All terms

What is Rising Action?

The section of a story just before the climax in which the protagonist encounters obstacles and conflict that push the plot forward.

Rising Action: The Sudden Surge of Intensity in Storytelling

Rising action is the term used to describe the section of a story, generally following the exposition, where the protagonist is faced with a series of increasingly significant obstacles or conflict that propel the plot forward toward the climax.

This term is commonly used in creative writing as it is essential to engage the reader and build up tension and anticipation as the story progresses. During this phase, the stakes begin to rise, providing greater conflict and complexity, and the pace of the narrative quickens.

As a result of the events during the rising action, the protagonist is pushed to confront their own character flaws and grow or change in some way. This, ultimately, prepares them for the climax, the most intense part of the story where the rising action culminates.

Rising Action in Literature: Two Examples of its Use

See rising action in action in two of the most popular stories in literature.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

The rising action in The Lord of the Rings is characterized by Frodo and other members of the Fellowship encountering increasingly challenging obstacles as they work their way toward Mount Doom to destroy the One Ring.

This includes battles with the Nazgul and other minions of the Dark Lord, the betrayal of Boromir, as well as personal conflicts and challenges within the group. As the story progresses, the stakes grow progressively higher, as the fate of Middle Earth rests on Frodo's ability to accomplish his mission.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

In To Kill a Mockingbird, the rising action is marked by Atticus Finch's decision to defend Tom Robinson, a black man accused of rape, and the resulting pushback and prejudice the Finch family faces within their small town in Alabama, as well as the trial itself.

As the story progresses, the tension in the town begins to mount, and prejudice against the Finch family only grows stronger, leading to an explosive confrontation with tragic consequences that marks the story's climax.