Friday, April 12, 2013


When I talk with middle grade students about writing a novel, I often compare it to preparing for a long car trip: First you choose your destination (Story Idea); then your traveling companions (Characters). We also discuss important items to ‘pack’ for the journey, such as Dialogue (long drives are bor-ring without stimulating conversation or ‘I Spy’ games) and Conflict (I’m not talking potholes. More like: ‘Yikes! We’re gonna get sideswiped by that semi!’).

Of course, it’s also essential to fill up the tank with plenty of gas - i.e.; enthusiasm for your project.

At this point, the students are rarin’ to go, ready to back their story out of the garage and hit the road.

But wait! What about a map?

True, some authors can immediately put the pen to the pedal, switching on the ol’ Cruise Control without nary a care in the world. Not I. Without a basic outline of how (and why) my characters are going to travel from Point A to Point Z, I tend to take the wrong exits, get lost, run out of gas in the middle of the desert, or go off on pointless tangents – such as visiting the World’s Largest Ball of String.

That’s why I never go anywhere without my trusty…


Working Title:

Main Character:

Important Traits of Main Character:

Minor Characters:

Who or What is the Antagonist?

Main Conflict: 

*  What does the Main Character want?  What is his motivation: his problem, goal, situation or greatest need?  Why?

*  How important is it for the Main Character to get what he wants? What serious consequences will occur if he fails?

*  How does the Antagonist put up road blocks to prevent the Main Character from getting what he wants?

*  What does the Main Character do about these road blocks/obstacles? 

*  What are the results (complications/implications) of the Main Character's initial actions? 

*  What do these struggles lead to? What additional actions does the Main Character take, and what are the results? (Crisis!)

Climax: What is the moment of decision, the point of no return, where the story reaches its highest pitch?

Resolution:  How does the Main Character accomplish his purpose, solve his problem, or abandon both in favor of something else?

Theme: What is the basic truth demonstrated through the Main Character’s action and reaction?  What does the Main Character learn about himself and/or the world around him?

One line synopsis of book:  


I hope you find the Plot Map useful. Just remember: this is only an outline. During the story journey, your Main Character may need to stray off the main road now and then, taking intriguing detours, seeking out bigger and better adventures. That's fine - just as long as those side trips still move the story along on a logical path.

Buckle up - - and have a great time!  And don’t forget to send me a postcard.


  1. Great plot map--definitely not too intimidating for the pantsers among us.

  2. Thanks for this! I never approach writing the same way twice. Just cut, pasted, and printed.

  3. For me, it's different for every book. For the one I just finished, it was a very thin 10 point plot outline, for the next project, I have like 10,000 words of brainstorming and outline.

    Anyway, great map, Lee! Thanks for sharing.

  4. My last novel I finished had a plot line like this: Assassin gets hired for job and does job.

    That's it. Pretty straight forward.

  5. I use this map just to get me started. Normally, I have pages and pages and pages of notes for each character, settings, scenes, theme, plot-theme, etc., etc.

  6. I love your plot map, Lee! I bet with your characters can be wicked backseat drivers!


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!