What Is Falling Action? Definition & 20+ Examples

Have you ever found yourself holding your breath as a story reaches its peak, only to let it out in a sigh as the tension gradually ebbs away? This is the magic of “falling action” at work – the unassuming hero of storytelling.

Though it doesn’t grab the limelight like the climax, its role is crucial, gently guiding us from the edge-of-our-seat intensity of the climax toward a satisfying resolution.

So, buckle up as we embark on a journey to unveil the art and craft of this masterful narrative tool, the unsung hero – the falling action.

Defining Falling Action

The falling action is a crucial stage in a narrative’s plot, occurring right after the climax. In this phase, you’ll notice that the story’s tension begins to subside as conflicts get resolved, leading the narrative toward its conclusion.

The falling action is an essential part of your story’s structure, following the rising action and climax but preceding the resolution.

During the rising action, your story tends to build up tension and conflicts, reaching their peak during the climax. However, it’s important to remember that it’s during the falling action when you, as the writer, start to tie up loose ends and address any remaining issues, guiding the reader toward a sense of closure.

Remember, while falling action is about easing the tension and resolving conflicts, it’s important to do so in a way that feels natural and satisfying to your reader. By understanding the role of falling action in your story, you’ll create a more engaging narrative that resonates with your audience.

Falling Action vs. Rising Action

In literature, stories follow a pattern known as a plot structure. Two crucial elements of this structure are the rising action and the falling action. Understanding the difference between these two concepts can enhance your comprehension and appreciation of the stories you read.

Rising action refers to the events that lead up to the story’s climax. During this phase, conflicts and tensions increase, compelling your interest and keeping you engaged. Characters face various challenges, their goals may change, and the stakes are often heightened.

In essence, the rising action provides the momentum that drives the story forward and prepares you for the climax.

On the contrary, the falling action occurs right after the climax, serving as a resolution to the story’s conflicts. In this part of the plot, questions are answered, loose ends are tied up, and the story begins to wrap up.

Falling action ensures that the consequences of the climax are well-distributed among the characters and gives you, as a reader, a sense of satisfaction and closure.

To compare these two plot components:

Rising ActionFalling Action
Order in plotLeads to the climaxFollows the climax
Effect on tension/conflictIncreases tension and conflictResolves conflicts
Character developmentEnhances character developmentAnswers lingering questions
Reader engagementEngages the readerProvides closure for the reader

Origin of Falling Action

In literature, the concept of falling action originates from the analysis of dramatic structure. It is an essential component of any well-structured story, as it helps bring a sense of resolution and completion to the narrative. As a writer or reader, understanding the concept of falling action is crucial for fully grasping the flow of the story.

The falling action typically follows the climax, which is the most exciting or suspenseful part of the story. After the climax, the story starts winding down as the characters face the consequences of the events leading up to the climax. This part of the narrative highlights the effects of the conflict and brings closure to the story’s main problem or question.

Throughout the history of literature, various authors and theorists have presented models for understanding the structure of stories, and the concept of falling action is central to many of these frameworks.

One such example is the model proposed by German playwright and novelist Gustav Freytag, known as Freytag’s Pyramid.

This model, developed in the mid-19th century, breaks a story into five parts:

  1. Exposition
  2. Rising action
  3. Climax
  4. Falling action
  5. Dénouement or Resolution

In the exposition, a story’s setting, characters, and main conflict are introduced. From there, the story moves on to the rising action, where the tension and complications build, ultimately reaching the climax.

Following the apex of the story, the falling action comes into play, providing a space for the tension to dissipate and the resolution in which the primary conflict is resolved.

Throughout the development of literature, the significance of falling action has shown its importance in delivering a satisfying conclusion to a story. While it may not be the most thrilling part of the narrative, it is vital for shaping how the audience perceives the story’s ending.

It is up to you as the writer or reader to appreciate falling action’s subtle power in the overall structure of a well-crafted narrative.

Functions of Falling Action

Falling Action Reduces Tension

Falling action plays a crucial role in reducing tension within a story. The events and conflicts that have built up throughout the plot begin to get resolved, allowing the audience to take a breather from the intense emotional and dramatic moments. As a reader or viewer, you become relieved as pressure eases off the characters.

Falling Action Ties Loose Ends Together

Falling action enables the author to address and tie up loose ends in the story. Various subplots that occurred alongside the main plot are given resolutions, offering a sense of closure to the story. This process helps you, the reader, better understand the complete narrative and appreciate the author’s skill in bringing all the elements together.

