Action: Everything that happens in a fictional story. There are two different kinds of action.
External action (äußere Handlung): What the characters do in the “real”, physical world.
Internal action (innere Handlung): What takes place in a character’s mind, i.e. his thoughts, feelings, memories, associations etc.
Plot (Handlung/Handlungsstruktur): An author’s selection and arrangement of events in a fictional text. Discussions of plot include not just what happens, but also how and why things happen the way they do. Normally the plot develops in the following stages: exposition, rising action, climax/turning point, falling action and ending.
Exposition (Exposition): It introduces the main character(s), the theme and the setting.
Setting (Schauplatz): Place, time and general social background of a story. For example a story may be set in 19th century England among poor workers.
In medias res: A Latin term used to describe the common strategy of beginning a story in the middle of the action. We enter the story at some exciting moment and learn only later about the events that led to this situation.
Rising action (steigende Handlung): The initial conflict intensifies and suspense increases.
Climax (Höhepunkt): The moment when the conflict is most intense.
Turning point (Wende): A change in the conflict or suspense. Climax and turning point are often hard to distinguish.
Falling action (fallende Handlung): The conflict becomes less intense and suspense is reduced.
Dénouement (Auflösung;from French “unknotting”) : The solution of the conflict. A typical example is the happy ending (not: happy end) of many love stories and fairy tales (“And they lived happily ever after.”).
Open ending: The conflict is not solved and the reader is left wondering what might happen next.
Surprise ending: The reader’s expectations are not fulfilled, instead the story takes an unexpected turn.
Suspense/Tension (Spannung): A feeling of excitement when the reader does not know the outcome of a conflict.
Comic relief: A humorous scene or event that reduces suspense in an otherwise serious or tragic situation. For example a character suddenly sneezes (niesen) during a burial (Begräbnis).
Flashback (Rückblende): An episode which interrupts the chronological order of a text in order to go back in time and show what happened earlier. A flashback may be used to tell for example the tragic childhood of the protagonist and thus explain his present problems.
Foreshadowing/Anticipation (Vorausdeutung): The technique of hinting at (andeuten)later events so that the reader is prepared for them or can even anticipate them. In many cases already the exposition foreshadows/anticipates the outcome of the story.