what is falling action in a story?

What is Falling Action in a Story? [Definition and Examples]

What is falling action in a story? This is a question that writers often ask themselves, especially when working on a novel, short story, or screenplay. Falling action is the final part of the story that comes after the climax and before the resolution. It can be used to provide closure for the characters and the reader.

This article will discuss what falling action is and give examples to help you understand it better!

What Does Falling Action Mean in a Story?

What’s a falling action? In a story, falling action occurs after the turning point of the climax and signifies that the story’s main conflict is coming to a close.

Ideally, it resolves any loose ends in the plot and shows the aftermath of the climax. Falling action also typically leads to the resolution, which is the very end of the story.

Falling action should include a character’s reaction to the story’s climax, whether the protagonist, antagonist, or supporting characters.

For example, if a character overcomes obstacles in the climax, the falling action might show how that character copes with what they’ve been through and address how they plan to carry on from that point on.

Falling action should also include events that lead up to the final scene and resolution. For example, if two characters fight and one character wins, the falling action might show the loser trying to escape or the winner dealing with their injuries.

In a typical plot diagram illustrating a three-act structure, falling action is often shorter than the other parts of a story, such as the exposition and rising action. This is because there is typically less suspense and excitement after the climax (which should be the story’s most exciting and tense part).

However, falling action serves as an important part of the plot structure in a story, as it can help to tie up all the loose ends and provide closure for characters and readers.

How Does Falling Action Fit Into Overall Story Structure?

Falling action in a story is the part of the plot that comes after the story’s climax. This is when the tension and conflict start to resolve, and the story starts to wind down to its conclusion.

Falling action can sometimes be confusing because it can include a series of smaller events that lead up to the resolution. However, these events should all be connected and help to move the story forward.

In general, the function of a story’s falling action should be to provide closure for the story and tie up any loose ends.

rising falling action in a story

If you’re wondering what falling action means in a story, look for the part of the plot where things start to wrap up.

Freytag’s Falling Action

Freytag’s falling action is the literary term for the events that occur after the climax of a story. These events typically involve the resolution of the conflict and the return to a state of normalcy.

The falling action may also include a denouement, a brief summary of the events after the resolution.

Freytag’s falling action is named after German writer Gustav Freytag, who first described it in his 1852 book Technique of the Drama and is known as Freytag’s Pyramid.

While similar to the three-act structure outlined by Plato in Poetics, there are marked differences between the 3-act plot structure diagram and Freytag’s Pyramid, particularly in terms of the length of rising action, the point of occurrence of the climax, and the length of falling action.

freytag's pyramid
This is the plot diagram that Freytag himself created. It is from the original translation of the 1863 version of Freytag’s Technique of the Drama.

The Exposition is the introduction of the story—the characters, setting, and fundamental conflict are established here.

Rising Action is when the story starts to pick up speed, and tension begins to build.

Climax is the point of most significant tension in the story—this is typically when the protagonist confronts the antagonist.

Falling Action is when things start to wrap up—the tension starts to dissipate, and we see events leading to the resolution of the conflict.

Dénouement is the resolution of the story—all loose ends are tied up, and we see the aftermath of the events that took place.

While Freytag’s Pyramid (and falling action) is often used in traditional storytelling, it can also be found in other forms of literature, such as plays and poems.

Why Is It Important to Use Falling Action in a Story?

Falling action is an important plot device in fiction writing. It occurs as part of the conclusion – after the climax of the story – and is used to resolve any remaining conflict and wrap up loose ends.

This section can help make the story more believable and realistic and add a sense of closure for the audience.

Overall, falling action is a time of change and growth for the story’s characters. After experiencing all they have been through, they are often not the same people they were at the beginning of the story.

As such, the falling action is an integral part of any story, as it illustrates this inner change for the characters moving forward after the main conflict has been resolved. It is often what makes readers truly care about the characters and their journey.

In some cases, falling action can also be used to set up the sequel or next installment in a series. Regardless of its purpose, falling action is an essential tool for any fiction writer to master.

Falling action vs. Rising Action – How Are They Different?

In storytelling, falling action occurs as the part of the plot after the climax. The rising action is the part of the plot that happens before the climax.

The difference between these two parts of the plot is their relationship to the climax. The rising action leads up to the climax, while the falling action happens after it.

Rising action is when things start to get more exciting.

