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Plot & Structure Children Young Adult

Winning Plots in the Kids’ and Young Adult Genres

Young Adult Genre Plots
Written by Ricardo Elisiário

Some may think that writing for kids is easier than producing stories for their adult counterparts. But the truth is that writing a great story, regardless of genre and audience, is a challenge that will test your creative, linguistic, and plotting skills. This is why you need to take control of as many aspects of your writing as you possibly can, starting with plot.

Here are 7 kinds of plots known to work well in the young adult genre and in children’s fiction. Try your hand at these plot types, and discover which works best for your story.

The Wandering Plot

This is the kind of story that develops without a clear destination or final goal for the protagonist, creating a path of action that can seem a bit convoluted and loose.

Examples

  • The Malory Towers series by Enid Blyton
  • The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney
  • The Junie B. Jones series by Barbara Park

Throughout these books, you’ll notice a similar trend: young characters are forced to face challenges without really having the tools to effectively deal with them. The plot is driven by the protagonists’ continuous struggle.

Tips

To add an element of surprise to this kind of plot, you should present your readers with something simple yet unexpected in the character’s growth.

Write about a central figure whose journey is based on life’s learnings and consequences instead of any ambitious pursuit, as the latter would be incompatible with this sort of aimless hero.

 

The Straight plot

For stories with a plot that’s mostly linear, the writer decides to choose a single character within the tale and give them the spotlight. This is done by explaining why this protagonist was chosen to either carry the whole story or fall victim to it all, and how it changed them.

Examples

  • Cinderella
  • Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
  • And honestly, the great majority of children’s fantasy.
    This might be because it’s more natural for a writer to tell a tale with a well-defined timeline and clear goals for the hero, as both facilitate the writing and reading processes.

Tips

Find yourself a central figure. Develop a plot that relies completely on their presence, attitude, and actions. With this secured, you need only put pen to paper, and your story shall run straight like an arrow.

 

The Round Plot

This kind of story follows a cyclical action line, meaning that the main character goes out to engage with some kind of challenge, and ultimately returns home, back to the beginning. What varies is how much the protagonist is changed by their journey.

Examples

  • The Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
  • The Chronicles of Narnia series by C. S. Lewis
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

These are all stories in which the characters are sadly (or happily!) brought back to reality at the end of the plot.

Tips

If you want to give this one a try, be ready to create two of everything – two worlds, two sides to each character and, thus, two different ways in which the reader can relate to them. That way, your story can become twice as compelling.

 

The Centrifugal plot

This kind of plot starts with an explosion of action early on in the story. Everything that happens next is deeply rooted in the abundant concurrent happenings of the opening scene.

Then, the secret lies in making the readers feel overwhelmed in a digestible way, leaving them to only wonder how on Earth things will settle down.

Example

  • The Bad Beginning, the first book of A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket.  The narrative begins with a death that opens the way for what is indeed a series of very unfortunate events for three orphaned siblings.

Tips

Centrifugal stories draw from the healthy mess that is the simultaneous unfolding of incidents, each filling in a chunk of the final volume.

An interesting thing about this format is that every part of the plot may seem autonomous and as unattached to the others as it can be. However, the fact that the whole story-web expanded from a single original cause makes exploring the book all the more bewitching.

 

The Ramified plot

There are many plots that single out a most relevant character and stick to their trajectory almost exclusively. And then, there’s the ramified plot, which branches out to touch many more characters and experiences than a protagonist-focused story ever could. Ramification simply starts at one, or several, core points within the plot, and from there the narrative expands outwards into many more scenes, introducing people and nuances of various importance that expand and enrich the story.

Examples

  • The Hobbit
  • The Lord of the Rings

These two Tolkien masterpieces are equally vast in their storytelling and secondary plots.

Tips

By taking on a setting that is common to the entire story, your role as a young-adult-genre wordsmith is to depict each twine of action and argument that might matter to the whole picture. In detailing the life of diverse characters – or of perhaps the same one under very different lights – you can confer richness to a plot that may even be simple at its heart, but will no doubt live on in the minds of readers for decades to come.

 

The Split Plot

This plot type is founded on the presence of more than one protagonist or, at least, different important points of view that each need their own space in the story to be thoroughly conveyed.

Examples

  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  • The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

Tips

Stories narrated in a shifting way tend to increase the reading pace, as the chunks are more bite-sized and the eagerness to get to our favorite character’s chapter can be either motivating or frustrating. But still, it’s a very compelling form of narration that is just as common in adult fiction.

In short, create interesting personalities and always leave bits of story that need later explanation. This approach will grant you a gripped reader who’s enthralled and hopeful for an unexpected finale.

 

The Winding Plot

Many stories have a tendency to start out in the vaguest and, consequently, most unresolved moment of all. The goal in these situations is to then meet the hour of final resolution, whether that comes as a result of a fight, a discovery, a mere realization or maybe getting to a certain place. Tension shall tighten till it reaches its peak by the end of the book and then, through victory or loss, the plot will wrap itself up and deliver us a sense of completion.

Examples

  • Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher: a novel in the young adult genre, in which the lead characters are forced into a spiral of search, doubt, and pain before they can obtain the needed answers.

Tips

If you analyze narratives like this one, you’ll realize that a generous dose of mystery and suspense is vital. It’s essential for the delivery of that single last meaningful punch that puts a restful cover over what had been a marathon of secrets with hard-earned finds.

 

Successful Plotting in the Young Adult Genre

Think of plot type as the kind of road that your characters will have to walk. Choose a kind of plot that will work well with the setting, argument, and pacing you envision for your story.

Next, draft a whole page of events that you are sure will be in your final manuscript – your favorites, those that move you to sit at the desk every day. If you bullet-list them, you’re setting a base structure for your tale while giving yourself the freedom to move them around.

If you remain well aware of the nature, construction, and possibilities you want to create in your plot, then not much can go wrong. And if it does — well, it’s because you so desired.

Ricardo Elisiário is a frenetic freelance writer for hire. He should probably act more like the agricultural engineer he is, yet you’ll find him creating copy and content for websites, print… and his own amusement, as he’s up to becoming the new Dickens someday.
To find out more about this Lisbon-born wifey-lover, visit his website or say hello @wRicardowrites.

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