The dramatic phase that Freytag called the “climax” is the third of the five phases and occupies the middle of the story. Thus “the climax” may refer to either the point of climax or to the third phase of the drama.

The beginning of this phase is marked by the protagonist finally having cleared away the preliminary barriers and being ready to engage with the adversary. Usually, entering this phase, both the protagonist and the antagonist have a plan to win against the other. Now for the first time we see them going against one another in either direct or nearly direct conflict.

This struggle results with neither character completely winning, nor losing, against the other. Usually, each character’s plan is partially successful, and partially foiled by his adversary. What is unique about this central struggle between the two characters is that the protagonist makes a decision which shows us his moral quality, and ultimately determines his fate. In a tragedy, the protagonist here makes a “bad” decision, a miscalculation that demonstrates his tragic flaw.

The climax often contains much of the action in a story, for example, a defining battle.

″Climax″ is the highest point of the story.

Falling action

Freytag called this phase “falling action” in the sense that the loose ends are being tied up. However, it is often the time of greatest overall tension, because it is the phase in which everything goes mostly wrong.

In this phase, the villain has the upper hand. It seems that evil will triumph. The protagonist has never been further from accomplishing the goal. For Freytag, this is true both in tragedies and comedies, because both of these types of plots classically show good winning over evil. The question is which side the protagonist has put himself on, and this may not be immediately clear to the audience.


The Resolution: where the story’s mystery is solved. In this stage all patterns of events accomplish some artistic or emotional effect.



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