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27 January 2024

Posted by Sukie & Claire

Young Writers - Week 3 (The Art of Writing) - PLOT

Hi Writers!


This week we started out with an exciting announcement – the Shaftesbury Tales writing

competition has opened! Open to writers living in Dorset (so that’s at least some of you!), it has age

categories of 11 & under; 12-16; 17-19; 25 & under, and ‘open to all’. It’s a community project with a

procession from Corfe to Shaftesbury, performing the tales of people living in the Dark Ages in

villages along the route. Please do spread the word and submit something – if you are looking for

some extra eyes on your work, do come along to the Junior (7-11) & Young (11-14) Writer

workshops at Forest Arts, New Milton. Just as a reminder, we run on Saturday mornings (09:30 for

Junior Writers and 11:30 for Young Writers) and you can sign up by contacting the Forest Arts Centre

directly, or come along and we can add you to the list!


So, back to Saturday’s workshop: this week we were playing with plot.


We each described our weeks as a kind of sea creature during our check-in.

 Poppy M’s week had been like a seal. Lots of flopping around, but also lots of swimming

frantically when needed

 Berry described her week as like a killer whale because of some arguments

 Claire described her week as an octopus because there was so much to do she could have

really made use of eight arms

 Sukie said their week was like a salmon, swimming upstream as hard as possible – difficult,

but progress was being made


We had largely been continuing our books from last week, with some new additions:

 Berry had finished the first book of the ‘Murder Most Unladylike’ series and was wanting to

reread ‘The Last Bear’, one of her favourite books. We talked about how important it is to

have comfort books that we return to time and again!

 Poppy M had finished the entire ‘Murder Most Unladylike’ series – quite an achievement!

 Sukie had finished ‘The House in the Cerulean Sea’ & ‘Cabal’ – one considerably scarier than

the other

 Claire was reading ‘Daisy Jones and the Six’, and rereading ‘The Northern Lights’


We started talking about plot as the structure of a story and as a sequence of events that make up

the backbone of any story, and discussed the five-part basic structure of most plots:

1. Set-up/challenge/conflict – the setting and characters are presented

2. Rising action/crisis

3. Climax – the important event(s) at the top of the story, where the greatest emotion & drama lie

4. Falling – the tying up of loose ends and winding down

5. Outcome – resolution and settling into the end.


We read two excerpts, one from The Brothers Grimm’s version of ‘Cinderella’ and one from ‘A Wizard of Earthsea’ by Ursula K Le Guin.


‘Cinderella’:

‘Now it came to pass that the king ordained a festival that should last for three days, and to which

all the beautiful young women of that country were bidden, so that the king's son might choose a

bride from among them. When the two stepdaughters heard that they too were bidden to appear,

they felt very pleased, and they called Cinderella, and said,

Comb our hair, brush our shoes, and make our buckles fast, we are going to the wedding feast at

the king's castle.

Cinderella, when she heard this, could not help crying, for she too would have liked to go to the

dance, and she begged her step-mother to allow her.

What, you Cinderella! said she, "in all your dust and dirt, you want to go to the festival! you that

have no dress and no shoes! you want to dance!

But as she persisted in asking, at last the step-mother said, I have strewed a dish-full of lentils in

the ashes, and if you can pick them all up again in two hours you may go with us.

Then the maiden went to the backdoor that led into the garden, and called out, O gentle doves, O

turtle-doves, And all the birds that be, the lentils that in ashes lie come and pick up for me! The good

must be put in the dish, the bad you may eat if you wish.

Then there came to the kitchen-window two white doves, and after them some turtle-doves, and at

last a crowd of all the birds under heaven, chirping and fluttering, and they alighted among the

ashes; and the doves nodded with their heads, and began to pick, peck, pick, peck, and then all the

others began to pick, peck, pick, peck, and put all the good grains into the dish. Before an hour was

over all was done, and they flew away. Then the maiden brought the dish to her step-mother, feeling

joyful, and thinking that now she should go to the feast; but the step-mother said,

No, Cinderella, you have no proper clothes, and you do not know how to dance, and you would be

laughed at!’


‘A Wizard of Earthsea’:

‘As the witch kept talking of the glory and the riches and the great power over men that a sorcerer

could gain, he set himself to learn more useful lore. He was very quick at it. The witch praised him

and the children of the village began to fear him, and he himself was sure that very soon he would

become great among men. So he went on from word to word and from spell to spell with the witch

till he was twelve years old and had learned from her a great part of what she knew: not much, but

enough for the witchwife of a small village, and more than enough for a boy of twelve. She had

taught him all her lore in herbals and healing, and all she knew of the crafts of finding, binding,

mending, unsealing and revealing. What she knew of chanters’ tales and the great Deeds she had

sung him, and all the words of the True Speech that she had learned from the sorcerer that taught

her, she taught again to Duny. And from weatherworkers and wandering jugglers who went from

town to town of the Northward Vale and the East Forest he had learned various tricks and

pleasantries, spells of Illusion. It was with one of these light spells that he first proved the great

power that was in him.’


We discussed the common plot types that show up in storytelling all over the world, as described by

Christopher Booker in his book ‘The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories’: ‘rags to riches’;

‘tragedy’; ‘comedy’; ‘rebirth’; ‘overcoming the monster’; ‘the quest’, and ‘voyage and return’, as well

as the two ‘other plot types’: ‘mystery’ and ‘rebellion against The One’, and talked about famous

examples of each of these plot, and how they can interweave or be subverted, such as in

‘Enchanted’ which is an example of both a comedy and a subverted ‘voyage and return’ story, as

well as having a ‘rebirth’ plot as a sideline. We followed on with talking about how different

characters, especially in media with a lot of characters and space to tell a story (e.g. a TV show), can

have their own distinct plots within an overarching plot. Using Avatar: The Last Airbender as an

example, we discovered the overarching ‘quest’ and ‘overcoming the monster’ plots, Zuko’s ‘rebirth’

plot and Aang’s occasional ‘voyage and return’ episodes.


Next we played this week’s story generator game, and each pulled a character (or several), a setting

and a plot type and spent some time writing a story outline based on them.

 Poppy M: an extraordinary firefighter, Antarctica, rags to riches/overcoming the monster

 Berry: a generous librarian, a curious footballer and a creative elderly person; a tea party in a

castle, voyage and return

 Claire: a trusting teacher, a school, the quest

 Sukie: a romantic doctor, a world of superheroes, rebirth and tragedy


Berry’s librarian, Horatio, and football player are enemies, and the football player leads the librarian

on a journey through a world inside a football technique book whose authorship is in question…


Poppy’s firefighter wins an unexpected prize – an all-expenses-paid trip to Antarctica. But he decides

that the homeless man in his neighbourhood needs a holiday more than he does, and gifts it to him,

with some surprising results…


We’re looking forward to hearing some of these stories next Saturday, and to embarking on our Non-Fiction workshop!

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