I'm looking for a more suitable word than event for something which occurs in (in my particular case) a book. If one was to summarise the events (ugh) of a book - just so there's no doubt about what I'm trying (badly) to describe- it might look something like this:

["protaginist's father dies", "protagonist goes into hiding", "protagonist meets Zen Master", "protagonist battles antagonist", "protagonist holds party"]

Now, is there a better word than event for these kinds of plot occurrences? I cannot for the life of me think of one.

Any help would be greatly appreciated! :-)

Edit: I have looked up both event and plot in the thesaurus (.com), but none of the words I've found really suited my needs, other than perhaps incident. The only reason I want a different word than event is that it feels very general, and I was hoping there was a more applicable word in the context of books.

  • Have you looked up "plot" or "event" in a thesaurus? What words did you find there? Why don't they fit your needs? Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 13:11
  • The 'storyline' is the overall story. You probably think 'episodes' doesn't work too well. Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 13:15
  • @EdwinAshworth: 'storyline' might be a good word for the overarching story, as you say - but what I'd really like is a word for the individual components which compose the story. 'episodes' doesn't really suit that need in my opinion.
    – Nicolay
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 13:19
  • you could call that a timeline of events, or a plot synopsis, or a long story short. But I don't know a word for a single event that is better or more descriptive than event.
    – jammypeach
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 16:02
  • 1
    Plot point, perhaps?
    – Karl
    Commented Aug 14, 2014 at 6:40

10 Answers 10


In this situation, I would opt for plot point. It's a well-known term (better than making up your own).

The only problem in your case might be that it usually refers to events that have a significant impact on the plot.

  • 1
    I'd have no problem referring to any story event worth mentioning as a plot point, regardless of how much impact it actually has on the plot. If the story is well-written, anything that happens will have some significance anyway.
    – talrnu
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 19:25
  • I think this might the word I was looking for!
    – Nicolay
    Commented Aug 14, 2014 at 7:43
  • 2
    @Nicolay A Wiki entry shows that plot point is a significant event that causes the story to change direction. So just any scene cannot be a plot point, just those particular scenes that causes a change in the direction of the book/movie/etc.
    – LWTBP
    Commented Aug 14, 2014 at 9:27

Sometimes the simple words might help: scene

  • That's a very good suggestion, thank you very much! I'm also considering creating my own word 'plot block' - yay or nay?
    – Nicolay
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 13:31
  • @Nicolay - thats a 'chapter' dictionary.reference.com/browse/chapter - typically (but doesnt have to be) a distinct and/or numbered division: an important portion or division of anything
    – SW4
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 14:08
  • 1
    It's more than simple. That is the correct word for the industry.
    – user39425
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 19:09
  • 1
    The question is asking for a synonym to the word event, describing a single component of plot development. A scene is either a location or a sequence of events. This answer is completely incorrect.
    – talrnu
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 19:16
  • @talrnu the OP was describing the word scene, but using event as a broader reaching term.
    – Tyzoid
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 19:59

I would tend to plump for chapter instead of scene, a scene typically has associations with a singular locale or directly continuous events revolving around a shared context, and is usually related to a theatrical (/film) production:

a division of a play or of an act of a play, usually representing what passes between certain of the actors in one place. source

Whereas a chapter describes a series of related events, which may or may not be represented with clear, enumerated divisions.

A distinctive period in history or A series or sequence source

Other alternatives could be: section, instalment, act, passage or phase

  • See my comment on scene in @LWTBP's answer. By that same reasoning, this answer is wrong.
    – talrnu
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 19:18
  • 1
    @talrnu this and the other comments seem to be semi subjective, would it be possible to bolster the arguments objectivity with the provision of an alternative word?
    – SW4
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 20:06

"Plot point" sounded close to me initially, but various users observe that this specifically refers to direction-changing events.

After some consideration, I suggest plot element.


Depending on the medium, I've seen "beat" used for this purpose. (More commonly with movies.)

