In Which I Make a Story Map

This weekend, I am taking a YA and middle-grade novel class with Cheryl Klein, and I’m going to be cramming my “homework” all week. I’m about 1/3 of the way through “story mapping” my middle-grade novel, Ever This Day. Below are the instructions for the exercise:

For each scene, note:

  1. The scene number

  2. Starting manuscript page number

  3. What is the action of this scene (paragraph version)? Write a paragraph describing the action of this scene. Note any significant information introduced, interesting lines relating to the themes or character growth, or any recurring images.

  4. What is the action of this scene (one sentence version)? Summarize the scene in one sentence.

  5. What is the change that takes place in this scene?

The “change” question is definitely the most challenging one, especially in flashback scenes. Are we talking about the change that happened in the flashback, or some present change that is somehow tied to the flashback? I’m sort of wobbling around using whichever one seems most relevant.

At the end, you’re supposed to line up all your answers to #4, and they make your “story map.”

I’ve read lots of suggestions of doing this sort of thing, and some agents and editors ask for one while they’re deciding whether to take on a manuscript. But even my desire to get published never motivated me to make one. Why? I think, as self-motivated as I think I am, I am truly discovering the power of a looming deadline.

And I was never one to blow off homework.