What Is the Rising Action of a Story - Meaning and Examples
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What Is the Rising Action of a Story – Meaning and Examples


Storytelling is an art that has captivated humanity for generations. Whether reading a novel, watching a movie, or sharing tales with friends, stories are essential to transport us to different worlds, evoke emotions, and keep us engaged. To understand the intricacies of storytelling, it’s crucial to dig into the elements that make up a compelling narrative. In this article, we’ll explore one such element: the rising action of a story. We’ll define it, discuss its significance, and provide examples to illustrate its role in storytelling.

What is Rising Action?

Rising action is a crucial element in the structure of a narrative or story, typically found in works of literature and film. The growing action of a story can be broken down into three parts:


The exposition is the beginning of your story, where you introduce readers to your characters and setting. In other words, this is where you introduce what will happen in your story (the conflict).


The complication is when things get complicated for our protagonist(s). This can be on multiple levels (like emotional, physical, or mental) but usually involves conflict or obstacle that our protagonist must overcome to reach their goal.


The climax is when everything comes together and reaches its highest point before falling back down again (or “resolving” itself). As you explore the significance of climactic moments in storytelling, consider the insights shared in articles like How to End a Short Story. Crafting impactful climaxes is an essential skill for leaving a lasting impression on your audience.

Elements of Rising Action

In the rising action, we witness the introduction of key characters, the initial conflict or problem, and the gradual escalation of the story’s main issue. If you’re eager to enhance your understanding of storytelling elements, delve into articles like What is a Literary Magazine?. Exploring different facets of storytelling can contribute to a more comprehensive and engaging narrative. As events unfold, tension and anticipation mount, keeping the audience hooked. Readers or viewers form a deeper connection with the characters during this phase and become emotionally invested in the story’s outcome.

How to Create Effective Rising Action in a Story?

Here are some key steps to help you craft an engaging growing action:

If you’re looking for practical tips on crafting effective rising action, articles like How Long Does It Take to Read 100 Pages?  can offer valuable insights. Understanding pacing and reader engagement is crucial for keeping your audience hooked throughout the narrative.

Establish Clear Goals and Obstacles

Ensure your main characters have clear, compelling goals or desires that the audience can easily understand. These goals should be specific and meaningful. Introduce obstacles or conflicts that stand in the way of these goals. These obstacles create the growing action as characters work to overcome them.

Build Conflict Gradually

Start with smaller conflicts that progressively increase in intensity as the story unfolds. This allows the tension to grow steadily. Each new conflict should be related to the central conflict and contribute to the overall narrative arc.

Develop Characters

Use the rising action to dig deeper into your characters’ personalities, motivations, and growth. Reveal their flaws and strengths as they respond to the challenges they face. This makes the audience more emotionally invested in their journey.

Use Foreshadowing

Employ foreshadowing to hint at future events and create anticipation. Foreshadowing can be explicit or subtle, but it should connect to upcoming conflicts or developments.

Introduce Subplots

Weave subplots into the main narrative to add complexity and depth. Subplots can provide additional layers of tension and contribute to the growing action. Ensure subplots are relevant and don’t distract from the central plot.

Raise the Stakes

Increase the consequences and risks as the story progresses. The rise of action should continually raise the stakes, making it more difficult for the characters to achieve their goals. Make the consequences of failure more significant to maintain the audience’s interest.

Create Twists and Surprises

Keep the audience engaged by introducing unexpected twists and surprises. These can alter the course of the story, challenge characters, and keep the plot fresh. However, ensure these twists are consistent with the established world and character motivations.

Pace the Action

Balance the pace of your growing action. Include moments of tension and relief to prevent the story from becoming monotonous. Adjust the pacing based on the needs of the narrative but maintain a sense of progression.

Use Dialogue and Conflict

Engaging dialogue can be a powerful tool in the growing action. Conversations and arguments can reveal character dynamics and convey critical information. The conflict between characters or within a character’s internal struggle can drive the growing action forward.

Maintain Tension

Continually remind the audience of the central conflict and keep it at the forefront of the story. Avoid unnecessary detours that don’t contribute to the growing action. Use imagery, symbolism, and setting to enhance the tension and create a vivid atmosphere.

Show Character Evolution

Allow the characters to evolve and change as they navigate the rising action. They should learn, adapt, and make choices that reflect their growth. Character development should align with the increasing challenges they face.

Build toward the Climax

As you near the climax, the tension should reach its peak. The growing action should create a sense of certainty, making the climax the natural outcome of the unfolded events.

Examples of Rising action

To better understand the concept of rising action, let’s explore some examples from popular stories. If you’re interested in exploring more examples and insights, articles like Best Mystery Audiobooks: Must-Listen Titles for Thriller Fans can provide additional inspiration. Analyzing different narratives can broaden your understanding of effective rising action.

