Featured Author Lauren Kerstein June 2019

 

Please welcome Lauren Kerstein as our June Featured Author. Lauren’s debut picture book ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE MAKE WAVES launched last month and we couldn’t more excited for her. For the June check-in prize, Lauren is offering a picture book critique and a copy of her book. So, get those June drafts started right away!

 

THE STRUCTURE ZONE

Curiosity killed the cat, right? Or, in my case, it spawned a dragon.

Let me explain.

April 2016: (10 years into my writing journey), I read a ReFoReMo post by Tammi Sauer about plot structure.

May 2016: I participated in NaPiBoWriWee, and challenged myself to write using different structures, just like Tammi suggested.

Why not? It might be fun!

Voila! My debut book, ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE MAKE WAVES was born.

Sort of…

It started as a “how to” put your mommy to bed” book.

Critiquers said: “Make it unique.”

Hmmmm…

How about a dragon…

…who wants to…

SWIM!?

September 2016: I submitted to Deborah Warren (East/West Literary) through…

…YUP…

…12×12!

Hurray! She loved it!

March 2017: We signed!

October 2017 (a short period of time in this industry) an editor asked: “Can you rewrite this as a character-focused manuscript with a more typical structure?”

“OF COURSE!”

Welcome ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE MAKE WAVES!

So, as you can see, my curiosity about structure did spawn a dragon.

(And guess what, another Rosie and Charlie adventure is heading your way in 2020!)

But, why is plot structure important?

Would you buy a car without a frame? Would you build a house without walls?

Plot structure provides a framework that supports the opening hook, emotional resonance, pacing, tension, the all-is-lost moment, and a satisfying ending.

Keep in mind, the classic or traditional story structure is our friend—quite possibly our best friend.

Why?

It works. It sells. It’s appealing.

But, it’s also fun to experiment with different structures. You can even layer multiple structures. For example, WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE is a mix of circular, Hero’s journey, and traditional plot structure.*

Remember, no matter which structure you choose, you’ll need:

A clear beginning, middle, and end,

increasing tension,

and seeds that are sown from exposition to resolution.

You are now entering the structure zone! Check out the different options below. Even after a ton of research, I’m not convinced this is an exhaustive list, but it’s a good start!

THE STRUCTURE ZONE

TRADITIONAL: MC has a goal (what they want), motivation (why they want it), stakes (what they will lose), and a conflict that interferes with the goal. This structure typically has three tension-building tries, a low moment, and a successful (yet hopefully not predictable) ending.

Example:

Mostly Monsterly

CIRCULAR: The end of the book circles back to the beginning.

Example:

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie

REVERSAL: The MC or the narrative arc is depicted in a way that is the opposite of what we might expect/the norm.

Example:

Wolfie the Bunny

MIRROR: The second half of the story reflects the beginning of the story.

Example:

A Sick Day for Amos McGee

CUMULATIVE: With each new event, previous events are repeated.

Example:

There was an Old Gator Who Swallowed a Moth

PARALLEL: Two storylines take place simultaneously and intersect at the end.

Example:

Banjo Granny

HOW TO: Instruction manual of sorts.

Example:

How to Wash a Woolly Mammoth

THEMATIC: Specific examples around a particular theme.

Example:

The Quiet Book

SLICE OF LIFE/ SMALL MOMENT: The text zooms in on a small moment and expands it with rich details.

Example:

The Patchwork Bike

CONCEPT (Days of the Week, Alphabet, Counting, Opposites): A single topic or category.

Example:

Grandma's Tiny House

HERO’S JOURNEY: Subset of circular. The MC leaves the ordinary world, goes on an adventure, and then ends up back in the ordinary world again.

Example:

Where the Wild Things Are

 

Beekle

EPISTOLARY: The arc moves forward via letter writing.

Example:

Dear Dragon

 

XO, OX

SYMMETRICAL PARADIGM (Created by Eve Heidi Bine-Stock): Plot twists separate the beginning from the middle and the middle from the end.

