A Pirate's Resources

Exercise 23 :: Plot :: There's Something Happening Here

And now the heart of the story: plot. This is the series of events that occur one after another and make up all the actions of the story.

This is a pretty straightforward element. Throughout the exercises, the students have been working through different aspects of plot. In
backstory, they were, essentially, telling the plot of what happens outside of this story (the plot of a different, previous story, as it were). Even the exercises on character desire, where your student learned about how desires lead to actions, and more actions … each of those actions are steps in the plot.

I doubt they will need much help in understanding what the
plot it. There is one aspect that I’ll focus on here, and you can share as your child is open and able to take it in. Many times a writer creates a forced plot. They have an outcome in mind, and, working backwards, write the actions that will get to that end in the way that seems best, or easiest, or most interesting. This is a plot, but, as you’ll know from different stories and movies you’ve experienced, it can also feel unsatisfying, or cause the audience to discount it. “That was so predictable” is one response, but so is “where did that come from? They just made the character do this so they could get from A to B. It doesn’t make sense.” Contrived action like this is not satisfying to the reader (or the writer, really). In real life, our actions come out of our actual motivations, desires, and choices. While we, as people, do think “how can I get from A to B?” and act accordingly, the desire to get from A to B is born out of something real, and the things we choose in getting from A to B come from who we are, and what we want, or don’t want. Plot in a story should happen the same way - come out of the way a character would really respond. This takes knowing our characters well, developing who they are and what they want, so we, as the author, can have them respond in realistic ways.

This is hard even for seasoned writers, because our own desire (say, to finish the chapter) can sometimes cause us to choose to take the easy route, rather than the harder but more rewarding route of taking the time and effort to develop full and robust characters. So don’t press this on your child, but help them to recognize, in the stories they read, when a contrived plot has happened, and help them see what would have been more realistic to the actual characters. In time, this will come out in the stories they write!

In Real Life :: every day is part of the plot of our lives. Just as in stories, the actions we take come out of the desires we (and those around us) have. And like an author, we can know the characters in our story (including ourselves), and also make choices as to how this story will end. We might have to choose our reactions to the actions of other characters, we may have to set up and be a hero, we may have to admit when we’ve been a villain. Then we choose our reactions to go towards the resolution we desire most. Be brave and encourage your children to think about living a good story!

Finding it in the Story :: honestly, this one would be so detailed, I would simply make sure your student understands - the plot is that series of actions that moves the story forward. Have them open up to any chapter of this story, and tell you the plot (action) points. Bonus if they can look to which characters actions cause it, and what their motivations are.