Following the inciting incident, the main character takes on the challenge to drive them toward the climax or main fight. They face challenges and obstacles, and the stakes keep getting higher as we create tension.

This all builds up to the climax, which is the most exciting moment in the story. After this turning point occurs, things start to calm down again because the primary fight is over.

This is the falling action. The challenges and obstacles are resolved, and everything starts to wrap up.

While both the rising and falling action are essential, they serve different purposes in a story.

Without strong rising action, the climax may not be as effective, while a weak falling action can leave readers feeling unsatisfied in the aftermath. As such, writers need to strike a balance between these two elements to create a well-rounded story.

what is falling action?

What Happens After the Falling Action in a Story?

Once the story’s conflict has been resolved and the falling action has ended, there is usually a period of reflection or calm before the story’s final curtain call.

This reflective moment allows the characters (and audience) to process what has happened and how it will affect them going forward. It also gives the story a sense of closure and finality.

Sometimes, the story’s end may be ambiguous, leaving room for interpretation. But even in these instances, there is usually a sense that the main story has ended and that all loose ends have been tied up.

So what happens after the falling action in a story? Usually, it’s a time for reflection, closure, and resolution.

Can I Skip Falling Action in My Story?

Many writers wonder whether they can skip the falling action in their stories. After all, once the climax has been reached, it can feel like there is nowhere else to go.

However, while it is possible to skip the falling action, doing so can often leave readers feeling unsatisfied. The falling action is typically used to wrap up loose ends, provide closure for the characters, and tie up any loose plot threads. Without these elements, a story can feel unfinished and incomplete.

Additionally, the falling action can provide a sense of resolution and peace after the story’s climax has created tension and suspense.

For these reasons, it’s generally advisable to include falling action in your story, even if there’s not much left to say.

If you are unsure whether or not to include a falling action in your story, you may want to consider consulting with an experienced editor or writing coach.

They can offer guidance on whether or not a falling action is appropriate for your story and how best to incorporate it into your plot and provide a satisfying ending.

What is a Good Example of Falling Action in A Story?

In story structure, falling action is the section of the plot following the climax and leading up to the resolution. This is often when the protagonist begins to tie up loose ends and wrap up the story’s central conflict.

For example, in Back to the Future, the story’s climax occurs when Marty and Doc attempt one last try at having the DeLorean hit 88 mph at the exact point where lightning strikes the clock tower and the power surge transfers over to the car via an overhead cable posted across the street. Once they succeed and the car travels forward in time, the climax is over.

The falling action begins as Marty returns back to 1985 and is confronted by all the changes in his world that directly result from his adventure.

Thanks to Marty’s note warning him of being shot, Doc is safe. His siblings are successful professionals. His parents are in a stable, loving relationship, with his father being a famous author. Biff is a nice guy that works for his parents.

And best of all, Marty has his dream car and his girl. All loose plot points are tied up satisfactorily.

The story concludes with Doc appearing out of nowhere to lead our hero into a new adventure.

The falling action is an integral part of the basic plot structure because it allows for a sense of resolution and closure after the story’s climax. Authors can ensure that their stories end on a satisfying note for readers by including a falling action.

Falling Action Examples – Star Wars & Harry Potter

Let’s look at two examples of falling action from great stories.

Example 1: Star Wars

Introduction: We meet Luke Skywalker, living on the desert planet of Tatooine. His normal is being a moisture farmer and dreaming of an exciting life as a star pilot.

Rising Action: Two droids place Luke in danger when they uncover Obi-Wan Kenobi, who agrees to ferry important plans to the Rebellion, thereby placing Luke in direct conflict with his family. Luke joins Ben on the quest to save Princess Leia from the Empire.

Climax: The big space battle. Though Luke is outnumbered and alone, he uses the Force to guide his final shot into the Death Star’s weak point, destroying it and saving the Rebellion.

Falling action: Luke and Han return to base, welcomed as heroes, while Darth Vader speeds off to fight another day. Han is now part of the Rebellion, and R2-D2 is off to get repaired from the damage he suffered in the battle.

Resolution: A ceremony takes place, honoring our heroes, and setting up the next chapter of the galactic adventure. Though they won a major battle, the war is far from over. This is their new normal.

Example 2: Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone

Introduction: We’re introduced to Harry Potter, Dumbledore, the Dursleys, and Harry’s sad life with his relatives in modern-day England, living in a closet and emotionally abused. This is Harry’s normal.

