Sunday, January 9, 2011

Story versus Plot

If you've ever written a flashback or a distant memory into a story, then you've already experienced the difference between Story and Plot.  As you write, you'll use plot as a tool for telling the events of the story, and it's important to note this distinction during our discussions...

In fiction, story refers to the linear timeline of events.  For example, the story of a person's life would naturally go birth-childhood-school-adulthood-retirement-death.  Plot, on the other hand, is the order in which the narrator chooses to tell these events.  In a linear narrative, all the events are related in a straight line, from the first event to the last event - hence, the plot and the story are the same.  A nonlinear narrative occurs when the events are told in a different order.  For example, instead of writing a biography that goes from birth until death, you could start with graduation from high school and then keep the story moving forward, having the narrator "look back" sometimes to share the events which happened beforehand.  A story like this might be told with the plot of graduation-college-birth-college-kindergarten-college-etc.  In this structure, the events of graduation and college are considered the narrative present, whereas the flashbacks to birth and kindergarten take place in the narrative past.

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