Falling Action Presents the Consequences

In this phase, the story explores the consequences of the events and the choices made by the characters. You witness the aftermath of the climax, including the effects it has on the characters, setting, and overall plot. This aspect of the falling action further deepens your understanding and appreciation of the story.

Falling Action Sets up The Denouement

By resolving conflicts and revealing consequences, falling action sets the stage for the denouement, which is the final resolution or conclusion of the story. You see the ultimate outcome for the characters and the situation, providing you with a clear and complete understanding of the narrative.

Falling Action Facilitates Character Development

Falling action gives characters a chance to reflect on their experiences and grow. As a result, showcasing their development throughout the story. As you follow their journey, you witness their growth, which adds depth to the characters and enhances your emotional connection with them.

Characteristics of Falling Action

Falling Action Shows Diminishing Conflict

As you explore falling action in a story, you will notice that it is characterized by a decrease in conflict, moving the narrative closer to resolution. This part of the plot comes after the climax and allows for a gradual decrease in tension, helping you understand how the character’s journey is approaching its end.

Falling Action Often Contains Revelation

During the falling action, important revelations often come to light. These revelations can include character growth, explanations for past actions, or further development of the story’s themes.

As you analyze the falling action, pay attention to these insightful moments that provide valuable context for the overall narrative.

Falling Action Holds Potential for Surprises

Although the falling action is meant to bring the story’s conflict to a resolution, it can still hold surprises for you. Unexpected turns of events or new information might be introduced, keeping the story engaging even as it approaches its conclusion. Be prepared for potential surprises that can add depth to the story and its characters.

Falling Action Connects Major Story Components

As you examine the falling action, you’ll see that it serves to connect the major story components in the narrative. This is where the various plotlines, characters, and themes come together to create a cohesive ending to the story.

It is important for you to recognize these connections, as they will enhance your understanding of the story’s overarching message.

Falling Action Displays the Aftermath

The falling action offers a glimpse into the aftermath of the story’s central conflict. This is an opportunity for you to see how the characters and their world have been affected by the events of the story. It also prepares you to appreciate the resolution that will soon follow fully.

Elements of Falling Action

Conflict Resolution

In the falling action, conflicts that arise throughout the plot begin to resolve, offering your readers a sense of closure. After the climax, the main characters address the challenges or issues they face, and whether they succeed or fail, resolutions are reached. This solidifies the story’s overall direction and sets the stage for a satisfying conclusion.

Character Development

The falling action is essential to showcase your characters’ growth and change due to the events experienced in the story. It allows you to demonstrate how the climax has impacted their personalities, relationships, and motivations.

Emphasize the lessons learned by the characters, which may resonate with your audience and deepen their emotional connection with the story.

Plot Wrap-Up

During the falling action, you need to tie up loose ends and answer any lingering questions for your readers. Ensure that subplots and minor storylines are resolved, providing a comprehensive overview of the narrative.

However, avoid introducing new conflicts or questions, as this may leave your audience feeling confused or unsatisfied with the overall progress.

Declining Tension

Falling action serves to decrease the tension built up during the climax. As conflicts are resolved, and characters develop, the story’s pace starts to slow down, providing your readers relief from the intense emotions experienced throughout the previous sections.

Maintain a balance between wrapping up the plot and retaining your audience’s interest by engaging them in the final stages of the story.

Setting up The Denouement

A vital aspect of the falling action is preparing readers for the resolution, or denouement, where the story reaches its final conclusion. Use this opportunity to guide your readers towards a definitive ending that leaves them feeling content with the story’s outcome.

It can be helpful to create a sense of anticipation, ensuring that your readers are eager to discover the ultimate fate of your characters and the overarching narrative.

Forms of Falling Action

Resolution of Conflict

In the falling action, you’ll find that the main conflict experienced by the characters is resolved. This is a crucial part of the story as it signifies the climax is over, and the characters are moving toward closure.

Whether the conflict is external or internal, the falling action allows you to witness the characters’ growth and how they handle the resolution.

Character’s Epiphany

The falling action may also present the character’s epiphany or realization. As the conflict unravels and the tension eases down, your characters may see things in a new light or better understand themselves and others.

This revelation often gives readers a sense of satisfaction that the characters have learned something valuable from their experiences.

Revelation of Information

Another element you might encounter in falling action is the revelation of information. This is where certain hidden details or secrets are uncovered to clarify the plot and answer lingering questions.

By revealing this information, you, as the reader, gain a deeper understanding of the characters and their motivations.

Consequences and Aftermath

In the falling action, it’s essential to explore the consequences and aftermath of the main events. The characters may experience personal, emotional, or even physical repercussions due to the occurrences in the climax.

