Plot is the order in which things move and happen in a story. Chronological order


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Plot is the order in which things move and happen in a story.

Chronological order is when a story relates events in the order in which they happened.

Flashback is when the story moves back in time. Jean George, Julie of the Wolves or dreams in Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are. Dreams are easier for children to understand because of their experience with them. Flashbacks are more problematic.

Conflicts occur when the protagonist struggles against an antagonist (villain that goes against the protagonist), or opposing force. Conflict and order make plot. The author creates the conflict by describing one of the following types of interactions.

Person-against-self: Tom Sawyer's fear of Injun Joe and guilt, can't sleep, fear of talking in sleep, ties mouth shut, struggle with moral responsibility even in the face of danger. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin. Ged struggles against the flaws in himself, as the shadow, must make himself whole. "a man who, knows his whole true self cannot be used or possessed by any owner other than himself. He will now live his life for its own sake, not for hatred, pain, ruin, or the darkness of evil.

Person-against-person: Meg and IT in A Wrinkle in Time, Michael and his mother in The Hundred Penny Boy by Sharon Bell Mathis, Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs Vs. the wolves.

Person-against-society: Child will probably call it "will Wilbur live?", but it is really Wilbur Vs. dinner table, Wilbur Vs. good business. Kit Vs. the Puritans in The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare.

Person-against-nature: Julie in Julie of the Wolves by Jean George. Karana in Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell.

Person-against-supernatural, fate, destiny: Luke Skywalker in Star Wars IV-VI has to battle the dark side of the force.

Lack of conflict: A story that lacks struggle, lacks suspense, lacks alternatives, lacks a sense that it had to happen, and therefore, satisfaction. All the reader can say at the conclusion of such a story is "So what does that prove? A Wrinkle in Time shows Meg in a powerful planet saving person-against-person conflict. The author builds the plot, character, ... so well that the reader/listener cares very much what happens to Meg. Even simple stories like Goldilocks, The Three Little Pigs, and The Billy Goats Gruff have conflict and tension. Double Fudge by Judy Blume has a different sense of conflict. There are little incidents that happen throughout the book but nothing of significance to anyone but Fudge and maybe some family members. However the reader's attention is maintained by an attachment to Fudge and his struggle with childhood.

Pattern of action

Exposition introduces the characters and the setting.

Rising action builds during the story and reaches a peak at the Climax.

Steady action: maintains the same amount of action through out the story, rising and falling from time to time. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Rise and fall action: the action rises to a climax and then trails off. Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor.

Climax: The peak and turning point of the conflict, the point at which we know the outcome of the action. Children call it the most exciting part. In Charlotte's Web when the pig survives. The Borrowers when the boy ventilates the fumigation. A Wrinkle in Time when Meg discovers what she has that IT does not.

Falling action: The conflict begins to be resolved and then moves towards resolution.

Resolution: is the falling action after the climax. When the reader is assured that all is well and will continue to be, so the plot has a closed ending. If the reader is left to draw their own conclusions about the final plot then the ending is open. Many adults as well as children are disturbed by open endings

Suspense is what makes us read on. Charlotte's Web : Wilbur's fate. Will he live? Will Charlotte run out of words? Is Templeton too selfish to help? Will Wilbur win at the fair? Can Charlotte go? Lose to Uncle? New category? Dead pig! Templeton bites tail...

Cliffhanger: Trouble River by Betsy Byars, The Borrowers by Mary Norton, and the High King by Lloyd Alexander.

Foreshadowing is the planting of clues to indicate the outcome of the story. Not all readers will be alert to these. Some may notice them subconsciously and describe their inferences as guesses or feelings. Charlotte's Web : When we first meet Charlotte we are told that she eats living things and the friendship looks questionable. But White adds that "she had a kind heart, and she was to prove loyal and true to the very end. A prophetic statement. Another clue is when Charlotte assures Wilbur, after he learns of the slaughter, with, "I am going to save you."

Sensationalism: the thrilling and the startling. Achieved at the expense of the character and the idea. A writer must be careful with sensationalism, so as not to weaken the character or theme, to balance suspense over action, and then hint at the outcome, as not to overpower small children but provide relief as needed.

Inevitably is the property of it had to be. This is high praise for a writer.

