Because Plot is a VERB

There are probably as many ways to plot a novel as there are novels. Some of the ones I've dabbled in are the 3 act structure, Hero's Journey, MICE Quotient, Blake Snyder's beat sheet, story maps, scene-sequel method, etc. – and they're all great. 

But what I've learned is that it's easy to get distracted by plot when what I really need to do is spend more time getting to know my characters... and then let plot evolve out of that. And that's hard and can take a long time and is often discouraging – because getting to know my characters is hard and can take a long time! 

Eventually, the time comes for me to remind myself of the key to it all:  

Plot is a verb. Think hatch and thicken. Plot is not an element of a story so much as an action. The goal of the writer is to plot, to create that movement. Whenever your story drags, remember it is up to you to jumpstart it, give it a shove, make it tick and tumble. 

This can be difficult, so I keep a postcard next to my desk that declares “PLOT IS A VERB.” Some days it even helps me remember. :)

Happy plotting!

IreneLatham lives on a lake in rural Alabama. Winner of the 2016 ILA Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet Award, she is the author of hundreds of poems and nearly twenty current and forthcoming poetry, fiction and picture books from publishers including Penguin Random House, Macmillan, Lerner, Boyds Mills & Kane, and Charlesbridge. Her books have been recognized on state lists and honored by NEA, ALA, NCTE, SIBA, Bank Street College and other organizations. 


  1. Great reminder, thanks! I was just talking to a student the other day about the difference between a description of action and action that's written as the character's experience... feels related to me -- emphasizing the verb aspect of plot/characters' experiences.

  2. Those simple reminders are the best!

  3. This is an excellent read! I'll share this with my students. Thank you!


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