Plot, Plot, and more Plot! Part One: Defining the Plot
We talk about plotting in depth in Module Six of our writing for children course, and we stick by the conclusion that there is no single aspect of writing children’s stories that is more important than plotting. Good stories are never written ‘off the cuff’ with the forlorn hope that everything will come together in the end.
It never does.
Stories for children need form and professional construction just as much, if not more than stories for adults do. This is a necessary part of the planning process and requires us to thoroughly understand plots and plotting.
Basically, the plot is the main story line and should be used by writers in much the same way as a carpenter would use a blueprint drawing. It is the skeleton of the story with all the flesh stripped away, leaving only a basic format from which to work. It provides a connection between the main events and incidents in a logical and realistic way.
Plotting entails planning the action in such a way as to achieve a definite conclusion. This will normally involve the central character embarking on a mission to solve a problem, which must be shown to be important to him or her.
During the ensuing action there must be some opposition to the achievement of this goal. This opposition may come from other characters, or sets of circumstances, or a combination of the two. The degree of difficulty must increase throughout the story until it seems as though he or she will never succeed. This is when one tremendous last effort is needed for victory.
This is the tried and tested formula, which you will have seen, demonstrated time and again, not only in books for all ages, but also in television drama. The interest is held throughout, until the final nail-biting scene when everything is resolved.
The danger for novice writers is to confuse the word ‘plot’ in its story-telling context with its usage as intrigue or suspense. A plot, as it applies to writing children’s stories, does not have to involve the solving of a mystery. It may often do so, but there is no compelling reason why it should.
Care should be taken not to confuse these two distinct meanings of the word.
We continue with: Plot, Plot and More Plot in Part Two: Plot Means Conflict. Here we will be looking at how you can’t have a plot without conflict.
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