Tag Archives: story

Diane Robinson Plotting for Children post headshot

Plotting for Children | Fiction for Children

Diane Robinson is clearly a plotter rather than a pantzer. In today's guest post, Diane outlines her approach to story plotting for children.
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Plotting The Plot In Children's Books

by Diane Mae Robinson

Diane Robinson Plotting for Children post headshotPlotting--the fuel of great storytelling. In a story, just about anything can happen, as long as it comes about logically, makes sense, and follows a few rules. Plotting is also the most fun part of writing a story.
Diane Robinson plotting for children in post graphic

Here are some suggestion for great plotting for children:

  • A plot proceeds logically from beginning to end. Anything can happen in the story, but it must make sense and not just be introduced into the story haphazardly. There must be a reason for everything that happens, regardless of how bizarre that reason may be.

  • The main character needs a strong motive for what they want to achieve. Their motive may be honor, vengeance, or love. Whatever the motive, it must spur the main character to act.

  • Adding conflict is vital to making the story interesting. Conflict can be whatever or whoever is giving the main character a hard time. In writing children's books, the conflict can be a villain, a situation, or even a storm that forces the main character to fight to attain their goal.

  • “Every single word of dialogue should move the story forward in some way”

    Dialogue that is exciting. Every single word of dialogue should move the story forward in some way. If it doesn't, then it's babbling. Moving the story forward with dialogue can:

    • make the character's intentions or motives become clear.
    • explain the emotions of the character.
    • describe something or someone of importance, and at the same time show the reader how that character feels about it or what they intend to do about it.
  • Characters that are credible and real (no matter who or what they are) will move the story forward naturally. Know your characters inside out and those characters will always say and do things that are credible. Characters that are credible makes the reader care about and connect with those characters.

  • Logical surprise is the groundwork for humorous situations. But the surprise must come from some credible mannerism of that character or unfold naturally from the scene. Humor makes a character endearing. Even in a bad situation, a character can do or say something funny, and that can make the scene that much more memorable.

  • Write simply and well. Simple writing does not mean dull--it means writing with clarity and writing artfully, with grace. Simple writing is hard work, but the more times you edit your manuscript, the more simplicity and clarity will come forward.

  • In picture books and story picture books, think of the plot as an upside-down “U”. The story begins with something interesting, the story arcs in the middle with action, the story ends tying up loose ends. The main point of the plot is that, somehow, your protagonist has changed intellectually and/or emotionally, and in the process discovered some important truth about his/her own life.

  • In beginning chapter books, think of the plot as a “M” —the story begins interestingly, the main character faces conflict, some conflict could be resolved only to lead to more conflict, then the protagonist finally solving the conflict and tying up loose ends.

  • “Edit, edit, edit”

    Edit, edit, edit. Re-word sentences to read more gracefully. Take out all those words/sentences that don't do anything to move the plot/characterization forward. Make everything your characters do and say have meaning.

This is the art of good plotting, and all the writer's hard work will be worth it in the final story.
Diane Robinson is the author of several children's books, the latest of which is Sir Princess Petra’s Talent

I think these tips apply equally to writing for adults, too. What do you think?

Headshot - Catherine McLean pantsers vs plotters

Outlining vs Chaos: the Pantser vs Plotter Dilemma

I have a tendency to just sit and write, developing a mind map as I go in order to keep track of characters and events. Is that how Pantsers work? In this post on how to be an author, Catherine McLean outlines the differences between Pantsers and Plotters, giving us a clear insight into the technical side of writing.

Which are you? Give your reactions to this article in the comments below.
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Outlining or Chaos: the Pantser vs Plotter Dilemma

by Catherine E McLean

Headshot - Catherine McLean pantsers vs plotters Of the ten types of story-generation styles I've been able to discover, most people only know of the top two: The Pantser and The Plotter. Most writers start out as Pantsers. I think this is due to the "artsy" concept that creativity and inspiration are "The Force" behind a work of fiction and to let it flow. Embrace the Muse. Put your butt in the chair, hands on the keyboard, and write, write, write. Unfortunately, the down side is that the Muse doesn't always cooperate and so writer's block sets in or the trite and cliched appears on the page.

As to the linear-thinkers, those Plotters expound on the virtues of plotting, delineation of characters, and calculating every aspect of the story. Many go into such detail that, by the time they are ready to write, they have lost interest in the story. After all, they know it from beginning to end in detail, minute detail, so why write it.

But there is more to the Pantser and the Plotter dilemma

[pullquote]The Pantser is driven by inspiration[/pullquote] (the Muse). A Pantser may have an instinctive grasp of story from extensive reading of well-told stories, but they are clueless to the techniques, the underpinnings and technical aspects of plotting, or what makes a story work for a reader. Most don't want to learn craft, thinking it stifles creativity. In reality, craft liberates and provides possibilities.

