The Parts of a Plot Practice Exercises

Updated on Aug 25, 2011

Read the following study guide for a concept review:

The Parts of a Plot Study Guide

Exercise 1

Here is the first paragraph of a short story. Read it twice; the second time, underline clues that tell the reader about the setting and the main character. Then answer the questions that follow.

Aboard the Portello

The candle sputtered, dripping hot wax on the half-filled journal page. "Oh, no!" Mario moaned. "That's the third time tonight!" He pushed back his chair and stood up, tucking his journal carefully into the tiny drawer. He had only written a few sentences, and it was making him depressed. In the first days of their journey, it had been fun to write about the ship and its crew. Each day had brought new discoveries—the portholes and rope reels, the anchor as big as a horse, the cook's pantry full of potatoes and flour, where Mario had been warned not to touch anything. But it had been more than a week and he had yet to find anyone his age. Well, there were a few girls, but they were stiff and boring in their long dresses. They had even told him that they were not curious to explore the ship, but that was probably a lie. Still, the crew was too busy to humor him for long, and he began to wish he had stayed at home in Naples with his mother and sisters.


  1. Who is Mario?
    1. a father
    2. a fisherman
    3. a cook
    4. a young boy
  2. Where does this scene take place?
    1. in a library
    2. on a rowboat
    3. in Mario's room
    4. in Naples
  3. What is the likely setting for the story's main action?
    1. a ship
    2. Naples
    3. a library
    4. Mario's room
  4. In what historical era is the story probably set?
    1. ancient Rome
    2. the Age of Exploration
    3. the twenty-first century
    4. the future

Exercise 2

Read the remainder of the story about Mario, and pay close attention to the events of rising action. Then respond to the questions that follow.

Mario's weary feet carried him up the narrow metal staircase to the upper deck. With his lantern in hand, he checked the lounge and the dining room, but his father was nowhere to be seen. Most of the men had retired to their cabins for the night. If his father wasn't dining or playing cards with the other officers in the lounge, the surest place to find him was the captain's library. His father kept scores of books at home, but they had packed only a few favorite volumes in their luggage. Some evenings, his father liked to sit in the cramped ship's library, poring over heavy, salt-stained books about the places they would soon visit.

Mario wound his way through the dark corridors, guided only by the splash of light from his lantern. Suddenly, he heard a funny sound, like a stifled sneeze, he thought. He spun around, looking for the source of the sound, but he couldn't see anyone else in the passage. Shrugging, he continued down the hall until—"Achoo!" A real sneeze erupted in the narrow hall.

"Who's there?" Mario called. There was no answer. Maybe those girls were playing a trick on him, trying to scare him. Holding his light high, he began to search the walls, looking for a door or window where someone might be hiding. There was only a narrow grate, about three feet high. He lifted his lantern and peered into the darkness beyond. When his light reflected in two dark eyes, he sprang back with a yelp.

"Who are you? What are you doing in there?" he cried.

After a long silence, a whisper came through the grate. "Don't tell anyone, please, sir. I boarded the ship to escape my cruel father, but if they find me, they will send me back to him, or make a slave of me, or worse!"

Mario's fear dissolved as the boy spoke. "I'm called Mario," he offered. "What is your name?"

"Benito," the boy replied.

"Come out of there, Benito," Mario insisted. "My father would never let anyone harm you. You must be starving. Come out, and we'll have apples and bread, and you can sleep on a cot in our cabin." More long moments followed as the stowaway considered his options. Finally there was a creak as he unscrewed the grate and pushed it open. A hungry-looking boy unfolded his long limbs from the small refuge and stood on unsteady legs.

"Let's go find my father," Mario said. "This voyage is turning out to be a good adventure, after all!"

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