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

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Overview Plot Development: Patterns Part Two: Incident Story

Workshop: An Introduction to Writing for Children and Young Adults

            “The surface story is the one in which the action occurs, the one where the suspense is, the one that keeps the reader reading to find out what happens.”
                                                                                              Jane Fitz—Randolph

In her book, How to Write for Children and Young Adults, Jane Fitz—Randolph notes five plot structures that work well for these ages.

Incident Story

Technically according to the definitions we’ve looked at the incident story is not a plotted story but it works well for the very young and their perception of plot in that it captures their attention. The main character becomes interested in what happens around him and responds. A good example would be the classic Good Night Moon where a sleepy child notices her environment. These stories are usually quite short, about 300 to 700 words.

In an Incident Excursion the environment is more or less familiar, such as a trip to the grocery store, or a walk in the park. Each incident or encounter becomes more interesting.

            “When we reach our favorite
spot Mr. Squirrel
waits on his branch just for me.
We say hello.

First he somersaults, then runs
fast upside down
leaps up trunk, twirls down again.

We laugh, we clap.
He flourishes fluffy tail
then takes a bow.”  Excerpt from A Walk in the Park (not yet published)

In an Incident Adventure the situation is unfamiliar. Fitz—Randoph reminds us to “remember adventure from the very young child’s pov”. The very popular “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak definitely takes our hero on an adventure.

But for the very young an unfamiliar situation can be as ordinary as a fire truck hosing down a fire or watching a puppy given a bath for the first time.

Incident stories still must have an interesting sequence of events that build to a climax and both must have unity. Look for ways to us repetition, rhythm, and rhyme when appropriate to the story. In the story “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” by Judith Viorst, the terrible, horrible, very bad day phrase is repeated throughout each frustrating incident that he encounters.

For this story style the more specific and concrete the better.

            “Paint word pictures that help the child to visualize.”
                                                                                                Jane Fitz—Randolph

Action Steps: (Suggestions taken from Jane Fitz-Randolph)

Begin to practice tracking plot patterns for different ages and genres. For every story you read look for the plot patterns.

1.     State the story in one sentence. Then write a brief synopsis.

2.     Make specific note re the Beginning: Time, Setting, Principle characters. Include the Set up situation or problem.

3.     As you read mark the Middle: continuing scenes/action/plot.

4.     End: climax/resolution.

Share: Did anything surprise you? Why?

Read deep, marcy

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