The Dramatic Structure

What is it?

Dramatic structure is the idea that storytelling follows a set pattern, in order to create drama.

The most popular theory is that described by German writer Gustav Freytag (1816-1895). He based his theory on studies of Greek and Shakespearean works, ultimately coming to identify an arc consisting of five core parts.

Exposition Exposition is the opening of the drama in which the basic premises are laid out. This includes an introduction to the characters, their motivations, and the setting.
 Rising Action The characters and story begin to evolve into drama, often triggered by an action or event. Emotions, danger, ambitions, and potential consequences grow.
 Climax The rising action meets its height. Circumstances cannot continue as before, and so a conflict, realisation, or declaration must occur. The original circumstances in the exposition are lost.
 Falling Action The after-effects of the climax begin to change the landscape of the story. More drama may occur, but the fate of those involved is already becoming clear.
 Dénouement The story arc ends as characters and setting reach their final positions, often in happiness or tragedy. However, a ‘twist’ may be added to make the audience question all that has gone before.