A plot diagram is a free, effective tool to visually display the events of a story. It is used by authors and readers to help analyze the narrative in more detail. It can be used to explore the narrative structure of a story and to identify when the key elements of the plot take place, specifically the exposition, rising action, climax, and resolution.

When reading a novel, we can often be so engaged that we don’t realize the elements that make up the story, and how this can impact our understanding and enjoyment of a book. A plot diagram template makes understanding stories easier, in a free and simple format.

Plot Diagram Templates

What is a plot diagram?

Plot diagrams are a type of graphic organizer, that helps us to analyze the plot structure and different elements of a story in an accessible and visually simple way. This enables authors to plan their writing in a way that will appeal to their readers.

Conversely, readers can use a plot structure diagram to explore the structure of the plot and key events in the story, in order to better understand the narrative.

A plot diagram template can be used by students to demonstrate their understanding of key events in a story that they have read. Many teachers use plot diagram templates as graphic organizers to help students with their literature studies. A plot diagram template is an excellent resource for the classroom, as it provides a clear visual representation of the plot. It can be used by students for presentations, research, or simply as a study method.

Authors use plot diagrams to help them establish the order of events in a story. It works as an outline for authors to help them structure their ideas and themes for the characters in their fictional writing. A plot diagram can be used when writing an epic novel or a short story, as they are an incredibly versatile type of graphic organizer. This makes them a great tool for authors of all genres.

Plot diagram templates are therefore a highly beneficial graphic organizer for both aspiring and established writers to construct their plots in an engaging, coherent and unique way.

Blank Plot Diagrams

Types of plot diagram

There are many different types of plot diagrams, and, depending on your reason for using them, there will a specific plot diagram template to suit your needs.

  • Linear plot diagram template: This is the classic style of plot diagram template. Linear plot diagram templates display the structure of the plot in a linear path, beginning with the exposition, then leading into the rising action, the climax, and, finally, the resolution.
  • Mountain plot diagram template: This style of plot diagram displays the plot as a mountain, with each point of the mountain representing a different part of the story. For example, you would have the rising action as the ‘slant’ of the mountain, the climax as the ‘peak,’ and the falling action and resolution on the other side of the mountain.
  • Tree plot diagram template: The tree plot map is a unique way to display the events of a story. It uses the ‘trunk’ to represent the main plot of the story, with the ‘branches’ representing any secondary events or subplots.
  • Hourglass plot diagram template: This plot diagram template uses an hourglass design to represent the events of the story. The rising action and climax will be in the middle, narrow point of the hourglass, with the introduction and resolution at the wider top and bottom sections.
  • Star plot diagram template: This plot diagram template uses a star shape to display the events of the story. Typically, the top and bottom points of the story will show the exposition and resolution, whilst the rising action and climax will be displayed by the left and right points.
  • Circle plot diagram template: This style of plot map diagram template is similar to the star shape, but uses a circle shape instead. The introduction and resolution will be at the top and bottom parts of the circle, and the rising action and climax will be at the left and right parts.

How to create a plot diagram

Before making a plot diagram, it is essential to understand the key elements of a typical plot.

  • Exposition: Also known as the introduction, this is where the setting and main characters are written about, to help set the scene for the plot.
  • Rising action: The rising action is where the groundwork is laid for the climax of the plot. It is also known as the ‘build-up.’
  • Climax: This is often the most exciting part of the story, where the conflict of the plot comes to a head. It can also be a turning point in the plot, where things change drastically for the main character.
  • Falling action: This is where writers describe the aftermath of the conflict and climax, and any loose ends and details are tied up.
  • Resolution: This part of the story often leaves a big impression on readers. It is where things are resolved and the story comes to an end.

Not all plots will follow this exact format, however, and, if you are teaching students about literature, they should be aware that not all plots are designed in the same way. For example, a short story may follow a completely different format in order to be more engaging for readers.

