Freytag’s Pyramid is a powerful tool that shapes our understanding of narrative structure in storytelling.

It’s a roadmap for crafting compelling narratives that resonate with readers.

By breaking down a story into distinct parts, we can analyze the rise and fall of tension and plot.

Let’s explore how this classic framework can elevate our writing to new heights.

Overview Of Freytag’s Pyramid

Understanding the structure of a story is crucial in filmmaking.

Freytag’s Pyramid serves as a roadmap for narrative development.

It breaks a story into five key segments – each segment plays a pivotal role in building the story’s dramatic arc.

The first segment is the Exposition.

Here, we introduce the setting, characters, and the initial situation.

This segment sets the stage and gives audiences the context they need to understand the story’s world.

In many classic films, the exposition establishes a baseline that the rest of the film will build upon.

Following the exposition is the Rising Action.

During this phase, conflicts begin to emerge.

Characters face challenges and make choices that propel the story forward.

It’s in films like The Godfather where the rising action sees the protagonist drawn deeper into the family business, illustrating the escalation perfectly.


The Climax represents the turning point of the story.

It’s the moment of greatest tension where the main conflict reaches its peak.

Think of Star Wars: A New Hope, where the climax sees the Rebels attempting to destroy the Death Star.

The outcome of the climax can alter the course of the story dramatically.

The Falling Action follows the climax.

It resolves the remaining conflicts and subplots, leading us towards the story’s resolution.

In The Matrix, this is where Neo becomes fully realized as “The One” and begins to dismantle the artificial world.

Finally, we have the Dénouement.

This final segment wraps up the story.

Loose ends are tied up, and the characters’ lives after the climax are often revealed.

Although some stories may opt for an open-ended or ambiguous denouement, it generally provides closure to the narrative.

By utilizing Freytag’s Pyramid as a guide, we’re able to craft stories that not only captivate but also maintain a coherent and engaging structure.

This tool assists us in ensuring that each key element of our story is properly developed and contributes to the overall narrative arc.

The Five Parts Of Freytag’s Pyramid

Freytag’s Pyramid maps out the structure of a story into key segments that successively build up the narrative’s tension and resolution.

Understanding each part is crucial for both writers and filmmakers, as the framework is adaptable for a range of creative storytelling mediums.



The exposition sets the stage for our story.

Here, we introduce the settings, characters, and initial conflict.

Rising Action

Rising action ramps up the tension.

It’s where the main characters face a series of challenges or obstacles that propel the story forward.


This is the turning point of the narrative.

The climax is the most intense moment where the protagonist must face their biggest hurdle.

Falling Action

After the climax, the falling action starts to resolve the story’s conflicts.

It’s a time for the consequences of the protagonist’s actions to unfold.


The dénouement shows the aftermath and a return to a new normalcy.

It ties up any loose ends.


By carefully crafting each of these segments, we can create compelling and satisfying narratives that resonate with our audience.

We ensure our films carry the emotional weight each story demands, engaging the viewer from start to finish.

Because each part of Freytag’s Pyramid plays an integral role in storytelling, our focus remains not just on the high points like the climax but also on ensuring the transitions between phases are seamless and narratively sound.

Exposition: Setting The Stage

The exposition is where we lay the groundwork for our story.

It’s in this initial segment that we introduce the audience to the setting, characters, and the central conflict.

In film, think of the opening scenes of The Godfather as they unveil the Corleone family during the wedding.

This phase isn’t just about placing characters in their world, it’s about crafting the foundation upon which the entire narrative is built.

Key elements often revealed in the exposition include:

  • The protagonist’s ordinary world,
  • Background information essential to understanding the plot,
  • Initial relationships between characters,
  • The inciting incident that propels the narrative forward.

Without a solid exposition, viewers may find themselves lost as the plot progresses.

That’s why we focus on creating a compelling introduction that grips the audience’s attention.

Consider the exposition as an invitation to the audience – serving them the narrative on a silver platter and preparing them for the delicious twists ahead.

It’s our chance to make a powerful first impression and promise them a story worth investing in.

Our goal is to establish empathy for our characters.

When our audience understands the stakes involved, they become more than spectators – they become part of the journey.

Effective expositions don’t just happen.

They’re the result of meticulous planning and an acute awareness of the story’s direction.

We weave key details into these early moments, trusting they’ll pay off as the film unravels.

Remember, the exposition is just the first step on the Freytag’s Pyramid.

As we ascend towards the climax, each element introduced here will play a pivotal role in the unfolding drama.

So we make every scene, every line, and every shot count.

Rising Action: Building Tension

After setting the stage with a solid exposition, we’re now propelled into the heart of the story – the rising action.

This is where tension begins to escalate, and characters face a series of obstacles that complicate matters further.

The rising action demands careful pacing to keep viewers engaged.

Every challenge the protagonist encounters should lead to another, building momentum.

Think of the classic tension in Star Wars as Luke Skywalker discovers the force and battles the empire.

We must weave subplots seamlessly into the main narrative.

These subplots enrich the story, adding depth and complexity to the characters and their struggles.