The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins

This is a story set in a world that’s pretty messed up. The exciting part of the story starts when Katniss Everdeen gets picked to be in a dangerous competition called The Hunger Games. As she goes to the fancy city called the Capitol, makes friends with other contestants, and deals with tough challenges in the game area, the story gets more and more intense. The part of the story where things get more exciting keeps you interested in whether Katniss will make it through the game and what is tricky in the political world of the games.

“The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien

In this big fantasy story, the part where things get more exciting is when Frodo and his friends are on their way to Mount Doom to get rid of a really powerful ring. Along the way, they encounter problems like meeting different groups of people, having battles, and dealing with how the ring messes with their minds. This exciting part of the story makes you look forward to the big showdown and Frodo’s battle with himself.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

The growing action in this novel revolves around the trial of Tom Robinson and the growing racial tensions in Maycomb. As the narrative tension increases, Atticus Finch defends Tom Robinson, and Scout and Jem Finch learn about the complexities of partiality. The growing action highlights the moral and social conflicts that lead to the story’s climactic courtroom scene.

“The Matrix” (1999 film)

In this sci-fi movie, the more exciting part is when Neo goes from being a computer hacker who doesn’t believe in things to accepting that he’s really important as “The One.” He goes through tough training, meets the bad guys (the agents), and starts to figure out that the world he’s in is not real, but a computer simulation called the Matrix. This exciting part of the movie keeps the audience interested in how Neo changes and the big fight between people and machines.

“The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald

In this classic novel, the rising action centers on Jay Gatsby’s obsession with Daisy Buchanan and his lavish parties. The tension builds as Gatsby pursues the American Dream and his love for Daisy intensifies. The growing action ultimately leads to the tragic events of the story’s climax.

“Breaking Bad” (TV series)

In this acclaimed TV series, the rising action occurs as Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher turned methamphetamine manufacturer, becomes increasingly involved in the drug trade. His transformation from a mild-mannered teacher to a ruthless drug lord is a central element of the growing action, and it keeps viewers on the edge of their seats as they witness his descent into the criminal world.

How Does Rising Action Differ in A Short Story Compared to A Novel?

In short stories, the rise of action is brief and fast-paced due to their limited word count, focusing on the central conflict while maintaining an economical use of words. If you’re intrigued by the dynamics of short stories, articles like Complete Book Tropes List: Everything You Need to Know can offer valuable insights. Understanding the unique challenges and opportunities in short-form storytelling can enhance your versatility as a storyteller.

Novels, being longer, offer a more extended and detailed rising action. They dig into character development, subplots, and thematic elements, allowing varied pacing and multiple climactic moments. 

Novels provide the space to explore a broader range of characters, conflicts, and subplots, resulting in a richer and more intricate rising action. The length and structure of the work dictate how the rising action is presented, catering to the demands of the narrative.

What’s The Difference Between Rising Action and Conflict in A Story?

Rising action and conflict are parts of a story but have different jobs. If you’re keen on exploring these nuances further, articles like Which Questions Can Help You Develop a Thesis Statement in the Writing Process? can provide additional insights. Distinguishing between different storytelling elements is crucial for crafting a well-rounded and engaging narrative.

The rising action is like the journey of the story. It includes things like how the characters change, how the story gets more exciting, and how the tension builds up. It’s what keeps you interested and connected to the story.

Conflict, on the other hand, is like the big problem or fight in the story. It’s the main factor that makes the story go forward. Conflict is an important part of the rising action, but the rising action is like the whole adventure, with many things happening to make the story more interesting and engaging.

What do professional story development services offer?

Professional services like American Author House can provide expertise in plot development, character arc design, and story structure. They offer guidance and feedback to ensure your rising action is engaging and well-crafted.

Essential Elements and Detailed Insights

Element Description Example
Exposition Introduction of characters and setting, presenting the conflict. “The Great Gatsby”: Introduction of Jay Gatsby and the 1920s setting.
Complication Introduction of obstacles and conflicts for the protagonists. “The Matrix”: Neo’s discovery of the real nature of his world and his role.
Climax The peak of the story where tensions are highest. “The Lord of the Rings”: The final journey to Mount Doom.
Character Development Exploration of characters’ personalities and growth. “To Kill a Mockingbird”: Scout and Jem’s understanding of racial tensions.
Subplots Additional storylines that add depth to the main narrative. “Breaking Bad”: Walter White’s family dynamics and law enforcement challenges.
Stakes and Tension Escalation of consequences and risks for the characters. “The Hunger Games”: Increasing danger in the games and political intrigue.
Resolution Conclusion of the narrative, tying up loose ends. Short stories: Quick resolution due to limited word count; Novels: More detailed resolution.


The rising action is the beating heart of a story. The segment draws readers and viewers deeper into the narrative, making them care about the characters and the outcome. By understanding the elements, functions, and examples of growing action, writers can create more engaging and memorable stories.

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