Plot (storytelling)

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In literary theory  - but also in films , comics and computer games  - a "sequence of related, [causally] linked events or processes is referred to as a plot , alternatively myth, fable, storytelling, plot or scenario (also scenario , scenario ) , which form the dramatic framework ”of the respective work.

The term stands in contrast to the material or the story (sometimes, somewhat confusing, there is talk of fable ), i.e. terms that are used in various literary theories to denote the "purely chronologically ordered sequence of events and processes" behind the poetic design form. . The plot - that is Manfred Pfister's fable , the subject of Tomaševskij and Lotman , the Aristotelian myth or the plot of the Anglo-Saxons - on the other hand already offers “essential structural elements in itself”, including “causal and other meaningful relations, phase formation, temporal and spatial regroupings”.

Since the events of a course are not isolated but presented in their mutual conditionality, this causal network of relationships forms the action or the plot of a narrative. The definition of the English writer EM Forster has become famous , according to which the sentence “The king died, and then the queen died” expresses a story , while “The king died, and then the queen died of grief " Qualifies as a plot or" action ". Jürgen Link provides an alternative definition, according to which an action is a system of text features or signs that are based on a configuration (narrative theory) and can be arranged on a time axis.

The classical doctrine of the action according to Aristotle

The classic definition of action is undertaken by Aristotle 's poetics (in which “action” alternately means “knot”, “fable” or “myth” - what is meant, but always the course of events or its factual context).

Beginning - middle - end

For Aristotle, the main feature of the plot is that it has a beginning, middle and end . A beginning is "what does not necessarily follow something else, after which something else naturally occurs or arises"; Middle is “that which both itself follows something else and also leads to something else”; an end is "that which itself naturally follows something else, necessarily or as a rule (that is, most likely), while nothing else occurs after it". As a result, actions, if they are to be well put together, should "not begin at any point nor end at any point", but must adhere to the principles mentioned.

Simple and complicated plot

Aristotle also differentiates between "simple" and "complicated" action. While an anticipated end finally occurs with the simple action , the complicated action surprises one with a different ending than the one initially promised. It runs in a first chain of connections, which suddenly and necessarily jumps into another, usually an opposite end. What was actually meant suddenly changes ( peripetia ) into the opposite of what it was put into practice (e.g. no longer salvation, but destruction) and removes the ground from the original conception of the presented conditions and their extensions. All assumptions made must be reevaluated in accordance with the new direction of action: the enemy becomes a friend, aversion that one believed to be felt becomes love, faint-heartedness turns out to be boldness, etc.

Change of luck

According to Aristotle , this turnaround has the strongest effect on the viewer when, instead of an expected happiness, a misfortune occurs; The opposite direction is also possible, even more common, only (says Aristotle) ​​less effective. The sympathy of the viewer grows the more similar the person affected by the change of fortune is, since one is not reluctant to treat people whom one considers to be worse than oneself, and those whose situation one considers to be more enviable than one's own sees falling; Only the fall of someone like you really affects you, as this does not seem to rule out fate for you.


Aristotle considers a story (that is, an act that has been carried out) to be “something more philosophical and serious” than the reproduction of what actually happened at any point in time, since it would convey “more of the general”, whereas descriptions of facts “convey the particular”. In order to test its well-formedness, one should therefore “first sketch in general terms and only then work it out scenically and develop it to its full length”, analogous to the example given by Aristotle himself on the basis of the Odyssey : “Someone spends many years abroad, is constantly watched by Poseidon and is all alone; at his home it is the case that suitors consume his property and stalk his son. He returns after severe distress and reveals himself to some people; he attacks his enemies, himself remains unharmed and destroys the enemies. "

Plot vs. material

In contrast to the substance or object of a representation, an action has real duration; its guaranteed end implies narrative tension , which is consequently a property of the plot, never of the subject .

See also the distinction and similar meaning of histoire versus discours , fabula versus sujet .

Basic forms of action

Differentiation according to content or genre

  • Romance : two people are meant for each other; but they are kept apart by extraordinary obstacles. It is taken for granted from the start that they have to come together or remain joyless forever.
  • Adventure : A hero undertakes an action and carries it out against resistance.
  • Investigation : Unknown circumstances or reasons and originators of an enigmatic act are revealed.
  • Hunting : someone is ceaselessly persecuted for something they did or supposed to have done.
  • Detection : Intricate relationships and relationships are revealed.
  • Schauer : space, time and people are turned into the unfamiliar and terrifying. The course of action is a sequence of strong effects through the material and the furnishings. See also Schauerliteratur and Schauerromantik .