In The Godfather, the intertwining tales of the Corleone family members serve as examples.

Critical elements in the rising action include:

  • Unexpected revelations,
  • Character development,
  • Increasing stakes.

As filmmakers, it’s crucial that we balance these elements to maintain a rhythmic increase in tension.

Actions and reactions must feel authentic, pushing the story forward without overwhelming the audience.

In Jurassic Park, the steadily mounting incidents of dinosaur encounters exemplify escalating tension done right.

Audiences are kept on edge, yet there’s enough room for character growth amidst the chaos.

Our goal is to ensure viewers are emotionally invested.

The rising action isn’t just about external conflicts, but also about internal battles within the characters.

This dual tension propels the narrative toward the climax, promising an impactful and memorable cinematic experience.

Weaving all these threads together calls for a keen understanding of dramatic structure.

By mastering this, we create rising action that’s not only thrilling but also meaningful, leading audiences to a climax that feels earned and satisfying.

Climax: The Turning Point

After carefully constructing the rising action, we reach the pivotal moment in Freytag’s Pyramid – the climax.

It’s the highest point of tension, where the main conflict reaches its peak and the outcome hangs in the balance.

This moment is critical as it determines the trajectory of the story and often signals a change in the protagonist’s fortunes.

The climax should be both inevitable and surprising, a balancing act that keeps the audience on the edge of their seats.

In The Godfather, the moment when Michael Corleone takes decisive action against the heads of the other families stands as a classic example.

It’s a turning point that reshapes the entire narrative landscape.

We strive to craft a climax that delivers on the build-up, providing a pay-off for the audience’s emotional investment.

The key aspects of a powerful climax include:

  • A confrontation that testifies to the protagonist’s growth,
  • A resolution of the primary story question,
  • Heightened stakes that underscore the significance of the moment.

In Avengers: Endgame, the climactic battle against Thanos underlines not just the physical stakes but the personal costs for the characters.

Each character arc intersects in this moment, amplifying the film’s emotional weight.

The impact of the climax resonates beyond the immediate spectacle.

It lays the foundation for the falling action and eventually, the denouement.

By nailing this critical juncture, we set the stage for a memorable and satisfying resolution that sticks with the audience long after the credits roll.

Falling Action: Resolving Conflict

After the crescendo of the climax, we’re ushered into the falling action – the phase where conflicts start to resolve.

It’s in this segment that filmmakers and writers tie up the loose ends of their narratives.

In falling action, subplots merge with the main arc, bringing together various elements that, until the climax, may have seemed disparate or secondary.

In The Godfather, for example, the falling action allows us to witness the consolidation of Michael’s power and the consequences of his choices.

This phase isn’t merely about winding down the story; it’s a critical juncture where the audience sees the transformation or the fallout of the climax.

In essence, it’s a bridge – one that carries characters and audiences alike from the heights of the story’s tension back to a new normality.

Responsibilities of the falling action include the following tasks –

  • Reinforcing the themes revealed by the climax,
  • Demonstrating character development as a result of preceding events,
  • Setting up any elements that may be explored in a sequel or connected story.

The pacing often decelerates during the falling action, allowing the audience to process the climax’s repercussions.

Films like Inception use this period to unravel complex plot points, reinforcing the audience’s understanding of the narrative and ensuring that the story’s final message comes through clearly and impactfully.

By carefully crafting the falling action, we ensure that the audience remains engaged, even as the story moves away from its zenith.

It’s this careful dismantling of the story’s tension that makes the narrative whole, giving audiences a chance to reflect on the journey before the final pieces fall into place.

Denouement: The Resolution

Following the falling action, we reach the denouement.

This is where all remaining mysteries and plotlines are resolved.

The term ‘denouement’ originates from the French word ‘denouer’, meaning ‘to untie’, and that’s exactly what this phase does.

It unties the narrative knots.

Citizen Kane’s denouement gives meaning to the film’s central mystery.

Viewers finally understand the significance of “Rosebud”.

Similarly, The Godfather concludes with Michael Corleone’s transformation into the mafia boss, cementing his character’s arc.

During the denouement, audiences see the aftereffects of the climax on the protagonist.

The characters reflect on their transformations or return to a state of normalcy.

While most often this leads to a sense of closure, some stories deliberately leave open-ended questions.

For example:

  • Inception ends with a spinning top that leaves its audiences pondering.
  • Gone with the Wind leaves us wondering about Scarlett O’Hara’s future.

The denouement doesn’t only serve as a conclusion to the story – it’s a critical component that can hint at future installments.

It sets the stage for potential sequels or spin-offs by introducing new possibilities or unresolved elements that beg exploration.

Think of the final scenes in The Empire Strikes Back.

The film ends on a note that sets up the anticipation for what is to come in Return of the Jedi.

The audience knows that the saga is far from over.

Crafting an effective denouement requires a balance.

It should provide a satisfying sense of completion while often leaving room for the audience’s imagination.

The goal is to conclude the current story while maintaining interest in the narrative world we’ve created.

Applying Freytag’s Pyramid To Your Writing

When we set out to craft a compelling narrative, whether for the silver screen or a captivating novel, a robust structure is our backbone.

