Plotting: Nemesis or Not

Plotting: My nemesis or maybe not? I am being plagued by plotting questions and discussion again. I like to say I don’t plot, but admittedly I have to do some. I am a decidedly seat-of-the-pants writer and by saying that I mean that I don’t outline, instead I write the story as the characters dictate it. I tried outlining a few times, but my writing was stilted and trapped. The characters would revolt and I couldn’t write. However, next week I have been asked to work with a group of fourth graders on writing stories and guess what the teacher wants me to talk about. You guessed it plotting. I can’t tell these beginning writers to plot by the seat-of-the-pants.

I found some resources, thanks to NANOWRIMO, that have given some information to share with the kids. Sheww, what a relief, I won’t look like I’m totally off my rocker (even though I am, but the kids don’t need to know that). So now I will look at my works and see how I can apply the plot roller coaster to my story. Maybe I will see where I did that before I started writing, (Probably not, but I can’t let the kids know). Maybe I’ll even learn a little bit that I can apply to my future projects. (again probably not, I’m to set in my ways, just don’t let the kids know).

So what do I tell these kids. I am going to start by telling them about the Plot Rollercoaster.  We have the beginning of the ride, where we introduce the characters and the setting and what the story is supposed to be about. After the introduction then we move on to an exciting event. This event will happen to your main character and now the adventure begins.  Time to climb the big hill. This hill consists of events that move the characters and the reader closer to the climax, the most exciting part of your story. The story the kids will be writing will probably only have one climax, but in a novel or longer stories your roller coaster will have many hills, some big and some not so big. Anyone of these could be the beginning of the end or just another phase it the story leading up to the big finale. This rising action will include your main character along with supporting characters, anyone who is really involved in the story.

When we reach the top of the hill, we are at the climax. Things get really exciting here. The bad guy will show up and stir things up. It’s the point where the reader should be saying “What’s going to happen next? Can the main character get out of it?” Like I said before in a short story there will probably only be one climax. In a longer story or novel there could be many climaxes and all with differing degrees of concern for the characters and the reader.

Now we have the falling action. Will your main character get what he wants, will the villian be defeated and how do these things happen?  This should be as exciting as climbing the hill and reaching the top. Like a roller coaster, your hands should be up in the air and you are squealing with fear or delight, but you haven’t stopped yet.

Now you reach the end of the ride. How does your story end? Are your characters satisfied?? Have you tied up any loose ends? It’s time to get off and start on the next story.

I think the fourth graders can understand that, and hopefully it will ease their plotting journey. Anyway next Monday, I’m off to a learning experience for me and a bunch of fourth graders. Wish me luck or maybe the fourth graders, it should be interesting.


Happy Writing and God Bless,

Christina Weigand

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