Scottish Book Trust Virtual Writer In Residence Teacher & Pupil Notes by Keith Gray

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Scottish Book Trust Virtual Writer In Residence

Teacher & Pupil Notes by Keith Gray

Episode 3: Plotting
Happy people make rubbish stories

  • What makes a story a story? CONFLICT!

What kind of problem?

  • Conflict can be a straight forward battle, one person fighting against another. Not just physically – it could be a ‘battle of wills’.

  • Maybe it’s an internal conflict. Your character could be fighting against their inner demons. (See Dr Jekyll or Anakin Skywalker).

  • Ambition can cause conflict. How is your character going to make all their dreams come true? Will they do anything to fulfil that ambition? That’s a real moral dilemma...

  • Perhaps your character is in conflict with the rest of society. Maybe your character wants to be/do something out of the ordinary that their friends and family frown upon. (See ‘Bend It Like Beckham’).

  • Of course your character could be in a life-threatening situation: lost in the desert, chased by a werewolf, trapped aboard a sinking ship.

Telling the story

  • Conflict leads to plot. Once you know what conflict you’d like your main character to confront this will help you figure out how best to tell their story.

  • All stories should have a Beginning, Middle and End. But think of these three parts of a story in terms of conflict.

  • Beginning becomes Dilemma. Explain what problem your character has to face - exactly what is the conflict in their life. Set-up for the reader what the rest of the story is about.

  • Middle is Confrontation. This part of the story is where your character has to face up to their problems and try to overcome them. Show your character fighting against their enemy, or their inner turmoil. Think of scenes where your character is struggling to achieve or survive or win.

Try This!

  • Next time you read a book (or watch a movie) decide who the main character is. Then work out what is the main conflict in this person’s life. Maybe it’s more than one problem they have. Can you break that book or movie down into 3 parts – a Beginning, Middle, End? A Dilemma, a bit of Confrontation, and the final Resolution?

  • Take the character you created in Episode 2 and decide what the main conflict in their life could be. Is it a struggle against their enemy? Or do they need to achieve their ambition - by fair means or foul? Perhaps it’s getting harder and harder to keep their secret hidden. What will they do if it gets out? How far will they go to keep it a secret? Or maybe they are desperate to find that precious something they lost...

  • Decide how you are going to start your story. Can you think of an opening scene that will you explain the Dilemma to your reader?

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