Example:

Bloom

STORY WITHIN A STORY: There is an outer and an inner story. Typically one character within the story narrates.

Example:

 

Misunderstood Shark

COMBINATION: Multiple types of structures are layered throughout the story.

Example:

Where the Wild Things Are

Circular, Hero’s journey, and traditional plot structure.

Example:

Traditional, how to (swimming skills are actual skills), and a hint of reversal.

 

Which structure works best for your manuscript? Which structure supports the heart, voice, and character development? Which structure are you itching to try?

Okay…

Ready. Set. Go!

Try a new structure. Exercise your creativity. And most of all, have fun!

In the words of my main character, Charlie, “you’ve got this!”

 

Lauren Kerstein is an author and psychotherapist. She is a Jersey girl at heart who loves reading, drinking tea, and devouring chocolate. Lauren currently lives in Colorado with her husband, Josh, their two dragons…er, daughters, Sarah and Danielle, and Hudson, the dog. Her picture book, ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE MAKE WAVES, recently swam to shelves near you. She runs a critique business, is a judge for Rate Your Story, and is one of the founders of #ReVISIONweek. Lauren also writes books in the mental health field. Her writing goals are simple. Read voraciously. Embrace feedback. Grow each day. Work hard. Be passionate. Write courageously. Touch children’s hearts.

 

 

*According to a StoryTeller Academy blog post by Ryan Roberts from 9-26-2017.

This Post Has 181 Comments

  1. What a great list, Lauren! I plan to study your picture book examples as mentor texts. Congratulations on the work you put into discovering the different structures and on your new book. Rosie the Dragon and Charlie Make Waves looks like a fun book.

  2. What great texts you have to illustrate these structures! Thanks for your insight and congratulations!

  3. What an amazing, fabulous, stupendous, post! But I would expect no less from our crit-sista Lauren! You GO GIRL! Wishing you, Rosie and Charlies make a splash in the publishing world! XOXO

    1. Thank so much, Lynne! That means the world! I am so happy you enjoyed the post and found it helpful. We are so lucky to be on this writing journey together! I can’t wait for MOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE SCARES and LET’S EAT!: MEALTIMES AROUND THE WORLD to join Hedgehog and The Star in the Christmas Play on the shelves!

    1. How I love this post! This is a fantastic list. I’ve saved the books I haven’t read and will be looking out for your book!

      Thank you!

  4. Wonderful post on the many possible structures of a picture book. Can’t wait to read your dragon story.

  5. What a great list of structure types, plus stellar examples. Thanks so much. Keep making waves!

  6. I love it when lists have examples! It makes everything so much clearer. I think I need to try something different. Thank you so much.

  7. Lauren,
    I love your post and the complete list of structures and examples. Congratulations on publishing your book. Can’t wait to read it!

  8. Thank you, thank you, Lauren. I’ve never really thought through my plots this way. That’s going to change — and I’m going to be checking out your examples soon.

  9. Great post, Lauren! Thank you for giving us a peek at your publishing journey and for sharing your insights on the many different structures of picture books, along with great mentor texts!!

  10. Thanks Lauren, for the great list and examples of story structure. I am familiar with most of the stories and look forward to reading a few new ones!

  11. I needed this!! Been struggling with structure lately. Thanks for the encouragement to try something different!

  12. Lauren, Thank you for the wonderful summary of story structure. I can’t say I’ve ever had a firm grasp on identifying plot structures, so your article has really clarified things for me. For fun and practice, I’m excited to try and pinpoint structure in all of the pbs I read from here on out. Also, I belong to a picture book study group where I think this could become one of our fun exercises. It will really help us sharpen our skills both as readers and writers!

    1. Joann- That is a terrific idea! I love the idea of practicing identifying structure with a picture book study group. Gosh, I love the idea of a picture book study group! I hope you have fun continuing to explore structure.

  13. This was an excellent read! I often struggle with hitting certain plot points and I really enjoyed reviewing your list of structures and examples. I’m already dreaming about shaking off some “retired” manuscripts with a new structure! Great idea!

