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A narrative arc is a way of organizing and diagramming the sequence of plot events. The narrative begins with the exposition, in which background information is explained to the audience. The narrative then shifts to rising action, which escalates the drama of the story by developing the characters and the plot. The story peaks at the climax, then relaxes during the falling action stage. Last is resolution, in which the story ends.


The exposition is the setup of the narrative. It includes the introduction of characters, setting, background events, and other information necessary to understanding the narrative as it will develop.

Rising Action[]

Rising Action is the stage of a narrative when the story escalates toward the climax. An important purpose of the Rising Action stage is to make the audience care about the characters and events in the story before the climax occurs. The audience must usually see the characters and events develop before the climax in order to appreciate the turning point of the story. The Rising Action stage almost always involves a series of events, not simply one isolated event.

As the name Rising Action suggests, this stage often employs storytelling techniques such as suspense, foreshadowing, and flashbacks to develop the characters and events, as well as to emphasize the expectation of a climactic event.


Throughout Rising Action the audience has been expecting, fearing, or perhaps needing something major to happen about the characters, places, and/or events they've become invested in. Everything comes together in the climax for good or ill. This is the major battle, the biggest test, the most desperate ordeal of the protagonist. After all the suspense and mystery of the Rising Action, it's finally time to rip the bandaid off.

It is important to realize that the climax depends on how one interprets the plot of the narrative. For example, if the audience views the plot of The Lion King as primarily Simba's struggle against Scar, the climax would be the final battle between the two. However, if the audience considers the plot of the movie to be primarily Simba's identity crisis, one could consider Simba's conversation with Mufasa's ghost as the climax.

Falling Action[]

After the excitement of the climax, things tend to slow down. The Falling Action stage is often a time of recovery, reflection, and rest. The tension introduced by the Rising Action and peaked by the climax must now be calmed.

While Rising Action is generally a very long and intense stage, Falling Action usually takes up a considerably smaller portion of the narrative.


The Resolution is the conclusion of the narrative. It can range from simple to complex. Classic examples of a simple resolution are from many fairy tales ("and they lived happily ever after. The end.") and Scooby Doo (wherein the gang explains the mystery).

When complex, though, the resolution can significantly develop the characters by showing the end result of all their training and trials. It is here that the protagonist shows how adept he is at using his newfound skills; he is a master and perhaps even a teacher of the lessons he learned.

Oftentimes authors will leave some things unresolved for a sequel or for audience speculation and criticism. While the resolution in many stories does set out to completely end the story, this is not necessarily the case for all narratives.

Narrative Arc Examples[]