Freytag’s Pyramid can be our guiding star.

Firstly, identify the key plot points that will form the basis of your narrative.

These are the inciting incident, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement.

Sketch a brief outline of your story, matching events and character developments to each phase of the Pyramid.

This helps ensure a balanced tale with a satisfying arc.

In the rising action, we must cultivate tension and build conflict.

This section is where characters face obstacles that propel the plot forward.

Be mindful to orchestrate a climax that delivers on the setup.

Our climax should be the turning point where the protagonist’s fortunes are at their most dire.

As we transition into the falling action, it’s time to start resolving the conflicts.

Here, we tie up loose ends and pave the way for a seamless denouement.

The denouement itself is where we get to illustrate the aftermath of our story’s climax.

But remember, not all threads need to be neatly tied; some of the most talked-about films like Inception leave audiences with lingering questions.

To proficiently apply Freytag’s Pyramid:

  • Think of it as a map rather than a rigid formula – Let creativity drive the narrative while using the Pyramid as a reference,
  • Allow room for modification and surprises that might enrich the story.

By considering these elements, our stories can find the right balance between structure and creative freedom.

Freytag’s Pyramid serves to enhance storytelling, not confine it.

Examples Of Freytag’s Pyramid In Literature

By analyzing well-known works, we gain insight into how Freytag’s Pyramid is skillfully employed.

One classic example is The Great Gatsby by F.

Scott Fitzgerald.

Here, the exposition introduces us to the Jazz Age and the characters.

The tension builds during Gatsby’s lavish parties, climbing towards the climactic confrontation in the hotel.

The story’s tragic ending unfolds in the falling action and denouement, leaving a lasting impression of the era’s disillusionment.

In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare masterfully uses the Pyramid.

The exposition sets the scene in Verona and introduces the feuding families.

The rising action sees Romeo and Juliet fall in love, creating tension that culminates in their secret marriage – the climax.

The deaths of Mercutio and Tybalt lead to the falling action, with the young lovers’ demise serving as a catastrophic but inevitable denouement.

To Kill a Mockingbird, written by Harper Lee, also follows this structure.

Scout’s memories serve as the exposition, situating us in the Deep South and its complexities.

The trial generates the rising action, climaxing with the verdict.

The attack on Scout and her brother, and Boo Radley’s intervention, provide the falling action that leads to a thought-provoking denouement.

Similarly, films adopt this narrative arc to capture audiences.

In Star Wars: A New Hope, the introduction of Luke Skywalker and the distant galaxy functions as the exposition.

The subsequent capture of Princess Leia and the quest to defeat the Empire carry us through an exhilarating rising action and climax.

The subsequent escape and regrouping of the heroes shape the falling action, guiding us towards a resolution that sets the stage for the saga’s continuation without drawing a definitive line under the story’s events.

These examples indicate the Pyramid’s versatility across genres and mediums, illustrating the timeless nature of Freytag’s analysis of dramatic structure.

Whether in the fanciful realms of space opera or the gritty realities of historical fiction, this narrative blueprint serves as a guiding light for storytellers seeking to engage their audience from beginning to end.

Exploring Freytag’s Pyramid In Writing: A Structured Approach – Wrap Up

Mastering Freytag’s Pyramid empowers us to craft compelling narratives that resonate with readers.

By strategically mapping out the rise and fall of our story’s action, we ensure that every twist and turn not only captivates but also provides a satisfying resolution.

Whether we’re penning a classic tragedy or a modern screenplay, this timeless structure is our blueprint for storytelling success.

Let’s harness the power of Freytag’s Pyramid to elevate our writing and leave a lasting impact on our audience.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Freytag’s Pyramid?

Freytag’s Pyramid is a model of narrative structure that outlines the typical phases of a story: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement.

It’s a tool for plotting the key events in a story.

How Do You Apply Freytag’s Pyramid To Writing?

To apply Freytag’s Pyramid to writing, identify the key plot points in your narrative and align them with the pyramid’s phases: establish the setting in the exposition, build tension in the rising action, create a pivotal climax, resolve conflicts during the falling action, and illustrate the story’s outcome in the denouement.

Does Freytag’s Pyramid Work For All Types Of Stories?

Yes, Freytag’s Pyramid is versatile and can be applied across various genres and mediums, including literature and film, as it represents a universal structure for crafting a compelling narrative.

Can Some Story Threads Be Left Unresolved Using Freytag’s Pyramid?

Yes, not all threads need to be resolved.

Leaving questions unanswered can create intrigue and maintain audience engagement even after the story concludes.

What Are Some Examples Of Freytag’s Pyramid In Literature?

Some literary examples include “The Great Gatsby,” “Romeo and Juliet,” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.

” These works demonstrate how the Pyramid can be used to structure narratives effectively.

Is Freytag’s Pyramid Relevant For Modern Storytelling In Films?

Yes, Freytag’s Pyramid is still relevant in modern storytelling, including in films.

“Star Wars: A New Hope” is an example of a film that adopts this narrative arc, illustrating the timeless appeal and utility of Freytag’s analysis.