Coincidence: events that happen by mere chance. The Incredible Journey has some coincidental events that remove credibility from the plot. First, a handwritten note blows into the fire and leaves the housekeeper baffled. She therefore does not know that the two dogs and cat have struck out on their own, and does not search for them. Later a crumbling beavers' dam gives way at just the right moment to sweep the frightened cat downstream. Later a boy hunting for the first time with his own rifle saves the cat from a lynx with one remarkable shot.

Sentimentality is a natural concern or emotion for another person. The way a soap opera or a tear-jerker plays on its viewers.

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell is told by the horse and stuffed with sentimentality.

"Poor Ginger" a title of a chapter concludes with these observations. "A short time after this a cart with a dead horse in it passed our cab-stand. The head hung out of the cart-tail, the lifeless tongue was slowly dropping with blood; and the sunken eyes. But I can't speak of them, the sight was too dreadful. It was a chestnut horse with a long, thin neck... I believe it was Ginger; I hoped it was, for then her troubles would be over. O! If men were more merciful they should shoot us before we came to such misery."

Because of the sentimentality, the reader/listener/watcher may sob more soulfully over Ginger's death than over that of a human being, although there is little confusion in some minds as to which misused creature is more deserving of grief.

The rapid pace of folktales does not allow time for tears by false sentiment. We do not anguish over the fate of Rumpelstiltskin, when he stamped his feet and split in two and that was the end of him.

The most destructive element from the over use of sentimentality is not boredom, but the fact that the young reader, faced with continual sentimentality, will not develop the sensitivity essential to recognize what is truly moving and what is merely a play on feelings. If, after all, we regard the death of a pet mouse with the same degree of emotional intensity as the death of a brother, we have no sense of emotional proportion.

By contrast Katherine Paterson in Bridge to Terabithia uses a wide range of emotions that children wrestle with or the genuine sentiment that a small child, reading or being read to, experiences during the relationship with Charlotte and Wilbur. The child fed only on such surface sentimentality as soap operas, the average television program, and Walt Disney, with their sterile and stereotyped pictures of human beings and their distorted sensationalism with simplistic solutions, risks developing emotional shallowness.

Types of plots

Progressive plots: have a central climax followed by denouement. Charlotte's Web and A Wrinkle in Time are examples.

Episodical plots: have one incident or short episode linked to another by a common character or unifying theme (maybe through chapters). Used by authors to explore character personalities, the nature of their existence, and the flavor of a certain time period.


Setting includes time and place.

Backdrop setting is when the setting is unimportant for the story and the story could take place in any setting. Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne is an example of a story in which could happen in any setting.

Integral setting is when the action, character, or theme are influenced by the time and place, setting. Controlling setting controls characters. If you confine a character to a certain setting it defines the character. Characters, given these circumstances, in this time and place, behave in this way. The Tail of Peter Rabbit is an example of how the setting is an integral part of Peter's behavior. Charlotte's Web is another example of an integral setting.

Functions of setting: The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth Speare creates a setting of Puritanical austerity: hand-rubbed copper, indicating hard work, the heavy fortress-like door, the dim little mirror, the severe wooden bench, the unpainted Meeting House, the whipping post, the pillory, and the stocks. The tasks of a typical day performed by Kit: mixing soap with a stick, the lye fumes stinging her eyes, tiring muscles, with one of the easiest tasks: making corn pudding, which keeps her over a smoky fire with burning and watering eyes. A frightening and uncompromising environment compared to her carefree Barbados upbringing.

Setting as antagonist: Characters must resolve conflict created by the setting: Julie of the Wolves , The Incredible Journey, and Island of the Blue Dolphins .

Setting that illuminates character: The confining setting of the attic in Anne Frank and Flowers in the Attic help the characters find themselves and grow as individuals.

Setting as symbolism: a symbol is a person, place, object, situation, or action which operates on two levels of meaning, the literal and the figurative, or suggestive. Children will understand only obvious symbols. Forest: unknown; garden: natural beauty; sunlight: hope, goodness; darkness: evil, despair. A grouping of symbols may create an image called an allegory. The Narnia books by C. S. Lewis are allegories. In The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Speare uses symbols in the usual way and to create conflict, as when she describes Hannah as a kind and harmless woman who lives in the sunny meadows. When you would expect a witch to live in the deep dark shadowy forest or swamp.

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