Saturday, April 30, 2011

How to Write a Strong Plot

The plot of your story is the most important thing when it comes to any book. Without a strong plot your book simply will never capture and involve the reader. The basis of a plot is the idea and the message. What are you trying to communicate through your story? With children's books it’s not enough to simple write a sequence of events that end with something funny happening. There needs to be a message or something you are trying to say or teach through writing the story. Think back to all ancient fairytales and folktales they all have strong moral messages and teachings that was the reason they were created.

Publishers look for specific things when choosing manuscripts to publish.
The more of the following elements your story has the more likely it will be published or sell when self published.

Niche Market
Age Specific
Universal Theme

It’s good to have this all figured out before you start writing your plot. A plot is a plan for the story that has yet to be written. You should create a brainstorm before the plot.

(1) Brainstorm
(2) Plot
(3) First Draft

Now that you have the message or idea you are trying to communicate you need to figure out how. This is where the plot is created. The first plot you figure out might not be the plot you end up with for you final manuscript or story. Plots can change a lot as your story develops so don't get too attached.

A basic plot consists of the following:

Main character is introduced and sets a goal or aim

Main Character runs into obstacle or problem that jeopardises achieving the goal or aim.

Main character triumphs and resolves the obstacle or problem and achieves the goal or aim.

The way to make this structure work best is to have layers of ideas within the story. Try to make each event relate to the next and connect elements throughout the story that later reveal themselves. Be clever and try to use things like metaphor to add meaning. The basic story must be simply understood however there can be many elements that add to the story both in the text and illustrations.

This is a basic story structure that can be used in millions of ways. This seems to be standard for any children's book or story written in English speaking countries. However this was not always the case and there are many other countries who write for children in a different way. Most of the original folktales and fairytales did not have happy endings but they have been adapted over time.

While at the Bologna Children's book fair I was fortunate enough to see an exhibitions and presentation on Korean children's books. Their plots were completely different they didn’t follow the structure above at all. They addressed serious issues with no happy ending, amazing sensitivity for the reality of events and amazing creativity. Just something to think about. Be warned though when approaching publishers they are usually only interested in a plot structure like the above.

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