As writers, we all have our own method of coming up with a great story. For some this method is just to sit down, start writing, and seeing where the story takes you. Others take a more technical approach by planning out their stories well in advance, before any writing has even taken place. One such planning technique which is used by students, teachers, amateur and professional writers is known as ‘story mapping’ or ‘plot mapping.’
Story mapping is a process in which the author uses a visual ‘map’ to plot their tale. These maps can range from a simple list of characters, setting, conflict and resolution, to a more intricate board which utilizes all of the aforementioned components, but it goes into greater detail about the events leading up to conflict and resolution. The visual planning phase helps authors to conceptualize their story and make changes before committing to writing their thoughts out.
Here are some examples of story mapping templates: (These are just visual examples, they aren’t meant to be followed exactly as they are depicted.)
A simple map – (photo credit Pinterest.com)
Here, the author is asked to list the title, characters, setting, and a general idea of what
happens in the beginning, middle, and end of the piece. This type is not meant to include
many details, but more of an overview of the story.
A more intricate map – (photo credit http://www.dailyteachingtools.com)
In this example, the writer can come up with their major characters, a number of events that
build up to the story’s climax, the climax itself, and the events that occur after, or the fading/post
action. Like the first example, this also allows for room to list your conflict(s) and resolution(s)
as well as your setting and main character theme.
The detailed map – (photo credit http://www.colbyrrice.com)
The detailed example is more open ended. The middle box would be your central theme.
The rest is up to the individual author. You could choose to then name characters or settings
and branch off their individual conflicts and resolutions (if there are any). This form can grow to
be very large with multiple branches coming off of each box.
The take-away message with the detailed map is that it’s composition is totally up to you!
As you can see, there is no right or wrong way to plan your piece. Choose the method that works best for you and dive in. There are some great resources online if you’d like more information about the mapping process. Some are made specifically for students and teachers, but I’ve found that these tools work just as well for writers of any age or experience level. So go out there, start writing, and most importantly, have fun!