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Term Definition

Plot is known as the foundation of a novel or story which the characters and settings are built around. It is meant to organize information and events in a logical manner. When writing the plot of a piece of literature, the author has to be careful that it does not dominate the other parts of the story.

Defining the plot

Plot may seem to be one of those words that is simple but is actually difficult to clearly define. The term simply refers to main story in a work of literature; it consists of what "happens." Along with the elements of character, setting, and theme, plot is generally considered one of the main elements of a narrative work.  

Examples of a plot

Here are some examples of the literary term plot being used correctly in a sentence. 

"Due to the fact that the plot failed to hang together in the new book, the reader thought that the author had lost his talent."

"The plot thickened as the characters all become increasingly suspicious of each others' motivations."

Just in case you're still a little confused about the meaning of the term plot, here are a couple basic rules you can follow in order to make sure that you are using the term correctly. 

  1. The plot just consists of what happens within a given story. Anytime you engage in storytelling, you are by definition laying out a plot. Every answer to the question of what happened" almost necessarily contains a plot within it. 
  2. The term plot can sometimes be used in a somewhat metaphorical way in order to talk about situations in real life. This is due to the fact that people generally think about their own lives as stories: one thing happens, then another thing happens, and so on. 

Psychological roots

It is clear that the concept of plot is deeply rooted in human psychology in general, and the human experience of time and space in particular. People naturally experience their own lives in such a way that they trace out a plot over time. For example, it is in principle possible to write a biography of any given person's life, starting from the moment of his birth and proceeding to the moment of his death. This would be the plot of that person's life. Due to the simple fact that people experience different situations over time, the notion of plot is almost built in to the way that people have to make sense of their lives. 

Historically, this also explains why the earliest works of literature are generally epic poems: the plots of these works essentially tell the stories of the lives and adventures of great men across different cultures. In this context, it is also interesting to think about the way in which more experimental, late-modern literature tends to experiment with and destabilize the notion of plot. This would seem to mirror a way of experiencing the world that is perhaps not quite as coherent or linear as it used to be.

This would also explain why a sense of meaningless is one of the main issues confronting society in these times. In a way, it could be suggested that the historical plot has been increasingly lost: people often live in such a way that they have difficulty constructing coherent stories (or plots) that are reflective of the meanings of their lives. 

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Synonyms: plot

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