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The Difference Between Story and Plot

Updated on May 3, 2011

What is the Difference Between a Story and a Plot?

The difference between a plot and a story is a subtle but important one. To put it simply, a story is a series of events with a beginning, middle and end. A plot is a series of events which are interconnected and show cause and effect.

In general, a plot needs a story to be based on. You have your story, then you build it into a plot by showing how the events are related and why that's important in each case, and then you write your novel/novella/short story/play/etc. around the plot.

An Example of the Difference Between Story and Plot

Story: James and I went to the beach for a swim. Then it rained and we went home.

Plot: James and I wanted to swim, so we went to the beach. Then it started to rain, and because we couldn't swim comfortably any more, we went home.

See the difference? In the first, it's a simple series of events. In the second, it's a plot, because it points out cause and effect - wanted to swim -> went to the beach. Rain -> couldn't swim -> went home.

Why is it Important to Know the Difference Between a Story and a Plot?

If you want to write that short story/novel/play/etc., you have to know when you're telling a story or elaborating on a plot. A work of fiction (or creative non-fiction) that only has a story will be flat and boring.

A lot of people new to writing narratives make this mistake at first - they have an excellent story, strong characters and a well-developed setting, but no real plot. So all that ends up happening is a bunch of characters going through the motions of the story without learning, developing or changing, or even having the chance to. 

A world without cause and effect would be a very boring one, and the same goes for a fictional world. Make sure there's an obvious causal relationship between the events of your narrative, and you'll have a much more effective tale to tell.

What do You Think About the Difference Between Story and Plot?

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      amounamina40 6 years ago

      In a 'story' there is no cause and effect relationship between the two incidents and hence the connection between the different incidents is slight. On the contrary, the 'plot' is characterised by a tighter and firmer organization because the two incidents are linked causally.