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What is Freytag's Pyramid?

A structure for organizing plot developed by German playwright Gustav Freytag in the 19th century.

Freytag's Pyramid: Building Your Story's Structure for Maximum Impact

Named after German playwright Gustav Freytag, this structure breaks down the plot of a story into five parts: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution or denouement. The exposition sets the stage, introducing the characters, setting, and conflict. The rising action involves a series of events that build tension and lead to the climax, the moment of highest tension and greatest emotional impact. The falling action shows the aftermath of the climax and begins to tie up loose ends. Finally, the resolution or denouement offers closure and brings the story to a satisfying conclusion.

Freytag's Pyramid is a valuable tool for writers, as it ensures that a story has a clear and engaging structure. However, it should be noted that not all stories need to follow this pattern exactly- some may have a slow build to the climax, while others may skip the falling action entirely. Nevertheless, understanding the basic structure of Freytag's Pyramid can help writers create stories that are cohesive, engaging, and emotionally powerful.

Freytag's Pyramid in Action: Two Examples of its Use in Literature

Freytag's Pyramid is widely used in literature, and two notable examples include:

Example 1: To Kill a Mockingbird

In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, the exposition introduces the setting of Maycomb, Alabama and the main characters, including Scout and her father, Atticus Finch. The rising action includes events such as Atticus defending Tom Robinson in court, leading up to the climax where Atticus shoots the mad dog and Scout and Jem are attacked. The falling action sees the town's small-mindedness exposed even as Boo Radley is revealed to be a hero, and the resolution ties up loose ends such as Bob Ewell's revenge.

Example 2: The Lord of the Rings

J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings follows the classic hero's journey in which the protagonist, Frodo, must overcome obstacles and complete a series of quests. The exposition introduces the hobbits and sets up the importance of the Ring of Power. The rising action sees Frodo and his companions encountering various dangers and facing internal conflicts, leading up to the climax at Mount Doom. The falling action shows the consequences of the destruction of the Ring and the resolution offers closure with Frodo and the other hobbits returning home to the Shire.