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Chapter 2: Considering Structure

Freytag’s Pyramid

Melissa Ford Lucken

Freytag’s Pyramid, also known as the dramatic structure or Freytag’s Triangle, is a visual representation of the traditional five-part dramatic structure commonly found in literature, plays, and films. It was developed by German novelist Gustav Freytag in the 19th century and provides a framework for analyzing and understanding the progression of a story.

Here’s a detailed description of Freytag’s Pyramid:

Exposition: The exposition is the beginning of the story where the setting, characters, and background information are introduced. It establishes the context and provides essential details for the audience to understand the story. In Freytag’s Pyramid, the exposition sets the stage by presenting the characters, their relationships, and the initial conflicts or challenges they face.

Rising Action: The rising action follows the exposition and comprises a series of events and complications that develop the story and increase the tension. It builds upon the conflicts introduced in the exposition, presenting obstacles, conflicts, and challenges for the protagonist to overcome. Each event in the rising action should escalate the conflict and bring the story closer to the climax. This section of Freytag’s Pyramid showcases the protagonist’s journey and the gradual intensification of the conflicts they face.

Climax: The climax is the highest point of tension and the turning point of the story. It is the moment of greatest conflict or intensity where the protagonist faces their ultimate challenge. The climax often determines the outcome of the story and reveals the protagonist’s true character. It is a pivotal and dramatic moment that can be emotionally charged and has a significant impact on the resolution of the story. In Freytag’s Pyramid, the climax is the peak of the pyramid, representing the most intense and critical moment in the narrative.

Falling Action: The falling action follows the climax and shows the consequences of the protagonist’s actions or decisions. It wraps up loose ends and provides resolution to the main conflicts. The falling action serves to wind down the narrative and leads the story towards its conclusion. It addresses any remaining subplots or character arcs, reveals the aftermath of the climax, and sets the stage for the resolution. In Freytag’s Pyramid, the falling action is represented by the descending slope after the climax.

Denouement/Resolution: The denouement, also known as the resolution, is the final part of Freytag’s Pyramid where the story concludes. It offers closure and provides a sense of fulfillment for the audience. The denouement may tie up loose ends, reveal the ultimate fate of the characters, or reflect on the lessons learned throughout the story. It is a period of reflection and finality that leaves the audience with a satisfying ending. In Freytag’s Pyramid, the denouement is the base of the pyramid, representing the resolution and the winding down of the story.

Freytag’s Pyramid visually represents the dramatic structure of a story, with a rising action leading to a climax and a falling action leading to the resolution. It helps authors and readers analyze the progression of the plot, identify key story elements, and understand the emotional arcs within a narrative. While not all stories may fit perfectly into this structure, Freytag’s Pyramid provides a valuable framework for understanding and discussing the elements of dramatic storytelling.


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Freytag's Pyramid by Melissa Ford Lucken is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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