These consequences showcase the impact of the story and allow you to witness how the characters come to terms with the aftermath.

Setting up For a Sequel

Some stories use the falling action to set up a sequel. While resolving the main conflict, the author introduces hints of potential new conflicts or unanswered questions that could be later addressed in a sequel.

This technique helps maintain your interest in the story and leaves you eager to learn more about the characters’ future adventures.

Examples of Falling Action in Literature


"To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee 

In this novel, the falling action starts after the trial of Tom Robinson concludes. Scout and Jem begin to understand the issues of racism and prejudice, and their lives in Maycomb County change as they process the events they've witnessed.
"Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen 

In this classic romance, the falling action involves Elizabeth Bennet accepting Mr. Darcy's proposal and their families reacting. They develop a deeper understanding and take steps to resolve the conflicts between them.
"The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald 

Here, the falling action sees Gatsby taking the blame for Myrtle's death which eventually leads to his own demise. The characters continue to be affected by the tragic events, and the story concludes with Nick Carraway reflecting on everything that happened.
"Moby Dick" by Herman Melville 

The falling action in this epic adventure occurs after Captain Ahab's final confrontation with the white whale. The Pequod is destroyed, leaving Ishmael as the sole survivor to tell the story.
"1984" by George Orwell 

Following Winston's capture, the falling action in this dystopian novel involves his release from the Ministry of Love and his eventual broken spirit and submission to the oppressive regime. The novel ends with his acceptance of Big Brother's control.

Short Story

"The Necklace" by Guy de Maupassant 

In this story, the falling action occurs when Mathilde discovers that the necklace she lost and replaced was actually a fake. She realizes she has wasted her life and becomes a changed woman.
"The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry 

After the characters sell their most prized possessions to buy each other gifts, they realize the irony and sacrifice they've made. The falling action focuses on the loving bond between them even though their gifts are now of no use.
"The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe 

Here, the falling action involves the protagonist's increasing paranoia after committing murder. The story concludes with the sound of the victim's imagined heartbeat driving the protagonist mad, leading to his confession of the crime.
"An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" by Ambrose Bierce 

Following the protagonist's hallucination of escaping his execution, the falling action is revealed through the sudden twist in the story where the reader learns of his true fate.
"A Good Man is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor 

In this southern gothic story, the falling action follows the family's encounter with the Misfit. The events that follow lead to a chilling conclusion where violence and redemption are explored.


"Romeo and Juliet" by William Shakespeare 

In this tragic play, the falling action comes after the famous balcony scene and takes place with Romeo and Juliet's deaths, ultimately resolving the long-standing feud between their families.
"Death of a Salesman" by Arthur Miller 

Here, the falling action begins after Willy Loman's tragic decision to take his own life. His family grieves, and the play concludes as characters grapple with loss and changed perspectives.
"A Doll's House" by Henrik Ibsen 

Following the revelation of Nora's secret, the falling action explores how the central characters confront the truth and ultimately leads to Nora's decision to leave her marriage and family behind.
"The Crucible" by Arthur Miller 

The falling action in this play occurs when John Proctor refuses to falsely confess to witchcraft, leading to his execution. It highlights the strength of character and the destructive nature of hysteria.
"Antigone" by Sophocles 

In this tragic play, the falling action starts with the tragic suicides of Antigone, Haemon, and Eurydice. The king realizes the consequences of his actions, highlighting the themes of power, hubris, and moral law.

Examples of Falling Action in Pop Culture


"The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" by Peter Jackson 

After the destruction of the One Ring, you experience the falling action as the characters return to their respective homes, and Aragorn takes his rightful place as the king of Gondor, restoring peace and order to Middle-earth.
"The Shawshank Redemption" by Frank Darabont 

Following Andy Dufresne's successful escape, the falling action unfolds as Red receives parole and sets out on a journey to reunite with his friend in Zihuatanejo, establishing their newfound freedom and hope.
"The Godfather" by Francis Ford Coppola 

After the climax of Michael Corleone consolidating power, the falling action is witnessed as he resolves disputes within the family, ultimately becoming the new Godfather and restoring the family's standing within the mafia world.
"Titanic" by James Cameron 

Once the Titanic sinks, you see the falling action with the rescue of the remaining passengers and the emotional reunion of Rose with her mother and fiancé, conveying the lasting impact of the tragedy on the survivors.
"E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" by Steven Spielberg 

The falling action takes place after E.T. communicates with its spaceship, and you observe the heartwarming farewell between Elliott and E.T. as the alien returns to its home, leaving behind a changed and more hopeful human family.