  • Any references? I've only ever heard beat used to refer to the pacing of a story/play/movie (Wikipedia agrees: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beat_(filmmaking)), not to a single event within the story.
    – talrnu
    Commented Aug 13, 2014 at 19:20
  • If a word is not obvious in how it's used in a field (for example, act, scene in a play, part, chapter in a literary work, plot point in either) then it's always a good idea to explain it, preferably with an example since you have seen it used.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Aug 14, 2014 at 6:27

This is a great question, and I can't really think of a better term, either. Is using "event" so bad? You could also perhaps consider using alternative or roundabout phrasing in whatever it is you're writing. e.g. "These are the most important things which happened in the story."; "These things transpired"; "Following are the highlights of the story"; "Of all that befell our heroine, these are the most telling"; "most climactic/dramatic/adjective moments"


The equivalent unit to a chapter in a movie (or play, opera etc.; anything that involves live action or acting) is an act.

7 a : one of successive parts or performances (as in a variety show or circus)


Their usage note is narrow-sighted, in my opinion. See Wikipedia on Act (drama), especially the Other Media section.


I'm not sure if you're looking for singular or plural words, or if phrases/idioms are ok, but I tried to get a little more creative and just think in terms of events worth mentioning.

  • The turning point, or change of course, the path, the experience. Maybe it was one of many twists in a winding tale of
  • The development, the happening, the incident, the occurrence, the situation.
  • The affair, the encounter, the meeting, the moment. the episode, the problem and solution.
  • Others have mentioned these or their ilk: the chapter, the passage, the story, the period, the attack, the bout, the installment, the phase.
  • Was it a wonder? A phenomenon? Perhaps a challenge? A great ordeal, affliction, or daresay a calamity! It may have been a torturous trial, a mere exigency, or depending on your perception, an opportunity.
  • Whatever the case, I can only describe the circumstance. I couldn't tell you for sure if it was an anomaly, a portent, or mere normality. It was just one aspect, one facet, one feature.
  • One venture, one unavoidable eventuality. Mere happenstance. Products of chance. All possibilities.

I was just trying to string related synonyms from random sites together, but perhaps one of them or just the tone will inspire you. Good luck on your travels!


If you're talking about sections of the plot or segments of the story, you might look at a phrase like story arcs or plot arcs (the part where he's investigating before he finds what he needs to act, the bit where she's talking with someone before the story shifts, what's happening over the course of the party scene).

The phrase story arc can be used to talk about subdivisions in a story, or development of a plot over a longer timespan (several books or episodes). Narrative arc is another phrase, sometimes contrasted with the larger meaning of story arc - specifically smaller episodes if there is an overarching story, and sometimes used similarly to the smaller sense, to track the plot by often standard constructions. Plot arcs, is another version of the phrase.

These kinds of divisions work better with significant chunks of story-line, or the development of the whole of a subplot, rather than individual events - or it can be used to talk about the development that happened between significant events (minor plot event happened during the plot arc between...). Character arcs can also be used to talk about the development of a character, and their specific storyline or subplot, over the course of a larger work. Mini arcs might be used to show smaller segments of a story, events where things happen but on a smaller scale, even on a scene by scene basis. Subplots can act similarly, but involving small, almost separate plots interwoven through a larger work, rather than an episodic segment or scene of that work.

If you're talking about specific events, then Yitzchok's suggestion of plot element will work for smaller points, and MyLifeisanAbyss's suggestion of plot points works for more significant happenings. You might also try using just 'points' as an alternate to event for something that happens but need not be significant - the story had a point where (X), that point in which (Y), and Y happened at the other point. This will sidestep the way 'plot point' tends to be used for turning points more so than every separate happening in a story.

  • It would be great if you could find some references for story arcs or plot arcs.
    – Helmar
    Commented Sep 5, 2016 at 11:04
  • @Helmar - added some references in, I hope this helps? They are pretty common usages, so I didn't think it was urgent when I originally wrote the answer.
    – Megha
    Commented Sep 5, 2016 at 11:30

Dynamic: the situation or scenerio where things are changing and at play. For example: Now that the burglar knows that we are aware of his presence, the dynamic has significantly changed; The boy is becoming a man and the people who killed his father haven't detected the changing dynamic and the boy will take them by surprise.

Game-changer: the aknowledgment that the situation is in flux.

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