What is Falling Action in a Story? [& How Do I Write It?]

falling action

Key Takeaways:

  • Falling action is the part of a story that happens after the story’s climax.
  • It’s where loose ends are tied up, and we see how characters deal with the aftermath of the main events.
  • It leads us to the final resolution of the story, providing both characters and readers with a sense of closure.

While it may not hold the same thrill as previous sections (i.e., the rising action and the climax), it’s an important component of a good story!

Click here to jump to my favorite falling action examples in books and films!

What is falling action in a story? This part of a story is not super intuitive, and it 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.

Many writers I know just want to get this part of the story over with as soon as they can, but I’ve always looked at it as a wonderful way to cap off a story in the best way possible.

It’s why, when I’m writing my novels and screenplays, I take time to really consider the plot and subplots, as well as the various characters and their setting and how they all wrap up in a satisfactory way.

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

Note: This video was created by me using the AI avatar video generator, Synthesia.

What Is the Falling Action 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.

what is falling action

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, the 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 provide closure for characters and readers.

How to Write Falling Action in a Story

After the climax’s heart-pounding intensity, the falling action is where the dust begins to settle. It’s the part of the story where the main conflict starts to wrap up, leading us towards the resolution. But how do you ensure this section doesn’t feel like a mere afterthought? Here are some steps to help you write falling action:

infographic on how to write the falling action section of a story
  1. Revisit the Climax: Reflect on the climax’s events. What loose ends need tying up? What consequences have arisen from the climax?
  1. Show the Consequences: Highlight the aftermath of the climax. How has the world changed? How are the characters dealing with the events?
  1. Resolve Subplots: Do you have any secondary storylines? Now’s the time to wrap them up. Whether it’s a romantic subplot or a minor mystery, give them closure.
  1. Character Reflection: Allow your characters some introspection. How do they feel about the events? Have their goals or desires changed?
  1. Set the Tone for the Resolution: The falling action should smoothly transition into the resolution. Start setting the mood, whether hopeful, melancholic, or anything in between.
  1. Avoid Introducing New Conflicts: This isn’t the time for major new plot twists or conflicts. Keep the focus on winding down the story.
  1. Engage the Reader’s Emotions: Even though the climax has passed, keep the reader emotionally invested. Show the characters’ personal growth or societal changes that might have occurred.
  1. Foreshadow the Future: Without giving everything away, drop hints about how the story might conclude. This keeps the reader intrigued and eager to read on.

Remember, the falling action is your chance to lead the reader gently toward the story’s end. It’s the calm after the storm, but must still resonate and feel meaningful.

The Role of Falling Action in 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 whole 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 in literature 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.

The Importance of 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, the 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!

Falling Action vs. Rising Action

Aspect:Rising ActionFalling Action
PurposeBuilds up the tension and conflict, leading to the climax.Typically, it is longer, as it sets up the main conflict and introduces subplots.
DurationTypically longer, as it sets up the main conflict and introduces subplots.Generally shorter, focusing on wrapping up loose ends.
Character FocusCharacters face increasing challenges, and their motivations and relationships are explored in depth.Characters deal with the aftermath of the climax, reflecting on events and showing growth or change.
ConflictConflict intensifies, with obstacles becoming more challenging.Conflict starts to resolve, with obstacles being overcome or addressed.
EmotionHeightened tension, suspense, and anticipation.Relief, reflection, and understanding.
Plot ElementsIntroduction of subplots, character backstories, and foreshadowing.It resolves subplots, answers questions, and provides relief from climax tension.
ExamplesFrodo and Sam’s journey to Mordor in The Lord of the Rings.The return journey to the Shire in The Lord of the Rings.

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.

Finding the right balance between the rising and falling action is key to creating a satisfying story!

What Happens After the Falling Action?

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.

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

Can I Skip Falling Action?

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.

Good Examples of Falling Action

Let’s look at three examples of falling action from great stories!

Back to the Future

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. The climax is over once they succeed, and the car travels forward in time.

The falling action begins as Marty returns 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 who 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.

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.

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.

boy reading a book

Final Thoughts

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 exciting 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.

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!

what is falling action?

Common Questions (FAQs)

How do you explain a falling action?

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?

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 the reader gets a sense of closure. In short, the falling action happens after the climax’s excitement dies and as things return to normal.

How do you write falling action?

To write falling action, start by tying up the loose ends of the story 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.

What is the rising and falling action of a story?

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, which is a brief epilogue for the story.

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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