7-Step “Freytag’s Pyramid”



Gustav Fregtag, a 19th-century German playwright, developed his 7-Step “Freytag’s Pyramid” for storytelling:

  1. EXPOSITION: the background, setting, characters, setting the scene
  2. INCITING INCIDENT: something happens to begin the action
  3. RISING ACTION: the story builds
  4. CLIMAX: the point of greatest tension
  5. FALLING ACTION: events that happen as a result of the climax
  6. RESOLUTION: the character solves the problem/conflict
  7. DENOUEMENT: French term meaning “the ending”

These are excellent guidelines for fiction writers, as well.

Before you begin writing, draw up an outline with these points. Know where you plan to go before you start writing. You can always change things along the way, but this will give you a game plan, or a road map, for where you plan to arrive.

As you outline, start out filling out each item in brief. Then, go back and begin fleshing out your ideas, always adding to these seven bullet points. Stay within these points, and your writing will remain focused, no matter how many detours you make within each point.

Within a novel, you might have several escalating points (rising actions), but only one Climax, and one Resolution.

The more you flesh out your pyramid, the easier your writing will come. You can add to or subtract from your pyramid at any time in the process, but always know at any given moment what each step contains.