A plot map is a conceptual device used by writers, critics and students of literature to give visual form to the action in a story. Generally, successful plots can be conceived of as a mountain, with the peak being the climax.
In terms of plot, the elements of a story consist of exposition, in which the characters are introduced and the problem defined, followed by rising action as the characters attempt to cope with the problem until the climax ensues. Visually, a plot map depicts the exposition as the flat ground at the foot of the mountain and rising action as the long slope up to the peak, which represents the climax. Following the climax, there is falling action, or denouement, leading to resolution. Plot maps express this falling action as the down slope of the mountain, with the resolution being the flat ground on the far side.