German novelist Gustav Freytag created a diagram to show the form of a basic plot.
Exposition: The part of the narrative structure in which the scene is set, characters introduced, and the situation established. It usually falls at the beginning of the book, but additional exposition is often scattered throughout the work.
Rising Action: The part of the plot structure in which events complicate or intensify the conflict, or introduce additional conflict.
Climax: The turning point in fiction; the transition from rising to falling action.
Falling Action: The portion of plot structure, usually following the climax, in which the problems encountered during the rising action are solved.
Denouement: Resolution or conclusion.
Definitions from the Excellence in Literature Glossary.