Mar 07

Story, Plot, and Arcs

Lately, I’ve received a few picture book manuscripts from potential clients who wanted quotes on editing.

Once I read over the stories, I quickly knew they weren’t editing projects because there were no actual stories. They were a list of events or scenes.

It seems to be a common problem with new authors who don’t take the time to learn the very basics of writing a story.

So, what exactly is a story and plot?

An article at The Write Practice uses a quote from E. M. Forster to explain the difference between story and plot: “The king died and then the queen died,” is a series of events and can be considered a story. “The king died, and then the queen died of grief,” is a plot.

The story is the basic storyline. It’s the overall description of the story.

In my middle-grade book, Walking Through Walls, the storyline is the protagonist wants to become rich and powerful, no matter what it takes.

The plot is in the details.

The plot of Walking Through Walls would be the protagonist wants to become rich and powerful, no matter what it takes, and he believes learning magic will get him there.

Another good example of story and plot is The Story of an Hour by Kate Chopin.

The story: Within one hour, the protagonist thinks her husband died in a train crash. Having missed the train, he comes home and the protagonist drops dead.

The plot: The protagonist thinks her husband died in a train crash. Having missed the train, he comes home and the protagonist drops dead but it’s not from the shock of overwhelming joy.

Paints quite a different story, doesn’t it?

Now, if you have a series of events: Pickles the dog plays with a cat, then plays with a frog, then plays with a goat, then plays with a pig, you don’t have a story arc or character development. Again, this is a series of events.

I’ll have clients ask why something like the above isn’t a story. The dog is having lots of fun with different animals.

Well, if it was a concept book, teaching about animals, then it could work.

But if it’s to be a fiction story, it doesn’t work. The reason is it’s lacking a story arc and a character arc.

The story arc is the path the overall story takes. Every character in the story goes on this journey.

It’s also called the narrative arc.

According to a MasterClass article, the narrative arc “provides a backbone by providing a clear beginning, middle, and end of the story.”

The character arc on the other hand is the path the protagonist takes.

Just like the story, this arc takes the protagonist on a journey along with the reader.

The character arc is all about the protagonist. It’s him confronting a conflict or challenge, his attempts to overcome it, and his ultimate success. Through this character journey, the protagonist grows in some way. She may gain knowledge, become confident, rise up to challenges, become mature, or grow in some other way. But it’s essential there is growth, especially when writing for children.

So, going back to Pickles the dog, he, as the protagonist, has no conflict or challenge to overcome. He doesn’t grow in any way.

And as for the Pickles story, it’s flat. There’s no arc.

Readers won’t become invested in a series of events. They want to connect to the protagonist and root for him to overcome his obstacles. They want a full story arc and character arc.


Whether you need help with ghostwriting or rewriting, or coaching, let me take a look at your children’s story. Just send me an email at: Please put “Children’s Writing” in the Subject box. Or, give me a call at 347—834—6700

Let’s get your idea off the launch pad or your outline into a publishable story today!

Or, if you’d rather give it a shot and do-it-yourself, check out my book, HOW TO WRITE A CHILDREN’S FICTION BOOK.


7 Steps to Writing Success Through Positive Thinking

Writing Elements – Is One More Important Than Another?

Submitting Your Ghostwritten Book to a Children’s Publisher

Social media sharing

Jul 07

Writing Elements – Is One More Important than Another?

There’s a lot of information on the elements of writing.

You have characters, setting, point-of-view, style, theme, plot, and even literary devices.

But you also have things like readability, consequences, and uniqueness.

Could you choose which of these elements is the most important?

It’s tough, isn’t it?

Well, I recently read an article titled, What Is the Most Important Element when writing a Story? and the answer became simple.

The most important element to writing fiction is the WHY.

You can have all the above mentioned elements in your story, but if the why is missing, the story will fall flat. The reader won’t bother turning the pages.

So, what’s the WHY?

The why is usually the inciting incident.

It’s the reason you wrote the story and the reason the reader will bother reading it.

According to Studiobinder, “The inciting incident should have a snowball effect. Let the story grow from the one thing that goes wrong (or right) like a snowball would if it rolled down a hill.” (1)

The Lucky Baseball: My Story in a Japanese-American Internment Camp is a middle grade story that has a significant inciting incident.

