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