falling action

[ fawl-ing ak-shuhn ]
/ ˈfɔl ɪŋ ˈæk ʃən /
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the part of a literary plot that occurs after the climax has been reached and the conflict has been resolved.
"Is" it time for a new quiz? "Are" you ready? Then prove your excellent skills on using "is" vs. "are."
Question 1 of 7
IS and ARE are both forms of which verb?
Compare rising action.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What is falling action?

Falling action is what happens near the end of a story after the climax and resolution of the major conflict.

The majority of literary and dramatic works (stories, novels, plays, movies) are built on action—characters doing things, typically pursuing things they want. The climax (the most intense part of the story, often a turning point or a conclusion to the conflict) is preceded by rising action and followed by falling action. Simply put, falling action is what the characters are doing after the story’s most dramatic part has happened.

You can see falling action in action (see what we did there?) in just about any form of narrative. And being able to identify it and the other structural elements of a story can help you craft compelling stories of your own.

Why is falling action important in a story?

Have you heard of Gustav Freytag? He was a 19th-century German novelist and playwright who studied Ancient Greek and Shakespearean drama and noticed, like many scholars have, that the majority of stories have common elements. In studying plays, he developed a system, now known as Freytag’s Pyramid, that breaks down dramatic works into five main stages: exposition (introduction), rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement (final resolution).

You’ve seen it thousands of times. The story starts and the setting and details are established along with the characters (exposition), who do some things (rising action) leading up to the big moment (climax): the hero saves the day; the friends are reunited; the explorer makes the big discovery. The main conflict is resolved. Then comes the falling action.

While it may not be as suspenseful or intense as rising action, falling action is still action, and it is a crucial part of the plot. Without it, the story would end right after the climax, and we’d be left wondering what the characters do next. Although the falling action begins to decrease the tension and excitement of the climax, it still often contains elements of conflict or suspense: the hero’s journey home; friends get to know each other again; the explorer finds that the big discovery was not exactly as it seemed.

Falling action is the bridge between the climax and the denouement. The denouement is the final part of the story that ties up the loose ends of the plot, or at least some of them.

Although the falling action is typically shorter than the rising action, it’s not just a winding down period. The falling action helps us more fully understand the characters by showing us what choices they make after they’ve faced the crucial moment that all their actions had been leading up to. Pay attention to the falling action, and you might just find the whole point of the story.

Did you know ... ?

To easily remember the five parts of Freytag’s Pyramid, just use this mnemonic: Explorers Rise, Climb, Fall Down (Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, Denouement).

What are real-life examples of falling action?

If you were to visualize a plot as a mountain, the falling action would be the way down, before getting to level ground.

Falling action can be found in just about any story being told—even true stories!



What other words are related to falling action?

Quiz yourself!

Which of the following statements DOES NOT apply to falling action?

A. It sometimes happens before the climax of the story.
B. It can reveal more about the main character.
C. It can introduce a new character.
D. It occurs before the ending of the story.

How to use falling action in a sentence