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Scheme vs. Plot: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 6, 2023
A scheme is a systematic plan or arrangement for attaining some particular object or putting a particular idea into effect, while a plot is the sequence of events in a story or play.

Key Differences

The terms scheme and plot, while sometimes overlapping in colloquial use, have distinct meanings in particular contexts. A scheme usually refers to an elaborate and systematic plan of action, often with a connotation of deviousness or underhandedness. A plot, however, generally refers to the storyline or sequence of events that make up a narrative in literature, film, or drama.
A scheme is often crafted with an intent to achieve a specific goal, and it can be nefarious, such as a scheme to defraud someone, or benign, as in a scheme for saving money. A plot is the central structure around which a story is built, and its primary purpose is to entertain, inform, or elicit an emotional response from the audience.
In the context of a scheme, the focus is on the design and steps taken to execute a plan, which can involve strategy and sometimes manipulation. In contrast, a plot involves characters, a setting, a conflict, and a resolution, and it serves to engage the reader or viewer by unfolding a series of related events.
Scheming implies an active attempt to influence a situation to one's advantage, potentially at the expense of others. Plotting in storytelling is the creative process of developing the main events of a tale. While one can plot a scheme, illustrating the occasional overlap, in narrative arts, plotting is about crafting a tale's arc.

Comparison Chart


A plan or program of action
The main story of a literary or dramatic work


Often implies cunning or strategy
Neutral, related to storytelling


To achieve a specific goal
To structure a narrative


Can be used in various contexts
Mainly used in literature and entertainment


Steps or procedures
Characters, setting, conflict, resolution

Scheme and Plot Definitions


An orderly arrangement or pattern.
The garden was laid out in a formal scheme.


The main story of a literary work.
The novel's plot revolves around the adventures of a young detective.


An underhanded plot or strategy.
The con artist's scheme was eventually uncovered.


The sequence of events in a story.
The movie had a complex plot that was difficult to follow.


A systematic plan of action.
She devised a scheme to improve efficiency at work.


A secret plan to accomplish a hostile or illegal purpose.
The spies concocted a plot to sabotage the project.


A design or plan.
The architect presented his scheme for the new building.


A piece of land.
They bought a small plot of land to build their house.


A particular ordered system or arrangement.
A new scheme for data processing was implemented.


To plan the course of a journey.
We plotted our route on the map before beginning the hike.


A systematic plan of action
"Did you ever carry out your scheme of writing a series of sonnets embodying all the great epochs of art?" (Edith Wharton).


A small piece of ground, generally used for a specific purpose
A garden plot.


A secret or devious plan; a plot
A scheme to defraud investors.


Can a scheme be part of a plot?

Yes, characters in a story can devise schemes that are part of the plot.

Is plotting necessary in storytelling?

Yes, plotting is essential to structure a story.

What is a plot?

In literature, a plot is the sequence of events that make up a story.

What's the difference between a scheme and a conspiracy?

A scheme is a plan or program, while a conspiracy is a secret agreement between people to perform something illicit or harmful.

Can businesses have schemes?

Yes, businesses often create schemes for marketing, growth, or restructuring.

How do you identify a scheme?

A scheme can usually be identified by its structured plan with clear steps and goals.

Can a scheme be beneficial?

Yes, schemes can be beneficial if they are designed to achieve positive outcomes.

Can a scheme be legal?

Yes, schemes can be legal plans or strategies.

Is a plot always fictional?

Plots are associated with fictional narratives but can also outline real events in creative nonfiction.

What is a scheme?

A scheme is an organized plan, often involving a strategy to achieve an end goal.

Is a scheme always negative?

Not always, but it often carries a connotation of manipulation.

How do you identify the plot of a story?

The plot can be identified by the unfolding of the story's main events and conflicts.

Is a scheme larger than a plot?

Not necessarily; the size or scope of a scheme or plot depends on its context and content.

Can a plot change?

In the process of writing, a plot can evolve and change before the final version is completed.

How is a plot structured?

A plot is typically structured with a beginning, middle, conflict, climax, and resolution.

What is the climax of a plot?

The climax is the most intense, exciting, or important point of a story, typically occurring towards the end.

Do all stories have a plot?

Most traditional stories have a plot, but some experimental narratives may not follow a conventional plot structure.

Are schemes used in politics?

Yes, the term scheme can refer to a political strategy or plan.

What is a color scheme?

A color scheme is an arrangement or combination of colors designed to create a particular look or feel.

What does it mean to plot a graph?

Plotting a graph means to mark points on a graph that represent data and often connect them to show a trend.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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