Television Series

"Breaking Bad" by Vince Gilligan 

Upon the climax of Walter White's death, the falling action unfolds as Jesse drives away from the compound, free from captivity, and the police arrive to discover the aftermath of the final confrontation.
"Game of Thrones" by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss 

After the Battle of King's Landing, the falling action takes you through the moments of choosing a new ruler for Westeros and establishing the fates of various characters, bringing their journeys to a close.
"Friends" by David Crane & Marta Kauffman 

Once Ross and Rachel end their on-again, off-again relationship for good, the falling action beautifully displays the friends saying goodbye to the apartment and closing the chapter on their lives together in New York.
"The Office" by Greg Daniels 

Following the resolution of the characters' personal and professional relationships, the falling action shares their various goodbyes, reunions, and farewell interviews with the documentary crew, supplying a satisfying closure to this workplace comedy.
"Lost" by J.J. Abrams, Jeffrey Lieber & Damon Lindelof 

After the climactic battle with the Man in Black, the falling action presents the characters coming to terms with their personal journeys and rediscovering their connections, culminating in their collective afterlife realization and eventual closure.

Impact of Falling Action on Literature

Falling Action Influences Reader Perception

Falling action plays a crucial role in shaping the reader’s perception of a narrative. As you read, you experience the climax’s intense emotions, and the falling action helps you process those emotions while events unfold.

This process allows you to understand the consequences of the climax and appreciate the story’s overall impact. In novels, falling action is essential for leaving a lasting impression on readers while reinforcing the narrative’s themes and messages.

Falling Action Shapes Story Pacing

Another significant aspect of falling action is its impact on the story’s pacing. In well-crafted narratives, falling action provides necessary breathing room after the heightened tension of the climax. By offering a gradual decline in excitement, falling action helps you transition from the intense climax to the resolution.

This balanced pacing not only makes it easier for you to follow and comprehend the story but also ensures that the narrative feels cohesive and engaging.

Falling Action Enhances Emotional Resonance

Emotional resonance is vital in literature, and falling action contributes to this by allowing you to internalize the story’s emotions fully. With falling action, narratives have time to reveal the characters’ reactions to the climax, giving you more insight into their thoughts and feelings.

This way, you can empathize with the characters and develop stronger emotional connections to the story, which in turn increases your overall enjoyment and engagement with the narrative.

Falling Action Contributes to Narrative Completeness

Narrative completeness is another critical aspect of literature that falling action supports. Falling action makes sure that loose ends are tied up, allowing you to see the outcome of the story’s events clearly.

This thoroughness in storytelling not only brings closure to the narrative but also reinforces the themes and messages expressed throughout the work. By ensuring that the narrative comes full circle, falling action helps you feel more satisfied with the story and appreciate the author’s skill in crafting it.

Falling Action Sets up Future Narratives

Falling action can serve as a crucial tool in setting up future narratives, especially in the case of serialized novels or series. During the falling action, subtle hints or surprises may be revealed, which plants seeds for new conflicts and storylines that can be explored in later works.

These hints or teases can pique your interest and inspire your curiosity for subsequent narratives, demonstrating the importance of falling action in maintaining reader engagement across a series of works.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can falling action contain surprises or twists?

Yes, while falling action generally involves the resolution of the story’s main conflict, it can still contain surprises or twists that add additional layers of meaning to the story or set up potential future narratives.

Can falling action introduce new conflicts?

Generally, falling action is meant to resolve conflicts rather than introduce new ones. However, in some cases, particularly in series or sequels, it can introduce new problems or questions that lead to the next installment.

How long should the falling action be in a story?

The length of the falling action can vary greatly depending on the story. In short stories, it may be a few paragraphs, while in novels, it can span several chapters. The key is to ensure it provides a satisfying resolution without dragging on too long.


The falling action is the unsung hero of storytelling that holds immense importance. By tying loose ends, reducing tension, and showing the aftermath of the climax, it not only gives the narrative a sense of completeness but also shapes the readers’ overall perception of the story.

Though often overlooked, the subtle art of crafting a compelling falling action is as crucial as building up to an engaging climax. So, as you dive into your next literary adventure, keep a keen eye on this significant stage of the narrative arc. You might find that appreciating the gentle descent of the falling action adds a new depth to your reading experience.

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Aerielle Ezra is an enthusiastic student of architecture who has a wide range of interests, including psychology, lifestyle, and relationships. Apart from her studies, she also likes to engage in athletic activities, particularly volleyball. When she is not playing, she spends her free time watching her preferred sitcoms or reading her favorite books, which include fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and horror.