SCBWI Ireland Meet-Up (Focus on Plot and Story Structure)

By Colleen Jones

On September 29th, we held our third meet-up of 2012 at the lovely Bishopstown Library in Cork city. Tea and coffee were provided by the library staff, and one participants’s wife sent along a home-made spiced cake!

Plot and story structure

The main focus for this meet-up was on plot and story structure.

What is plot?

“Plot is a literary term defined as the events that make up a story, particularly as they relate to one another in a pattern, in a sequence, through cause and effect, how the reader views the story, or simply by coincidence. One is generally interested in how well this pattern of events accomplishes some artistic or emotional effect.” Wikipedia

What is story structure? “One of a finite number of plans in which to tell a story.”

Ali Hale wrote a blog post that discusses how Nigel Watts defines and explains story structure in Watts’ book Writing A Novel and Getting Published.

The eight points which Watts lists are, in order:

  1. Stasis
  2. Trigger
  3. The quest
  4. Surprise
  5. Critical choice
  6. Climax
  7. Reversal
  8. Resolution

He explains that every classic plot passes through these stages and that he doesn’t tend to use them to plan a story, but instead uses the points during the writing process.

You can reach Ali’s full article here:

The meeting group discussed how different participants work out a plot or story structure. Many people just write and see what happens. A few people use a synopsis or an outline to give them some guidelines, but don’t stay tied to it if the story wants to go in an unplanned direction. The discussion segued a bit into how people get ideas and develop them.

People brought a few reference books to share.

I passed around “Chomp” by Carlk Hiaasen, a fun story set in the Florida Everglades of the U.S. It was very different from the usual stories but still had at its heart a family struggling to get through a hard time.

I also was able to show off my copy of Alan Corbett’s Ghost of Shandon, a beautifully illustrated graphic novel for young readers that is set in Cork, Ireland. He arrived after he finished teaching an illustration class and had lots of ideas. I got him to sign my book, of course!

Resources for Plot and Story Structure

Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers From Start to Finish by James Scott Bell (Writer’s Digest series)

Scene and Structure by Jack Bickham

Beginnings, Middles, and Ends by Nancy Kress

Ingrid’s Notes blog – Story structure in visual formats:

Kirsten Lamb’s blog series on plot and structure:

Structure Part 1—Anatomy of a Best-Selling Novel

Structure Part 2–Plot Problems–Falcor the Luck Dragon & the Purple Tornado

Structure Part 3—Introducing the Opposition

Structure Part 4–Testing Your Idea–Is it Strong Enough to Make an Interesting Novel?

Structure Part 5–Keeping Focused & Nailing the Pitch–Understand Your “Seed Idea”


People also named some resources and tools for working on illustrations or writing or just experimenting with another medium:

  • GIMP – a free illustration software that provides a lot of the same functionality as Photo Shop at a more affordable price. While it has some limitations, like accurately rendering colours, it is quite a user-friendly program according to a couple of our group’s illustrators.
  • OmmWriter – Dana I is the first version and is available for free download. it’s a text processor that helps writers to focus on their writing by providing pretty calm backgrounds, ambient music, and blocking the Internet for blocks of time that you set yourself. Kevin Crowley recommended it, so give it a lash and see what you think.
  • Stop-Motion Animation Course – Cork Film Centre – a couple of the meeting participants did this course and found it great for enhancing their creativity and opening their minds to new ideas and ways of thinking.
  • You Can Write Children’s Books by Tracy E. Dils

New Critique Group in Limerick

Don’t forget there is a new critique group being started in the West/Southwest in Limerick by Maeve. For more information, contact her directly at:


There is more work to be done to develop SCBWI Ireland as a writing and illustrating resource. As the membership continues to grow, we hope more people will volunteer to organize activities in all corners of Ireland!

The next SCBWI Ireland meet-up in Cork is on Saturday, November 17th, 2012 at Bishopstown Library. For more information, see the “Meet-ups” page.


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