27 December 2018

STORYBOOK TOOLS: Story map

This is the first of a three part blog about useful tips and tools when creating picture storybooks. These simple ideas are great for budding authors of any age.  I also hope that all you hard working creative writers and teachers will find this free  Story Map to be a useful time saving tool.

Every story follows a simple structure. There is a beginning a middle and an end. Story maps are a visual representation of the most important parts of a story.  They can help a writer organise thoughts and are also useful in helping students understand a story they may be studying.  Studying your favourite storybooks is a great place to start your creative process, especially if you are stuck for ideas. By mapping out the characters, plots, setting, conflict and resolution, of your favourite books, you’ll begin to understand what make a great story and it may help spark some ideas of your own.

As Louis L’Amour said, “Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” Even if you don’t have (what you consider to be) great ideas, jot them down, then pick one and build on it. The great thing about a story map is you can start anywhere you like. You may not know your protagonist yet, but you know what the conflict might be. From there you may start developing ideas on how the problem may be solved and you may start to discover your main character. The point is, if you don’t start, you won’t finish. Your story map will help you avoid getting lost and guide you through your writing.

THE BEGINNING: This is where you set the scene and introduce the reader to your characters. Your character description may include a back story. Your setting maybe in the past, present or future. If your world is imaginary, create rules and stick to them. Here is where you orient your reader and make them care about the characters and what happens to them. You want your reader to keep reading.

THE JOURNEY: The journey usually begins when there is conflict. Solving the problem shouldn’t be easy. Ideally, as your story develops the tension should rise. The “rule of threes” is very useful here. The rhythm and simplicity of threes appeals to readers and is believed to make a story more memorable. The Three little pigs, Goldie Locks and the Three Bears, The Three Billy Goats Gruff are just some examples. Think of the main events in your story happening in threes and building to your peak.

THE CLIMAX: The climax is the turning point of your story. It is when the problem is solved, one way or another. Children’s books often have happy endings, but they don’t have to be predictable. One of my favourite picture books is The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch. Our princess doesn’t end up marrying her prince, but she lives happily ever after without him.

THE RESOLUTION: The is where conflicts are resolved, and loose ends are tied up.  There is often a moral or a lesson to be learned. Just remember that a resolution doesn’t have to provide all the answers. A great story will allow the reader’s imagination to take over and may even leave room for a part two.

I hope this was useful and inspiring. Don’t forget to download your free printable Story Map.