A Pantser is also easily sidetracked while writing and will find they've gone off on tangents, digressed, filled pages with back story and back histories. Sadly, the Pantser also believes none of their darling words or characters should be changed or cut.

Then, too, the Pantser is often wrapped up in enjoying the high that comes from creating and the excitement of not knowing what will happen next. Which leads to characters stumbling into situations unprepared, or without motivation or a clear goal, let alone a way out of the situation. What the Pantser fails to grasp is that the first solution or idea that popped into their mind is likely contrived, corny, cliched, trite, or unrealistic (unbelievable).

And when a Pantser discovers a problem, their energy wanes. After all, solving the problem means rewriting, which is time-consuming, hard work, and boring. So why bother. Then, too, whenever the enthusiasm wanes, the Pantser tends to move on to a new story to re-stoke the "high" of creativity. Which means, stories never get completed.

The Pantser then bemoans their Muse not cooperating or secretly fears the Muse has abandoned them.

Now, as to the Plotter? The Plotter has a need, a desire, for assurance that things are orderly and accounted for. The Plotter analytically understands story structure and uses "plotting tools" like forms, questionnaires, cheat sheets, a project bible—whatever works—to develop an idea into a full-blown story. The Plotter uses craft techniques in order to better their stories and maintain control of the Muse and its output.

[pullquote]The Plotter takes advantage of plot boards[/pullquote] to weigh solutions for scenes and goals, thus preventing the protagonist falling into traps unprepared and unmotivated — and insuring there is a way out of the situation.

Most plotters plod along, unafraid of losing momentum or of losing elements that make for great conflict, which saves the Plotter energy and time in rewriting and polishing because the first draft is five or six times better than a Pantser's. That is, if the Plotter actually does write the draft.

In all honesty, most of the Pantsers I've met believe structure is sterilizing, boring, and stifles creativity. And I have met Plotters who never allow their Muse out of the shackles and cage they keep them in.

Producing Authors

The reality is that there are many great, tightly structured novels by producing authors. Emphasis on producing. So, what's their secret? It's this: producing authors have a system and habits that work for them and which have enabled them to consistently produce story after story. Here's a home truth: what works for one writer won't work for others. Why? Because writers are individuals. Any "system" must be tailored for the individual, their relationship with their Muse, and the talent, desire, and perseverance to achieve specific writing goals.

However, what a lot of newbie writers fail to grasp is that [pullquote]creativity can benefit from some structure[/pullquote]. And, yes, it's okay to take advantage of outlines, plot patterns, a "project bible," or forms as long as the writer tailors them for themselves and doesn't get carried to extremes by using such documentation. It's about realizing the shortcomings of the current story-generating method and compensating for them that truly works. Think of it as blending a pantser's inspiration to a plotter's need to know what and where and why. Thus structuring creativity isn't smothering the Muse but brings order to the chaos the Muse revels in and still provides the creation "high."

So, if you've been having problems with producing story drafts in a timely fashion or you desire to be a producing writer, why not consider blending logic and creativity to make your writing blossom?

Catherine writes "Women's Starscape Fiction" because she likes a story where characters are real people facing real dilemmas, and where their journey (their adventure-quest, with or without a romance) is among the stars and solar systems, and where there's always a satisfying ending. You can find her books on Amazon here.

A most interesting and informative article, Catherine - thank you very much!

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Creating a Narrative Voice

Creating a narrative voice is one of the most challenging aspects of writing - in my own book, The Reiki Circle, the story is woven from three different points of view, with three distinct narrative styles! Rex Stout - one of my favourite crime writers! - developed the wise-cracking Archie Goodwin as narrator, a totally different voice from the writer himself.

In this guest post by Kenneth Weene, he outlines how he crafts a distinct narrative voice for story teller characters, so that they stand out on their own, rather than as the narrator of the larger story.

Many Fish Naming Story

by Kenneth Weene

Kenneth Weene creating a narrative voice photoOne of my preoccupations as a writer is creating a believable narrative voice. This is especially crucial when a character is telling a story within the larger work, similar to the play within the play. There is a French term for this narrative device, mise en abyme. Of course nobody was better at this than Shakespeare. Three of his plays have plays within, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Love’s Labour’s Lost, and of course Hamlet.

Currently, I am writing Red and White, a novel of Native American and White interaction at the end of the nineteenth century. One essential ingredient is a number of Native American stories, but they are stories that I am creating for my characters. My task is to capture a sense of the Indian voice while developing my plot.

