By Gloria G. Adams
If you Google “plots,” “how to plot a story,” “plot templates,” or other variations of the same, you will get thousands or even millions of hits. But there are some basics that always apply, especially for children’s books.
Here is a one-sentence plotline that can be used as a skeletal structure:
The main character has lost or wants a fundamental need and in trying to obtain it, he/she grows or changes.
Fundamental needs can be survival, love, nurture, protection, freedom, belonging to a group, self-esteem, finding one’s identity, creating/building something, solving a problem, etc.
Author Charlie Colman recommends identifying the controlling belief that drives the action of the main character in your story to obtain the want or need.
For example, in Hatchet, Brian is stranded in the Alaskan wilderness and his fundamental need is to survive. He believes he will be rescued if he can survive long enough. All the actions he takes in trying to survive, the things he learns in the process, change him into a stronger, more self-reliant young man.
When thinking of the story you want to write (or have written), ask yourself these questions:
1. What is the main character’s fundamental need?
2. What is his/her controlling belief that will drive his/her actions to obtain that need?
3. What actions will he/she take?
4. What will he/she attain? (The original fundamental need or one or two others in addition or instead?)
5. How will the main character change?
Pick some favorite books you have read and ask those same questions. Learn from successful authors how they have answered those questions and found publishing success. Then apply them as you create your own stories.