Posted by: nancyisanders | April 28, 2010

NaPiBoWriWee: More Plot Ideas

Have you ever heard back from an editor who said your manuscript needs a stronger story arc?

I have!

To help solve this problem I’ve developed a system for creating a stronger story arc in my picture books. It’s a simple little fill-in-the-blank exercise where I try to figure out key ingredients of my plot, plug them into place, and then incorporate them into my story.

You can do this, too, as you’re gathering ideas for your stories that you’re going to write for NaPiBoWriWee! It’s all happening on Paula Yoo’s blog and we’re following along here on mine.

The story arc in picture book should have a clearly defined beginning, middle, and end. (Unless you’re writing a picture book with a predictable plot pattern.) As with writing fiction in all reading levels, the beginning of the story is where you introduce the main character, the main problem, and the setting.

The middle of a picture book is where things get complicated. This adds more tension and more interest to the story. Usually, these smaller problems surface. These occur in a set of three, and each time the main character attempts to solve them, things just get worse.

By the last attempt to solve the third smaller problem, the main character is in a mess. The main character is therefore forced to make a pivotal decision. This decision propels the main character to take action and thus the main problem presented at the beginning is now resolved in the end of the story.

To help develop a plot structure for your picture books, create a Plot Structure Chart:

Plot Structure Chart:
Title of Picture Book:
• Main character:
• Main problem:
• Setting:

• Small problem #1:
o Main character’s attempt to solve #1:
• Small problem #2:
o Main character’s attempt to solve #2:
• Small problem #3:
o Main character’s attempt to solve #3:

• Pivotal decision:
• Main character’s resulting action:
• Resolution of the main problem:


  1. I copied this for future reference. Thanks!

    • You’re welcome, Tina! Glad this helps. -Nancy

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