Or....Confessions of a Teacher/Writer and the Connection between Reading and Writing
(Check out the video clip first and then read below.)
Most of Tammi Sauer's books follow a great plot structure. Therefore her books are fantastic to use with students for retelling and also for using as an example for writing their own fictional stories.
Plot Structure of a Picture Book
Setup- Tells who the characters are, where they are (setting) and what they do.
Inciting Incident- An incident that happens that causes a problem for the main character. This problem forces them to want to try to solve it.
Events-where they “Try” to solve it and fail each time. (Picture books typically will have three.)
Climax-Dramatic moment of overcoming or solving problem. (But then…something big happens…and the character makes a choice.)
Result- Building down, wrapping up loose ends, and showing positive consequences of climax.
Resolution- Happy or hopeful ending
Let's take a look at Tammi's book trailer for Nugget and Fang and see how many elements we can identify. (All won't be revealed because it's a book trailer.)
Let's take a closer look at Nugget and Fang.
(Warning: The ending is revealed in this analysis of the plot. So first, go get the book, read it, laugh out loud, read it again, share it with a friend, laugh some more, and then come back to read the following.)
Setup: Shark and a minnow- two best friends that did everything together.
Inciting Incident: Life was perfect until Nugget started school and realized he couldn't be friends with a shark. Fang was sad. He had to “prove” he wasn’t scary.
Try 1. (Fang is a surprise visitor at school.)
Try 2. (Fang sends a letter inviting Nugget over for dinner.)
Try 3. (Tried several other things like getting a tattoo of Nugget and sending a singing band of seahorses, but finally he was out of ideas.)
Fail (and he was still really sad without his friend.)
Climax: But then something really bad happens and He was so sad that ….he didn’t notice a net. The minnows all got trapped. They were going to be captured.
So Fang makes the decision to help them by chomping through the net.
Results: He saves them.
Resolution: And they all became friends.
The main thing I noticed that I did wrong as a teacher with retelling, was I would always have students identify:
Character, Setting, Problem, Solution.
Later, I started adding in: Character, Setting, Problem, Events, Solution. However, this still didn't make sense. Kids could identify (most of the time) the pieces in isolation. But the connection was never made that those "Events" consisted of the character "Trying" to solve the problem and "Failing" along the way.
So instead, I use a retelling format that fits the picture book structure. And now, it makes it easier when attempting to "write" our own fictional stories.
*Again- not all books are plot driven books. And even if they are, not all plot driven stories will fit this exactly. Some may not have an "inciting incident" that causes the problem. Some picture books will just jump right into the problem. Often the climax, results, and resolution are very short and can often be squished together at the end. And because picture books are so short, sometimes the results and resolution are the same.
Check out Tammi's other books. See if you you can use the template to analyze the plots.
(Then use it to write your own fictional plot driven story.)
For more information check out Tammi's website at www.tammisauer.com.
Mondays with Mandy or Mira consists of Mandy Yates and Mira Reisberg. Mira is the founder of the Children's Book Academy and was so impressed with Mandy when she was a student in one of the interactive courses, that she invited Mandy to share the blog. Mandy has as an MFA in creative writing from Spalding University and has been published multiple times in Highlights Magazine. We hope you enjoy and find our offerings helpful.
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