What to Know About Rising Action

Updated: 3 days ago


Perhaps I should have brought the plot diagram back up during our discussion on the first stage of storytelling – the beginning. But since there’s little doubt that you already knew the basics of what a beginning is, I figured I’d save it for this week instead...

When we’re discussing something a little less well-known...

Like rising action.

So here’s your link to a basic rundown of plot, including that diagram. And here’s the actual diagram itself.

Now, the beginning of a story is just that very first slanted line right there before it dips. In fact, you could even say that the beginning of a story is just the first two-thirds of that very first slanted line. It’s that brief of a segment.

The rising action, on the other hand, is the longest and most detailed part of the story 99.9999999 times out of 100. Or more.

And once you understand exactly what it is and what it involves, you’ll understand precisely why.

My definition go-to, Dictionary.com, describes rising action as, “a related series of incidents in a literary plot that builds toward the point of greatest interest.”

Personally, I like that bare-bones explanation. But let’s give it some weight all the same.

Rising Action:
There are five stages of every novel, no matter the genre, with the beginning coming first (obviously) and the rising action coming right after it to build off of whatever was established in that introductory segment.
You can think of this second stage as the build-up. It’s the main character’s uphill journey toward reaching his main objective, whatever that objective is. And it’s going to include “flirtations” with whatever is trying to keep him from that goal: small and mid-sized defeats and triumphs that purposely point to the next stage to come.

In order to grasp how crucial rising action is to a story, I’m going to have to briefly jump ahead. Because “the next stage to come” in the story is the climax.

This is what is sometimes referred to as “the darkest moment.” It’s where the hero has to face his fears outright and battle whatever inner or outer demons are keeping him from his goal.

The climax is meant to be the most intense point of a story. Which means there’s a lot riding on the rising action’s shoulders.

Which is why it’s so very long. It has a lot to cover.

Going back to that plot diagram, take careful notice of how it isn’t just one straight shot upward. There are peaks and valleys to indicate those “small and mid-sized defeats and triumphs” mentioned above.

That’s accurate enough, though there can be many more setbacks and victories than that – just as long as the character keeps ultimately moving forward.

I should also point out that, whereas the climax of the story in the diagram is shown as being about, what, maybe two-thirds of the way through the plot? It’s really more like three-quarters minimum. Four-fifths to five-sixths might be more realistic, and it could be even closer to the end than that… elongating the rising action segment further and further.

That’s perfectly acceptable. Perhaps even necessary as you build a case toward explaining everything in the beginning and everything that’s still to come.

Which, again, is a lot to cover.

Just as long as you can keep that section interesting and relevant, you should be fine though.

And, of course, we’ll go into greater depth discussing what an “interesting and relevant” rising action means going forward.


Editor’s Note: Read the next post on rising action here.

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