I’ve been dreading the class on plot ever since I signed up to teach. The word itself is just so full and round and all-encompassing. It makes me think of clot, which makes me think of blood, which makes me think of survival. Plot truly is the lifeblood of a story, and in the past a few of my stories have been a bit — well, anemic. And though I’ve made great strides in this area, plot is still not my strongest suit (a typical problem for writers of my generation.) The concept is easy to grasp in theory, perhaps, but not so easy to bring to life. Otherwise writing would be a cinch, right? Plus, I worried about confusing my students in my effort to explain the different structures and ways to build a story.
In planning my lesson, I borrowed from a teacher (who borrowed from the Internet, it turns out) and used “Cinderella” as my example story. We talked about the basic plot diagram, types of conflict, and ways to structure plot. Then talked about rising action, climax, and falling action in the old fairy tale — and they got it! Everyone was nodding along and asking questions and understanding. Whew!
For their independent exercise, I asked the students to name an animal (gerbil) and a food (lasagna) and write an outline for a story about what happens to those items. They had to decide on the conflict, the climax, and the rising and falling actions. Then everyone shared their different outlines. They said it was the hardest exercise they’ve had to do so far, but they all came up with some great story ideas because of it!
Next, we move on to suspense!