Kishōtenketsu reflects the structure and development of Chinese and Japanese narratives. The Kishōtenketsu model looks similar to the Dramatic Arc, but consists of just four basic stages: Introduction, Development, Twist, and Conclusion. Stories using the Kishōtenketsu structure convey seemingly disconnected events that are tied together by the conclusion of the story. The distinguishing feature of Kishōtenketsu is the element of surprise brought on by the twist. The twist seems disconnected from the introduction and development of the story until the conclusion, at which point the audience begins to make connections to the crux of the story, often reframing earlier interpretations of the events. The narrative is typically left open-ended, with partial resolution. Good examples are the films Rashomon (1950) and Inception (2010).

Visual depiction of Kishōtenketsu


The four basic stages of the Kishōtenketsu story structure are:
1. Introduction (Ki)
Description of characters and/or place. Create the setting of the story.
2. Development (Sho) Description of event(s) that lead to the twist. Major...

An interesting Western example to apply the Kishōtenketsu story structure to is Kate Chopin’s The Story of an Hour (1894). In Chopin’s short story, considered unconventional when published, the reader becomes an intimate witness to Louise’s inner emotional struggle upon learning that she...
Learning Applications

When to apply this structure:
To recognize or use this structure, look for a series of seemingly unrelated events that are suddenly tied together by a plot twist. Often the feeling a Western reader or viewer has when unknowingly encountering Kishōtenketsu is mild confusion or...