The protagonist is a nice boy of Japanese descent. At the outbreak of WWII, he and his family are taken to an internment camp. The protagonist’s life is turned upside down.

Readers are immediately grabbed and want to know what happens to the boy.

Keep in mind that the inciting incident doesn’t have to be a bomb going off and destroying the protagonist’s home and family. It could be something simple that snowballs into something huge.

Sleepless in Seattle is one of my favorite movies, but the inciting incident doesn’t really seem to be of much consequence at the moment. Tom Hank’s character talks on the phone to a radio show psychologist about how difficult it is to cope with the loss of his wife.

While it’s a touching scene, it’s the aftermath of that call that creates the snowball effect.

Women, including Meg Ryan’s character, hear the conversation on the radio and immediately all want to be the woman who heals Tom Hank’s character’s broken heart.

This turns the protagonist’s life upside down.

According to another article, What is the Most Important Element When Writing a Story?, “As a novelist, you have to hone in on the event that brings the story into being and why your reader should care. That why is the question at the heart of every novel. The why is one of the first things readers look for when we pick up a book.” (2)

While every element in writing is important in that when combined, they create a synergy that can create a powerful and memorable story, it’s the why that’s at the heart of every story.





Children's ghostwriter

Whether you need editing, rewriting, or ghostwriting, let me take a look at your story. Just send me an email at: Please put “Children’s Writing” in the Subject box. Or, give me a call at 347—834—6700

Let’s get your idea off the launch pad or your outline into a publishable story today!

Writing for children tips

Writing and the Winds of Change

Should Your Message Rule Your Children’s Story?

The Pros and Cons of Publishing with a Small Publisher

Jan 22

Balance in Fiction Writing – The Major Elements

Writing elements needed for balanced writingThere are five major elements to a fiction story and it’s the combination of these elements that make the story complete, interesting, and considered good writing.  Too much of one or not enough of another can affect the readers ability to connect with the story. So, what are the major elements of a story?

The Major Elements of a Story

1.    Protagonist
2.    Setting
3.    Plot
4.    Point of view
5.    Theme

Let’s break them down:

The Protagonist: Introduce the main character. Using your imagination you can make him unique. He can have particular mannerisms or quirks, or even distinct physical attributes. You can also make him likeable or unsavory, but remember you will need the reader to be able to create a connection to him. It’s this connection that will prompt the reader to continue reading on. Your protagonist needs to be real…believable.

The Setting: This will establish the time and place the story takes place. The setting can create a feeling and mood – if you’re writing about swashbuckling pirates, your reader will be in a certain mind set. The same holds true for any other setting you choose. It will be intrinsic to the plot/conflict and will help establish vivid imagery for the reader.

The Plot: This is the meat of the story – the forward movement, the conflict or struggle that drives the protagonist toward his goal. This involves any danger, suspense, romance, or other reader grabbing occurrence. The conflict can be emotional (an internal struggle – a tormented soul) or physical (from an external/outside force – good against evil).

Point of View: This establishes whose point of view the story is being told. It’s important to make this clear. Even if you have two main characters, there needs to be one who is primary in order to keep clarity within the story.

The Theme: This establishes what is important to the story. It usually evolves along with the story and the protagonist’s progression. If Jesus is your protagonist, establishing and promoting Christianity might be the theme. It might be the story’s view on life and the people/characters the protagonist encounters. It is the idea the author wants the reader to take away with him/her.

Utilizing each of these elements can create a unique, fascinating, and memorable story.

Just like the ingredients in a cooking recipe, writing has its own set of ingredients that produce a wonderful end product. A pinch here, a dab there – you hold the unique recipe to your story.


The One Sentence Pitch for Your Manuscript
How Do You Build a Successful Writing Career? (3 Tips)
Aim for Writing Success

Need Help With Your StoryLet me take a look at it. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and editor. I can turn your story into a publishable and saleable book.

Shoot me an email at: (please put Children’s Writing Help in the Subject line). Or, you can give me a call at 834—347—6700