Steps to create a plot diagram

  1. Draw your plot diagram.
    This can be on paper or on a word processor, such as Microsoft Word. You can draw a shape, such as a rectangle, to represent the exposition of the story. This will be the first box of the plot diagram. You can include additional details about the setting and characters around this box if you wish.
    Then, create additional shapes to represent the other parts of the story (rising action, climax, falling action, resolution).
    However, you can make this step even easier by downloading one of our free plot diagram templates. You can customize the plot diagram worksheet for free to fit the plot of your story or the story you are analyzing.
  2. Add labels to each box.
    This is a key element to a plot diagram. Labels help you to understand what part of the plot each box represents. You could even write more information here to help you remember what happens in each section, in the form of bullet points or short sentences.
    If you are using a word processor to design your plot diagram, remember to create text boxes to add to each shape so that you can write the labels.
  3. Connect the boxes with lines.
    This helps to show the sequence of the story in a clear and visually appealing way.
    Depending on the type of plot diagram template you have chosen, your lines will not always connect in a straight line. You can create the plot diagram to look a certain way, and this does not always need to be a classic linear format.
  4. Fill in extra information about the story.
    You can edit the plot diagram template in whichever way suits you. You may wish to fill in the plot diagram with additional elements about the plot, particularly if you are studying for a test. This could include subplots, key themes, or notable moments of character development within the story.
  5. Add images and color to your plot diagram template
    A plot diagram template is completely free and customizable, so you can design it in whichever way looks best for you.
    If you are an author, you could add images around each box of the plot diagram to help you remember specific events or how the characters feel during these scenes.
    For students, allowing them to customize a plot diagram template is an excellent way to let them show their creativity and deepen their understanding of the plot. You could even encourage students to share their plot diagram templates as part of a class presentation about the novel you are studying.

Key features to include

Aside from the key components of the plot, there will be plenty of other details to analyze about a story plot.

When customizing your plot diagram template, there are other aspects of a story to consider including in the design.

  • Subplots: Subplots are secondary storylines and often involve characters aside from the main character.
  • Symbolism: This is the use of objects to represent key themes in a story. If you are encouraging your students to use plot diagrams, then symbolism is something they should look out for and record.
  • Foreshadowing: This is a technique used by many writers where they provide hints about what will happen later in the story. Foreshadowing is a common plot device, particularly in mystery or detective novels, and should be recorded in the plot diagram.

Plot Structure Diagrams

Benefits of using a plot diagram

A plot diagram is a beneficial graphic organizer for authors, readers, and students, helping each group to not only read better but write better, too.

  • A deeper understanding of the story
    A plot diagram template provides a clear breakdown of different events in the story, which makes it easier to understand how all of the different elements of the plot work together.
    Using a plot diagram can highlight the most important parts of a story, helping authors and students understand and explain key details that take place in the plot.
    Plot diagrams help to establish the exact format of the story, making it easier to identify how conflict is built, when characters change within the novel, or how the setting is significant. Completing a plot diagram after reading a novel will help students and readers instantly deepen their awareness of the narrative and its overall layout.
  • Comparing and contrasting story structures
    A plot diagram template is a free and clear way for students to see the different format of two stories.
    Using a plot diagram template for multiple stories enables students to consider how the rising action and falling action differ, and this is particularly interesting to analyze when comparing stories by the same writer.
    It is also useful to use plot diagram templates for short stories, as the plot structure has to be condensed in this style of writing. Using a plot diagram template in this way makes analyzing the plot and how the story progresses easy and clear for students.
  • A clear way to organize information
    A plot diagram template helps to create a clear design for the plot structure.
    For authors, using a free plot diagram template is an efficient way to plan your story structure, especially in the early stages of writing. With a plot diagram, you can easily map out the exposition, rising action, climax, and falling action, without needing to add all of the details yet.
    For students, a plot diagram template makes it easy to map out key events in the story, before you begin to analyze all of the details about characters and symbolism. It is a great outline to begin with before you explain the author’s intentions and closely consider their writing style.
  • Considering the narrative arc
    A plot diagram template provides a clear visual of the plot structure, showing how the story progresses, how the conflict unfolds, and the most important parts of the plot.
    The narrative arc is important to understand, as it helps you recognize how different elements work together to create the overall story. With this, you can analyze the plot structure in more detail and consider how different components build the conflict and climax in the story.
  • Improves your creative writing
    By considering the plot structure and how the overall narrative develops the setting and characters, you can create better stories and make your writing more unique.
    Authors can benefit from plot diagrams as they can identify areas of their story that need changing or certain details that don’t fit with the rest of the plot. This can help them to improve their writing and develop the format of their story.
    Students will also improve their writing skills by using plot diagram templates. By using these templates to map out the plot and consider how the different components of the story work together, students will have a better idea of what makes an engaging story. As a result, their own creative writing will develop. Great writers are often always avid readers, so being familiar with the format of stories will help to improve students’ writing.

Use a plot diagram template to format your story

There are endless benefits to using a plot diagram template.

Not only will you be able to format your story in a clear and exciting way, but you can also use the templates to add depth to your characters and create events for them that bring additional suspense to your narrative.

You can print one of our free plot diagram worksheets to help you map out all the different elements of your story. You can use our plot diagram templates with your students as a free tool to help them better understand stories and improve their own writing as a result.

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TemplateLab September 23rd, 2023
Eleanor Griffiths
Eleanor Griffiths