Interactive Visualizations of Plot in Fiction

Teresa Dobson, Piotr Michura, Stan Ruecker, Monica Brown, Omar Rodriguez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this paper, we expand on our presentation at ICDS2010 (Dobson et al., 2010) in describing the design of several new forms of interactive visualization intended for teaching the concept of plot in fiction. The most common visualization currently used for teaching plot is a static diagram known as Freytag's Pyramid, which was initially intended for describing classical and Shakespearean tragedy. It has subsequently been applied to a wider range of fiction, but is not always applicable. The alternative interactive forms that we propose allow a more dynamic approach that can be customized by the teachers and students to accommodate various interpretations of a single piece of fiction. We provide a mechanism for people to select significant features of a story, such as characters, objects, events and transitions in time or space, and see how the different models react to the presence of these features. Our designs include one that is primarily sequential, another that emphasizes the structural complexity of the story and a third that places a single feature as a a central focus. The data for this visualization is provided through an XML encoding of the significant features of a given story. (Contains 11 figures.)
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)169-191
Number of pages23
JournalVisible Language
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2011


  • Classics (Literature)
  • Computer Uses in Education
  • Educational Technology
  • Fiction
  • Interaction
  • Language Arts
  • Teaching Methods
  • Tragedy
  • Visual Stimuli
  • Visualization


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