Characteristics of an Episodic Plot Structure (4 Key Qualities)

In this post, we discuss a variety of ideas surrounding the characteristics of an episodic plot structure.

Typically, stories are read from start to finish with no interims in between. When it comes to an episodic plot structure, there is a large over-arching story that is spread across numerous episodes.

In other words, there's a bigger story that is broken into a series of smaller, usually self-contained events or adventures that are still connected by a larger theme or story. As each chapter resolves its conflict, it also sets up a new one for the next chapter.

Episodic Plot vs. Dramatic Plot

The most common type of plot in novels is probably the dramatic plot, in which the story starts out and then moves forward, even if there are twists and turns, there is a logical and satisfying ending for the story.

On the other hand, the plot of an episodic story is made up of several events that are only loosely related to each other and are tied together by characters or a theme. Most of the time, the events in an episodic plot happen in order. Sometimes, the author does this to show how the same event can be seen from different points of view.


What Is an Example of an Episodic Plot?

A story told in episodes comprises separate scenes that may or may not be related.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, in which the narrator talks about different things that happened the year before, is one of the most famous examples of a story with an episodic plot.

Thinking about a TV or movie series is an excellent way to picture an episodic plot. There are usually the same characters, but some come and go, and each episode tells a fairly contained story.

So, it's OK to miss an episode of a TV show because each episode ends its conflict. That way you can experience a new adventure every time.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien is another example. Each chapter had a separate adventure that they could read before bedtime. It was similar to The Arabian Nights in that way. However, even though each chapter could be read independently, they all moved the story forward until the end.

Detective mysteries can also be broken up into smaller parts, like the Sherlock Holmes books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Important Elements & Characteristics of an Episodic Plot Structure

Take a look at some of the most significant aspects that define a story with an episodic plot, such as the following:

Episodes can stand alone, but they logically connect to others. Even though each part of an episodic story can be read on its own, the chapters should still give the impression that they are connected to the larger narrative. This frequently occurs when a story focuses on a consistent plot or cast of characters.

All the episodes contain all of the necessary story elements. These elements include: a conflict, rising action, a climax, and a resolution. You have a protagonist, or a cast of characters, that you can write several short stories about. Each of these stories are all set within the context of the same overall theme.

Each individual story contributes to the over-arching theme without influencing other episodes. Even though each episode tells its unique little story, it still needs to advance the larger storyline somehow. In most cases, it will not directly affect the chapters that came before it or those that will come after it.

There is a sensible time period covered across the episodes. A lengthy time is covered by an episodic structure that features a wide variety of characters and settings, as well as subplots in addition to the main plot. An episodic theatrical play expands the action widely rather than condensing it.

Here are resources I recommend to get more in-depth knowledge

Storytelling 101 teaches you how to write compelling stories worthy of commercial success. This is best for screenwriters, novelists, filmmakers, videogame writers and storytellers.

Children’s Books 101 teaches you how to write stories that children will love. This is best for aspiring children’s book authors and storytellers.

Owl AI is the revolutionary AI-powered content production platform that helps storytellers, writers, and bloggers of all subject matter easily create highly-polished content.

Success, Money & Mindset Subliminal is a self-hypnosis recording that we recommend to new writers to help with focus, concentration, creativity, and motivation.

Shadow Work Journal: 240 Daily Prompts contains inner work exercises related to relationships, anger, anxiety, self-love, healing trauma, abandonment issues, depression, forgiveness, etc.


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