Today, I thought I’d share one example of this set of mise en abyme tales. This story is told by the Medicine Man Tall Grass at the naming ceremony for the protagonist’s, Lonely Cricket’s, younger brother. In creating it I have followed a few important traditions of Native American stories:

  1. There is almost always a trickster who fools the humans. As a result something bad happens, but also something good;
  2.  Few of the characters are given names so that the “hero” stands out;
  3. There is a repetitive sense to the story, both a repeating of certain important elements and a repetition of certain phrases;
  4. There is often a sense of naiveté, the humans tend to be all too willing to go along with the trickster;
  5. Certain positive characteristics such as patience or bravery are exemplified by the hero.

Now the story. I am curious to see how well you think I have met the standards I have set. Do you find the narrative voice believable for this Native American tale?

Creating a Narrative Voice for a Shaman

There were three boys who wanted to go fishing. They took their fishing spears, some pemmican in case they became hungry, and long thongs on which they would hang the many fish they were sure they would bring back for the village.

The boys were excited at the thought of an adventure. They were even more excited at the thought of the welcome they would receive when they returned with long lines of fish, enough for a great feast.

Young Wolf, who had suggested they go fishing, led the way. The other boys followed him across a field and into the woods. They followed the trail to the brook where their fathers had taught them how to fish, how to stand silent on the rocks carefully and to avoid casting a shadow which might alarm the trout or pickerel that gathered in the eddies to feed.

When they found a good place, they lay down their small bundles. Each boy took off his moccasins, his pants, and his shirt so his clothing would not get wet if he slipped on a wet rock. Then they took their positions and waited.

No fish came. One of the boys said, “I am tired of waiting. Why don’t we take a break and eat some of our pemmican?” The third boy agreed, but Young Wolf kept his vigil on the rocks.

While his friends were eating, Young Wolf saw a large trout making his way up the current towards his rock. He readied his spear and held very still. When the fish came into range, Young Wolf cast his spear; but the fish had disappeared. As the disappointed boy pulled the thong that connected the spear to his wrist, he lost his footing and slipped into the water.

“Ha, you got me, you trickster,” Young Wolf said. Suddenly, the trout jumped and then splashed back into the water. The boy laughed again.

When Young Wolf laughed, a stranger came out of the bushes. “You are all wet,” he said to the boy.

“Yes, the fish got the better of me today.”

“Would you like to catch many fish?” the stranger asked. “I know a place where there are so many that your arms will grow weary from spearing them.”

The boy was happy at the suggestion. His eyes filled with dreams of the many fish he and his friends would bring home to their village.

“Yes,” he said to the stranger, “my friends and I will go with you to this fishing place.”

“It will take time and there is danger,” the stranger said. “You will have to be patient and brave to go with me.”

Young Wolf went to his two friends and told them about the stranger and the wonderful fishing place he knew. The boy who had said, “I am tired of waiting,” did not want to go. “I know that I am not patient,” he said. “This is not a journey for me. I will go back to the village.”

As the boy left, Young Wolf said to him, “Leave your thongs with us so that we can use them to help bring back all the fish we are sure to spear.” So the boy gave Young Wolf the long thongs and then headed back to the village.

Then Young Wolf and the other boy followed the stranger along a path they had never before seen. They came to a steep place where they would have to climb. It was very dangerous and the other boy stopped. “I am not brave enough for this,” he said. “I will return to our village.”

As the boy left, Young Wolf said to him, “Leave your thongs with me so that I can use them to help bring back all the fish I am sure to spear.” So the boy gave Young Wolf the long thongs and then headed back to the village.

When the two boys returned to the village, the men asked where they had been. When they told their story, one of the medicine men said, “I think that Young Wolf has gone off with the Trickster; we must go after him.

A war party was mounted, and the two boys showed the way. When they came to the steep place, two of the bravest men climbed to the top. There they found a great stream in which there were many fish. Next to the stream they found Young Wolf’s moccasins and his clothing, but he was nowhere to be found.

Near the boy’s clothes were the long thongs of buckskin the boys had taken, the ones on which they had planned to string their fish. The thongs had been woven into a net, which was stretched across the stream. In the middle of the net there was a large trout ensnared, large enough to feed three men. That was the first time our people had learned of using nets to catch fish.

Young Wolf would never return, but he had indeed found a way to feed the people with many fish. And that, Many Fish, is the story I tell for your naming celebration.

*****

Ken Weene has three novels published by All Things That Matter Press. They are available in print, Kindle and Nook editions; and one, Memoirs From the Asylum is also available in audio. Many of his short stories and poems have also been published.

How do you create a narrative voice? Do you base it on someone you know ... or is it your own voice as a storyteller? Express your thoughts in the comments below.