As a creative writing teacher, I sometimes struggle to get concepts across to my students. That’s why I created the Amazing Story Spiral, a visual tool to help students plot stories from character rather than event. (You can read about the Amazing Story Spiral in a previous blog post here: http://writinginthedarktw.blogspot.com/2014/10/the-amazing-story-spiral.html)
Since then I’ve developed three more visual tools for fiction writers (I created all three when I was supposed to be reading student stories – avoidance is sometimes a writer’s best friend!). I’ve drawn pictures of these three tools and while I’m no artist (as you’re about to see), hopefully they’re good enough to get the idea across,
THE NO-PROBLEM STORY PROBLEM WHEEL
One of the most common problems my creative writing students have is difficulty keeping their stories focused on a specific story problem – a central conflict around which the entire action of the story revolves. A huge part of this difficulty is being unclear on how their characters are connected to the story problem. I created the Story Problem Wheel to help writers make sure that all their characters are connected to the story problem in ways big or small, and therefore serve a specific, vital function in the story.
This technique is simple enough. You write the name of each character on one of the spokes, and then you write an explanation of how that character is connected to the story problem. This technique can also be used as a plotting aid, for once you know how the characters are connected to the story problem, you can design scenes to show their connections.
For example, let’s say the main story problem is that Sally and Bob are separated, and Sally wants to get back together. One of the characters is Sally’s friend Joan. Joan’s connection to the problem is two-fold: she wants to support her friend, but she’s secretly in love with Bob, although she’s never expressed her feelings to him. Now we know that Joan’s role in the story: she will serve as an advisor to Sally while at the same time trying to convince her to divorce Bob for her own benefit. We’ve strongly connected Joan to the story, her role is integral, and we know what role she’ll play in the plot.