  14. Thanks for the great list and examples. There are some I haven’t rea – I’ll have to give them a look. And congratulations!!

  15. Story structure is something I have been experimenting with on some of my stories. I like the clarification you have given here and I learned that you can sometimes combine structures. Thank you for this post.

  16. Kudos on Rosie the Dragon and Charlie Make Waves. My copy is on its way. Your journey to publication is a great Story Storm winner and well deserved. Thanks for the helpful post on structure, too, Lauren.

  17. This is such a great post. You’ve offered so many structure examples to study. I love your challenge to try writing, using a new structure. A June challenge! I’m game. Congratulations on your book(s). Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  18. Thanks, Lauren, for the great examples. Your journey to publication as it relates to structure underlined the importance of trying out different structures. It is tricky to find the right one. Thanks for the tips.

  19. Thank you! This post is chock-full of great information. Fingers crossed I win this month. Congratulations on ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE MAKE WAVES!

  20. Lauren, this is a fantastic list. Thanks for including examples of each type, and for giving me some new structures I’ve never heard of, to play around with. I love trying out different formats.
    Congrats on your book — and being willing and able to change the structure as requested. Not always (ever?!) an easy task!

    1. I am so glad this post was helpful! Yay! Yes! You’re right–Changing things and changing things again can be quite challenging. Thank goodness I’m thrilled with the outcome! 🙂

  21. Wow, Lauren, I thought I knew all the structural forms of picture books. But I need to do some
    more reading and research and try something new. Thanks for all of your research and Tammi
    Sauer’s group of structures, too.

  22. This was such an informative post. I especially appreciated the examples you included for clarity. Thank you!

  23. Wow! Talk about comprehensive! Thanks for all the examples of story structure – I can’t imagine that you left any out. 🙂 And congratulations on your publishing success.

  24. Sometimes it takes a little bit of bravery to try a plot structure other than the traditional. But it can also be fun! Thanks for sharing your list, and congratulations on your debut book!

  25. Thank you so much for the reminder of how we can change up structure! I’ve been reading StoryGenius by Lisa Cron and have been obsessing over the core idea of story – and how the structure can help or hurt the story. Totally interesting! Thanks again!

  26. Lauren, congratulations on your debut picture book and on another Rosie and Charlie adventure coming in 2020!!! Thanks for all your clear examples of story structure. I’m keeping your post near my desk so I can re-read it every time I start a draft. Your post will help me make sure my stories don’t veer off track into another structure.

  27. thanks so much for a great list of PB structures! I’m ready to jump in with a couple I haven’t tried before with some PB ideas. And thanks for sharing your story toward finding success! Congratulations on Rosie the Dragon and Charlie Make Waves and the next one to follow!

  28. This is such a great post. I love how your book morphed from one thing to another. Also thank you for the excellent mentor texts and structure forms. Finally I just signed up to your blog so I can participate in ReVISION week love it!

  29. Lauren, the Structure Guru! Thank you for your willingness to share your wisdom. Your outlined list will help guide my plot development as I brainstorm my next ideas. I tend to write at least two stories within one PB draft. BLAHHHHH…. Your structure “lesson” will help me learn to recognize that tenancy with better clarity. Reading the journey that your debut PB has traveled is encouraging. As an active 12 x 12er, I “embrace feedback, grow each day, work hard, [am even more] passionate, [and] write courageously…[to] touch children’s hearts.” You’ve captured the joys we experience writing for children.Your words inspire me to continue to tackle a PB that I’ve worked and reworked multiple times for my JUNE DRAFT. I’ll begin with outlining my existing structure and ramp it up a bit by exploring others. Sending you inspiration for continued success and tossing confetti your way to celebrate your debut book!

    1. Hi Marsha! I am thrilled to hear that my words inspired you to tackle a PB that you’ve worked and reworked multiple times. I hope it goes well! I love your idea regarding outlining your existing structure and then exploring and experimenting with others. Thank you for the inspiration and confetti! We are all so lucky to be on this journey together!