Differentiation according to the structure

  • The events take place in increasing action up to peripetia .
  • The events take place in descending action up to the disaster.
  • There is a tectonic plot structure , a closed, symmetrical plot with the so-called Aristotelian units of place, time and plot as well as the focus on a central conflict, typical for the drama or the novel .
  • There is an atectonic plot structure or open form .

Differentiation according to importance

  • Main storyline
  • Subplot

Differentiation according to Art

  • External Action = Everything that is done and seen in a narrative.
  • Inner action = everything that people in a situation
    • think,
    • feel,
    • see,
    • feel,
    • smell,
    • taste,
    • Listen
    • say or talk.

What is going on in a person is often visible through facial expressions , gestures and posture (see also non-verbal communication ). In terms of language, the inner action is expressed through adjectives , verbs , pictorial choice of words and comparisons as well as direct and / or indirect speech .

Differentiation according to the presentation or mode of reception

  • direct action as action visible on stage
  • covert act , e.g. B.
    • spatially hidden action that is only presented by messenger report and wall exhibition, or
    • Spatially and temporally hidden action that has passed but occurred during the duration of the action (e.g. between different scenes or acts )

See also



  • Gero von Wilpert : Subject dictionary of literature (= Kröner's pocket edition . Volume 231). 6th, improved and enlarged edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 1979, ISBN 3-520-23106-9 (EA 1955).
  • Heinz Ludwig Arnold , Volker Sinemus (ed.): Fundamentals of literature and linguistics. Volume 1: Literary Studies . 6th edition. Munich 1973, 1980, ISBN 3-423-04226-5 .
  • Jürgen Link: Basic concepts in literary studies. A programmed introduction on a structuralist basis . 2nd Edition. Munich 1974, 1979.
  • Manfred Pfister: The drama. Theory and analysis. 1st edition. Wilhelm Fink, Munich 1977, 2001 (extended and bibliographically updated reprint of the reviewed and supplemented edition 1988), ISBN 978-3-7705-1368-0 .
  • Bernhard Asmuth : Action . In: Reallexikon der Deutschen Literaturwissenschaft . Volume 2 (HO), ed. by Harald Fricke. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2000, pp. 6–9, ISBN 3-11-015663-6 .
  • Dieter Burdorf, Christoph Fasbender, Burkhard Moennighoff (Hrsg.): Metzler Lexicon literature . Stuttgart / Weimar 2007, ISBN 978-3-476-01612-6 , p. 302.
  • Kai Nonnenmacher, Christian von Tschilschke : Acting and Negotiating: A History of Science Review and Outlook. In: Dagmar Schmelzer (Ed.): Acting and negotiating. Romanistischer Verlag, Bonn 2007, pp. 17–42.

Individual evidence

  1. plot . In:; accessed on August 6, 2016.
  2. ^ Boris Viktorovič Tomaševskij : Teorija literatury . Gos. izd., Leningrad 1925, cit. Jurij Michajlovič Lotman : The structure of literary texts , translated by R.-D. Wedge. Wilhelm Fink, Munich 1972, p. 330, cit. Manfred Pfister : The drama. Theory and analysis. 11th edition. Wilhelm Fink, Munich 2001, p. 267.
  3. Pfister ( Das Drama , p. 269) defines action with Axel Hübler as "intentionally chosen, not causally determined transfer of a situation into another", that is, as an intermediate category between his story and the fable , in which the dramatic form of representation is implied , but not the predominance of a causal logic: cf. Axel Hübler: Drama in the mediation of plot, language and scene. A representative study of plays from the 50s and 60s . Bouvier, Bonn 1973, p. 20.
  4. ^ Pfister: Das Drama, p. 266.
  5. ^ Edward Morgan Forster: Aspects of the Novel . Arnold, London 1927.
  6. von Wilpert, p. 324
  7. von Wilpert, p. 819 f.
  8. ibid.
  9. von Wilpert, p. 324.
  10. ^ Heinz Ludwig Arnold , Volker Sinemus (Ed.): Fundamentals of literature and linguistics. Volume 1: Literary Studies . 6th edition. Munich 1973, 1980, ISBN 3-423-04226-5 , p. 257