Rising Action: Harry meets Hermoine, Ron, and Hagrid, among others, and travels to Hogwarts, a magical and completely different world than he’s used to. He learns about Voldemort. A troll is set loose in the dungeons, and Snape seems to be out to get Harry for some reason.

Climax: The bad guy isn’t Snape but is revealed to be Quirrel! All the conflict and mystery have led to this exciting point. Ron’s talents with chess and Hermoine’s intelligence, combined with Harry’s flying skills, lead to Harry confronting the villain and having to choose – side with evil and possibly get his parents back, or side with good and lose that chance forever. Harry chooses to fight evil.

Falling action: Harry discovers he has woken up in the hospital wing. And though the central conflict was addressed during the climax, Dumbledore wraps up the loose ends, tells Harry what happened after, and discusses the consequences of Harry’s actions. And, of course, Gryffindor wins everything.

Resolution: Harry’s friendships are renewed, and he’s content with his new normal. He heads home, looking forward to next year, knowing he’ll return to Hogwarts. Though there are still some unanswered questions and challenges ahead, enough has been resolved to satisfy the reader, and look forward to the next chapter in the series.

Commonly Asked Questions About Falling Action

What is the rising and falling action of a story?

In literature, the rising action is the series of events leading up to the story’s climax. These events often create tension and conflict, which propel the story forward. The falling action is the series of events that occur after the climax has been reached. This typically involves the resolution of the conflict and the return to a state of normalcy.

In some cases, the falling action may also include a denouement, a brief epilogue that ties up loose ends. Together, the rising and falling action create a satisfying arc that keeps readers engaged from beginning to end.

How do you explain a falling action?

A falling action is the sequence of events that happens after the climax of a story. The falling action resolves the conflict and ties up loose ends. It usually leads to the resolution, which is the story’s conclusion. In a sense, the falling action is like the denouement of a story. It is the “falling away” of the tension and excitement that has built up throughout the story. The falling action can be considered the “cooling down” period after the climax.

What is the falling action in a story for kids?

The falling action is the story’s events that occur after the climax. These events typically involve the resolution of the conflict and the return to normalcy. The falling action often includes the final showdown between the protagonist and the antagonist. For children’s stories, the falling action is often a time of triumph for the good guys and a comeuppance for the bad guys. It is also a time when loose ends are tied up, and the reader gets a sense of closure. In short, the falling action happens after the climax’s excitement dies and things return to normal.

boy reading a book

What’s a rising action?

The rising action is the part of the plot in a story that leads up to the climax. It typically includes a series of conflicts or challenges the protagonist must face. These challenges often create suspense and tension, making the reader want to discover what happens next. The rising action usually builds until it reaches a point of no return, at which point the protagonist must take decisive action to resolve the conflict. The climax is typically the most exciting part of the story, and it is often followed by the falling action, which leads to the story’s resolution.

How to write falling action?

Now that the climax of your story has passed, it’s time to start wrapping things up. This is where the falling action comes in. The falling action is the part of the story where the conflict starts to be resolved, and the tension dissipates. It’s often shorter than the other parts of the story and typically builds toward the resolution. To write falling action, start by tying up loose ends and answering any lingering questions. Then, start to wrap up the conflict itself. How do the characters resolve their differences? What happens to the antagonist? Everything should lead toward a satisfying resolution by the end of the falling action.

If you need some help writing the falling action section of your story, you could try using artificial intelligence story generator software to help you come up with interesting plot points!

Define falling action:

The falling action is the part of the plot where the conflict is resolved. This is where the tension building up throughout the story is finally released. The falling action often consists of a series of events that lead to the climax and may also include a brief period after the climax. The falling action typically leads to the story’s resolution, which is the conflict’s final outcome.

falling action

Summary: What is Falling Action in a Story?

The falling action is the point in a story where the conflict begins to be resolved. The story’s climax has already occurred, and the characters are working to put things back together.

This can be an exciting time for readers as they see how everything turns out.

This section can be challenging for writers because it requires tying up all loose ends and resolving any remaining conflicts. When done well, it can leave readers feeling satisfied with the story.

If you are unsure if your story needs a falling action section, contact me for a free 30-minute clarity coaching session. We will discuss your story and how best to move forward with making your story the best it can be!

Looking for more information about great storytelling? Check out these articles:

World Building for Fiction Authors: How to Create a Believable World

Examples of Themes in Books and Literature: Definition & Types

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