  30. Great post on picture book story structure with excellent examples, Lauren. Inspiring story, too, on your journey to publication. Congrats on the debut! I’m eager to read it.

  31. Thank you Lauren for this super informative post! You have inspired me to break out of my structure shell and try some new formats. 🙂 Congratulations on your book – it looks adorable!

  32. Thanks so much for the information on structure and their examples. What a fun post to read! I will do this! 🙂

  33. Thanks so much for the list, and especially the examples. Taking a risk and trying different structures is so important to keeping a story fresh.

  34. What a great post – will definitely be referring back to this on numerous occasions to get a handle on the different story structures. Lab coat and goggles on … time to begin experimenting!

  35. Sooooo thrilled for your book launch Lauren!

    This is an awesome run-down of story structures and I’ll be adding a few of these to my to read list (which keeps growing!!) Can’t wait to receive my copy of Rosie and Charlie Make Waves. Biggest congrats.

  36. What a great post! I’m going to think more about plot structure in the future.
    Congratulations on your book!

  37. Wow, Lauren! Plot structure in a nutshell! Well done!! Now I am going back and checking my tales to see where I write. Congratulations on your book, and may you publish many more.

  38. Lauren, you’ve given us an extensive, handy-dandy structure menu! I’m going to pull this out every single month, while writing my new drafts. I’ve mentioned to my CPs once or twice, “let’s all pick a new structure this month, and try to craft a new draft with it.” We’ve all experimented on our own, but I’d still love for us all to pick a single structure and present them all together in a single month. How fun!

    Anyway, your post jogged a FANTASTIC idea in my brain, for a piece that I’ve been working on for nearly 2 years. Can’t wait to work on revisions this week! Thanks so much.

    1. I love your idea of trying a different structure each month as a critique group. I am thrilled to hear that my post jogged a fantastic idea for a piece you’ve been working on for nearly 2 years. I can’t wait to hear how your revisions go!

  39. Lauren this is such a fun post. I loved all the moving oictures and your cute dragon especially. The list of picture books is invaluable. I’m off to the library right now. And I haven’t thought of writing and starting with a challenge to write using a specific structure. What a great idea! Thank you and best of luck with future writing 🙂

  40. Laura,

    I love this post! Thank you for the explanations and examples. There are a few I have not heard of. I look forward to checking out your book and other new ones on this list.

  41. I love seeing the journey Lauren’s book made from concept through publication. So inspiring! Then, Lauren gave a fabulous explanation of so many structures. I can’t wait to apply and try some different structures in my own writing. Thank you!!

  42. Thanks for sharing different structures with examples! And good luck with Rosie and Charlie’s future adventures!

  43. Brilliant post – thank you! And congrats on your debut which I am checking out of the library TODAY!

    1. Thank you! OH YAY!!!!!!! I am SO excited you are checking it out of your library. It helps authors so much when people check it out of the library! HURRAY! I hope you love Rosie and Charlie!

  44. I love all of these examples! I took a story from a circular structure to a traditional structure and it changed the story so much. It’s a great way to discover the different dimensions of a story. I’ll have to try some of these other suggestions next. Thanks for the great post!

  45. Lauren, Congratulations on your book and thank you for taking the time to give examples for all these different story structures and combinations of story structures. So helpful! Love the gifs, too! : )

  46. Lauren, thank you for this informative post! Plan to rewrite drafts using different plot structures to see if any combine together. Best wishes on your future adventures with Rosie and Charlie!

  47. What a fantastic list, Lauren. Thank you so much. Such a timely reminder that I need to get out of my current rut (and mid-year slump) and try something new to re-energise.

  48. Wonderful post, Lauren! Great examples, too!! It’s always fun to play around with structure when a ms isn’t working. You never know what can happen, or where the characters will take you. Congratulations on ROSIE THE DRAGON AND CHARLIE MAKE WAVES! Cheers!

  49. Super helpful. Will definitely be taking note of structure while I read for research and to jazz up my writing. Thanks for your clear explanations.

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