In literature, the plot comprises all the events in a story particularly rendered towards the achievement of some particular artistic or emotional effect. In other words, the plot consists of what has happened in the story or novel, such as the conflicts that have occurred. An intricate, complicated plot is known as an imbroglio, but even the most linear plots can give rise to multiple inferences and interpretations. Much can be determined from the narrative which is formed by the plot.


Aristotle used the term mythos to denote plot. In literature, mythos is a traditional or recurrent narrative theme or plot structure. The description is deceptively simple, because the actions are performed by particular characters in a work and are the means by which they exhibit their moral and dispositional qualities. Aristotle notes that a string of unconnected speeches, no matter how well-exhausted, will not have as much emotional impact as a series of tightly connected speeches delivered by perfect speakers.

The concept of plot and the associated concept of plot construction, also called emplotment, has developed considerably since Aristotle made these insightful observations. The episodic narrative tradition which Aristotle describes has systematically been subverted over the intervening years, to the extent that the concept of beginning, middle, end are merely regarded as a conventional device when no other is at hand.

This is particularly true in the cinematic tradition, in which the folding and reversal of episodic narrative is now commonplace. Moreover, many writers and film directors, particularly those with a proclivity for the Modernist or other subsequent and derivative movements which emerged during or after the early 20th century, seem more concerned that plot is an encumbrance to their artistic medium than an assistance. Avant-garde novelist and critic Giorgio Manganelli said, "Personally, I'm interested in books that have a theme rather than a plot; which is not possible, or is excessively tough, to summarize."

The plot was also believed to have been a cardboard like sheet of paper used to inform actors of the Elizabethan Period of basic stage cues while in practice, and possibly even in performances.

Plot of historical events

Epistemological historian Paul Veyne (1971: 46-47; English trans. by Min Moore-Rinvolucri 1984: 32-33) applies the concept to real-life events, defining plot as “the fabric of history”, a system of interconnected historical facts:

“Facts do not exist in isolation, in the sense that the fabric of history is what we shall call a plot, a very human and not very ‘scientific’ mixture of material causes, aims, and chances--a slice of life, in short, that the historian cuts as he wills and in which facts have their objective connections and relative importance...the word plot has the advantage of reminding us that what the historian studies is as human as a play or a novel....then what are the facts worthy of rousing the interest of the historian? All depends on the plot chosen; a fact is interesting or history as in the theater, to show everything is impossible--not because it would require too many pages, but because there is no elementary historical fact, no event worthy atom. If one ceases to see events in their plots, one is sucked into the abyss of the infinitesimal.”


  • Bickham, Jack M. (1993). Scene & Structure: How to Construct Fiction with Scene-by-scene Flow, Logic and Readability. Cincinnati, OH: Writer's Digest Books. ISBN-10: 0-89879-551-6.

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