So today's story element is PLOT, and from the last two Monday's we have learned that plot, character, and conflict all go hand in hand. Did you know that the basic plot structure can be mapped out as a graph? (You'll find several more below.) Picture books often follow the three-act structure of the big screen. (More on that in a few months.)
Definition: n. A secret scheme or plan, usually illegal. n. The story that is told in a novel, play, book, movie, etc. According to about.com, plot is
Plot concerns the organization of the main events of a work of fiction. Plot differs from story in that plot is concerned with how events are related, how they are structured, and how they [bring about] change in the major characters. Most plots will trace some process of change in which characters are caught up in a conflict that is eventually resolved.
Today's book example is:
Title: The Plot Chickens
Author: Mary Jane Auch
Illustrator: Herm Auch
Publisher: Holiday House
Word Count: 1027
Henrietta loved to read. Soon she had read every book on the farm a dozen times, so she went to town to find more. When she spotted people carrying books out of the library, she went inside to wait in line.So we have a character. We know what she likes and wants. Enter conflict:
"We have nothing for chickens here. Try the feed store."As a teacher, there's this little trick we like to teach our students about stories called Somebody Wanted But So Then. It helps teach summarizing and comprehension skills. It's also great for analyzing and creating plot. Here's how it goes:
Wanted: to read books from the library
But: the librarian says there's nothing for chickens there
So: she "clucked at the top of her lungs"
Then: the librarian gave her some books to read
Wanted: to try writing books
But: when she tried Rule #1 from the book the librarian gave her, the other hens fought over who the main character would be
So: Henrietta decided it would be Aunt Golda because she was the oldest
Then: Henrietta started typing her story on the typewriter (a "Hunt and Peck" model - what fun!)
Wanted: to continue with her story
But: none of the other hens wanted to be the main character anymore because Rule #2 said that "you need to hatch a plot" which "starts with Rule Three: Give your main character a problem." And none of the hens wanted any problems
So: she made up a character and called her Maxine
Then: she developed her plot with Rule #4 by asking what-if questions.
You could also think of it like this: Somebody Wanted But So Then But So Then But So Then But So Then But So Then But So Then. The THEN kind of acts like the next WANTED. That's the rising action.
And now we have the climax. In Henrietta's story, she continues to write her story about Maxine and a big bad wolf. She goes through all eight rules trying to tell her story and the other hens keep trying to end it for her, but she says endings are the hardest part. She finishes her story, revises it, submits it to a publisher, gets a rejection letter, self publishes, and reads her book to the children of the library. Her book even goes on to be reviewed in The Corn Book Magazine. (Get it? Horn Book? Love it!)
Comb through one of your current mss and do a Somebody Wanted But So Then on it. See if the tension is mounting and make sure you include a resolution.
Story Element #1: Character
Story Element #2: Conflict
Next week: Story Element #4: Dialogue
Keep on keepin' on...