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“You enter the extraordinary by way of the ordinary.” ~Frederick Buechner

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Overview Plot Development: Roadmaps

Workshop: An Introduction to Writing for Children and Young Adults

“Facts exist independently, outside people. But they have meaning and/or significance only as we have feeling about them; react to them.” Dwight V. Swain.

Plot is a roadmap. Like other maps there are several ways/routes to plan the journey. The rising line of tension grows out of the characters as they struggle against reversals and recognition. The plot can be simple or complex depending on the story question.

Scene Basics

Scenes are considered to be the basic building blocks of story structure.

“It’s a segment of story action, written moment-by-moment, without summary, presented onstage in the story “now.”….  It could be put on the theatre stage and acted out.” Jack M. Bickham

Within those moment by moment segments, though, are a series of cause-effect or stimulus-reaction. Dwight V. Swain refers to this as a motivation-reaction unit, which we looked at briefly in Character Development. These units combine to become the building blocks of scenes, the core motivation from cause and effect. The motivation stimulus=character reaction: feeling, action, and speech.

The trigger can be anything, positive or negative. “A motivating stimulus may come to you on a level at which you aren’t even consciously aware of it.” It is the why behind the how in your story, Swain says, that creates the situations for an individual to make value judgments, by responding to facts with feelings. We can’t control the way we feel—we just do. But in some degree we can control action.

Dwight V. Swain wrote a detailed explanation of a scene-sequel in his well-known book, Techniques of the Selling Writer. And, according to Swain, writing in a series of interlocked Motivation Reaction units gives the technical foundation to write scenes, which is a unit of conflict unified by time. The struggle may be emotional, or physical or mental, but there are no pauses. The scene completes itself. He compares the moment by moment to a series of blows and punches as in a boxing match.

Motivation Reaction Unit


            1. Needs to come from real feelings.
            2. Needs to be credible motivation.
            3. Avoid dead ends.
            4. Maintain credibility.
            5. Keep aiming towards goal.
            6. Keep in mind main conflict.
            7. Create interesting obstacles.

Action Steps:

1.     Take the motivations and goals that you developed for your character in the last the last session and measure them against the M-R unit.

2.     Fill in any that are missing or need to be made stronger.

Share: Which was the most difficult to identify for your age reader?

Read deep, marcy

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