Freytag’s Pyramid

by Mrignayni Pandey
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Freytag's pyramid

Books and movies, all have stories. They are everywhere around us. We fall for the stories that we can relate to. But it’s not a one way process. Stories themselves shape our reality and the way we see things around us. They evoke emotions of happiness, grief, gratitude, anger, annoyance, despair and a myriad others.

Every story is different. The combination of characters, plots, themes and dialogues are unique in each of them. But what if I told you that there is a general structure that each of them follows.

Also, known as the dramatic structure, Freytag’s pyramid talks about this.

Drama structure
Talking about Freytag’s Pyramid

Before Freytag, Aristotle in his book poetics put forth the idea that every plot structure follows a whole single action which consists of the three elements of

Aristotle of drama structure
Talking about Freytag’s Pyramid

Protasis- The protasis is the introductory part of the drama which tells us about the setting and introduces us to the story’s characters.

Talking about Freytag’s Pyramid

Epitasis- Epitasis is the central action of play which takes us into the conflict the central character of the story is into. The characters undergo all the tests and trials in this sequence and move towards the climax and resolution of the conflict in the story.

Talking about Freytag’s Pyramid

Catastrophe- This is the part of the story that gives it a closure and ends the story. The central conflict gets resolved and the main characters achieve what they had been striving for throughout the novel.

Talking about Freytag’s Pyramid

They form a triangle and is the framework that every drama follows.

German novelist Freytag modified Aristotle’s analysis and gave a five-act dramatic structure which came to be known as the Freytag’s pyramid which are

Freytag's pyramid and the model
Talking about Freytag’s Pyramid

First element in Freytag’s pyramid-

Introduction or Exposition

The introduction of the story is the first element of Freytag’s model. It tells us about its setting, introduces us to the characters and builds anticipation for the central conflict of the story. It also unveils the mood and atmosphere of the story depending on the genre of the book/script. The central conflict is introduced to the readers which takes the story forward.

first element of Freytag's pyramid
Talking about Freytag’s Pyramid

Second element in Freytag’s pyramid-

Rising action

In this arc of the story, there is tension and escalation of the conflict central to the story. There are compelling plots that delineate the strained settings and further complicate the process of attaining the central character’s goal.

second element of Freytag's pyramid
Talking about Freytag’s Pyramid

Third element in Freytag’s pyramid


The third arc, Climax, is the point where the central conflict is exacerbated to its highest plateau. This is the turning point in the story that will ultimately determine if the central characters will end up in doom or emerge victorious battling the conflict in the story.

third element of freytag's pyramid
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Fourth element in Freytag’s pyramid

Falling action

What goes up must come down, right?

Depending on whether the story is taking a turn towards the hope or despair, this is part of the story arc where the story is progressing towards a closure. The point of falling action is where plots are get more intriguing as things begin to settle down and builds anticipation of the coming of the coming resolution to the central conflict in the story.

fourth element of freytag's pyramid
Talking about Freytag’s Pyramid

Fifth element in Freytag’s pyramid


Denouement is the final resolution of the central conflict in the story. The central characters achieve or fail in what they have been striving for in the entire story. Everything is wrapped up in this section. If the story has sequels, then the plot of this arc will leave many questions unanswered and there could be cliffhangers for the readers. After the resolution, depending on the character arc of the story, everything will be restored to normalcy or embrace the change in the life of the central characters.

fifth element of Freytag's pyramid
Talking about Freytag’s Pyramid

Example of Freytag’s pyramid

Example 1

Talking about Freytag's Pyramid

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I. Introduction-Nick and Amy are introduced as a happy couple but on his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick finds his home in a mess and his wife Amy missing. The event gets heavy press coverage as Amy was the inspiration behind her parent’s popular book ‘Amazing Amy.’

II. Rising action-Detective Rhonda Boney finds poorly concealed evidence of struggle inside the house and becomes suspicious of Nick when she finds evidence of financial crisis, domestic abuse and Amy’s diary that tells her of their marriage falling apart. Nick’s attitude towards the situation is apathetic and the media disgraces him as a sociopath.

III. Climax- Amy is discovered to be alive and waiting for his husband to be put behind the bars. She had plotted the plan to wreck vengeance for his husband’s infidelity and has decided to commit suicide after his conviction. But Amy is robbed by her neighbors in her hiding and is forced to come ask her rich boyfriend Desi Collings for help. She manages to convince Desi that she had run away from her abusive husband. Desi agrees to help her stay in hiding in his Lake house.

IV. Rising action-Nick hires a lawyer to defend himself and appears on a talk show to admit his failings as a husband and plead innocence. This reunites Amy’s feelings for Nick. She murders her boyfriend Desi Collings, comes home and accuses Desi of raping her and being her captor. She uses the surveillance cameras in his house and inflicts injuries of herself to prove this.

V. Denouement – When Boney questions her of the loopholes in the story, she accuses her of incompetence and Boney has no way to prove Amy guilty. Though Nick wants to siphon off his relation with Amy, she is pregnant and Nick feels responsible for it. In the end, Nick decides to stay with Amy and the happy couple announce that they are expecting a child on a TV show.

Example 2

Freytag’s PyramidLORD OF THE RINGS

: the setup, the starting scene/ situation or quick
intro to the central conflict
Setting up history of 1st war
against Sauron/ innocence of hobbits and the ring gets
identified by Gandalf.

: unfolds/ intros complications, conflicts, &
problems between the “wants” & “haves”/’done’ of the characters
Running from enemies, forming fellowship, quests
4) CLIMAX:   a)moment of greatest uncertainty, b)the emotional high point, c)the main test or greatest
Big battle while reaching 
Mount Doom lava pit with
Gollum – time to throw the ring
5) FALLING ACTIONS: ‘final’ actions as individual characters’ questions, conflicts & “wants” are being
Post Battle, destruction of  Sauron, Rescue of hobbits
6)  DENOUMENT : Loose ends tied up, answers to
main conflicts/questions; the aftermath of falling
actions, a final discovery, thought or understanding.
Dark forces leave in
disarray, Aragorn
crowned king,
hobbits honored
Families, elves and
Frodo leaving


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