Monday, February 17, 2014

Plot diagrams and rollercoasters have a lot in common

Turns out that the most read post on this blog so far is the one about A Good Man Is Hard to Find.  In that one, I showed my homemade, handwritten version of a plot diagram, which looked a little Unabomber-ish with its tiny scrawl, I have to admit! So here is an easier-to-read version:

G=Grandmother, PS=Pitty Sing, B=Bailey, M=Misfit
I used to make a lot of these plot diagrams because they really help to get the hang of the rollercoaster chain of cause-and-effect events that happen in a story. There are so many great descriptions of plot diagrams available, I won't try to reinvent the wheel here. I learned about it from reading J. Burroway and E. Stuckey-French's Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft. You can also Google the "inverted check mark" plot diagram to find similar info.

One last comment: This is totally not a definitive plot diagram of the story--I'm even sure there are much better ones out there--but if you are reading to write, like me, this is a really great exercise. It makes you define the essence of the story. To me, the essence of this story is about the Grandmother's inability to recognize evil, whether in herself or others. That's why I identified the crisis point (the highest point in the diagram) as when the Grandmother mistakes the Misfit for one of her own children--this ultimate blindness results in her death.

Whether this is the "right" or "wrong" idea, I leave up to you. But I can promise that using these diagrams will help you figure out your own conclusion, and at the very least, you'll discover how tight (or loose) the plot is in your favorite stories.

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