The Plot Diagram: Journeying Through A Story by Rusti Lehay

The Plot Diagram: Journeying Through A Story by Rusti Lehay

If you have pooh-poohed the idea of writing a book, yet a terrific idea niggles at the corners of your thoughts on Sunday mornings, well, welcome to the world of storytelling defined! Whether you're curious about the process or an aspiring writer, an avid reader, or a student trying to analyze a narrative, understanding the components of a story and how they interact is crucial. Allow me to give you my take on the structure of narratives, exploring character motivations, plot, setting, theme, and conflict. Ready?


What drives a character to act in a certain way? Is it fear, love, greed, or something else? Motivations can be categorized into three broad types: basic, noble, and evil. Basic motivations include survival, fear of failure, peer pressure, curiosity, guilt, desire, and instability. Noble motivations can be love, loyalty, honour, obedience, vengeance, a fight against inequality, or the search for fulfilment. On the other hand, evil motivations consist of hatred, dishonour, pride, greed, revenge, lust, and jealousy.

2. PLOT: The Heart of the Story

In a nutshell, a plot is what happens in a story. It consists of the following:  

  • Exposition, where the setting and characters are introduced, 
  • the Rising Action where a character tries to solve a conflict, 
  • the Climax, which is the tensest moment of the story, 
  • the Falling Action, where characters begin to apply a solution to the conflict and tie up loose ends, 
  • and finally, the Resolution, which shows how everything turns out.

3. SETTING: The Backdrop of the Narrative

The setting is where and when a story takes place. More often than not, a story has more than one setting, which contributes to the narrative's mood, atmosphere, and overall aesthetic.


4. THEME: The Underlying Message

The theme is the message or meaning of a story. It's what's in it for the reader—the lesson they might glean from the narrative, the deeper insights they might discover about life or human nature.

5. CHARACTERS: The Soul of the Story

Characters bring life to the story. They can be: 

  • Static (does not go through any change), 
  • Dynamic (goes through some kind of change), 
  • Flat (has only 1 or 2 traits; often a secondary character), 
  • Round (complex, realistic character).

6. POINT OF VIEW: Through Whose Eyes?

The point of view determines who's telling the story. It could be 

  • The first person (the narrator tells the story using 'I' & 'me'), 
  • The second person (the narrator directly addresses the reader using 'you'), 
  • Or the third person (the narrator is not part of the story and refers to characters as ‘he,' ‘she,' & 'they').

7. CONFLICT: The Engine of the Plot

Conflict is a problem a character has to solve. It drives the plot forward and can take various forms: 

  • Person versus person (a conflict between two forms of like beings), 
  • Person versus self (the main character has a problem with him/herself), person versus environment (character struggling against the forces of nature), or 
  • Person versus technology (the character has a problem with robots or machines).

This is my simple breakdown of the different elements that make up a story. For more insights into the world of storytelling, how to write marketing copy, or how to develop a consistent habit of writing, contact me for a free 15-minute inspiration boost on Zoom.


Rusti L Lehay, a global editor and book and writing coach, created over 40 articles guiding writers to authordom. Witnessing writers find and speak in their own voice to serve the real boss, the audience, not the editor, is one of Rusti’s greatest joys. She offers bi-monthly online writing STAY-Treats and monthly lounges and teaches weekly creative writing classes. Her primary mission is to inspire, provide value and make writing fun and easy.


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