What is Fabula and Syuzhet in Film and What Does it Mean_

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What is Fabula and Syuzhet in Film and What Does it Mean?

When writing a film screenplay or script, there are various literary devices that apply and can be used throughout the storytelling process. According to early Russian Formalism studies, each story is represented by a fabula and syuzhet. In film, the storytelling process includes a fabula which represents the timeline of events and the syuzhet which represents the order in which those events are displayed. Thus, fabula and syuzhet in film represents the story structure which together includes both the timeline, and the plot, of the film.

What is Fabula and Syuzhet in Film?

According to members of Russian Formalism, the distinction between ‘fabula’ and the ‘syuzhet’ apply to storytelling patterns. In which the fabula represents the timeline of events.

Or the chronological order in which events take place throughout the story and the ‘syuzhet’ represents the sequence chosen by the author to relate the events otherwise described as the plot.

The concepts, fabula and syuzhet, represent the most basic narrative elements for a screenwriter to understand.

Unfortunately, it’s alarmingly simple to let the names “fabula” and “syuzhet” confuse you, and as such, few screenwriters actually know what these terms mean.

What is the Syuzhet?

The syuzhet is the plot or the actual story as it unfolds on the screen. Syuzhet is going to contain gaps in coverage, it will contain certain convolutions.

And even the potential for elements of bewilderment. Moreover, it’s all part of the plot which makes the experiences of the hero interesting and engaging or the audience.

What is the Fabula?


In stark contrast to the syuzhet, the fabula represents the actual sequence of events that take place within the film.

Fabula is the chronological order of events that the audience pieces together as the story goes along. Thus, fabula is all-revealing and all-told. 

Furthermore, it represents full disclosure and includes no gaps. The fabula is a timeline of events in chronological order, one after another.

Fully Detailed

Fabula, unlike syuzhet, is chock-full of events and details. Which unfold in appropriate order. Fabula is the timeline of events.

Whereas the Syuzhet is the order in which that timeline is delivered. And it’s not always chronological, in fact, syushet is almost never chronological.

Understanding the Roles of Fabula and Syuzhet in Film

Put simply, fabula is the timeline of events that make up the story. And syuzhet is the way those events are delivered for the audience to make sense of the story.

Together, fabula and syuzhet make up the storytelling process. 

The Takeaway

In other words, fabula is the overall story all-inclusive of the many different events that make up the story.

And the syuzhet is the discombobulation of those events, taken out of chronological order.

And pitched to the audience in a way that is most engaging and interesting – aka, the plot.

Together, fabula and syuzhet in film makeup the storytelling process that keeps the audience interested and entertained.