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Identifying a plot to a story can be like reading the last chapter first. When you know what type of plot it is, generally you can figure out how the story will end. That is why I prefer to have children figure out the plot type after the story is done. This is simple to do.

As they read each chapter, in a notebook under Plot, summarize the chapter briefly.

Ch. One: Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy are sent away from London during the war because of air-raids on London. They stay with a Professor in a large house in the country. One day while exploring, Lucy discovers that the back of a wardrobe leads to a strange place that is in the middle of winter. There she meets a faun.

When writing a chapter summary, ask What happens? To whom does it happen? In what sequence does it happen? What causes it to happen?

Later when the book is read, the chapter summaries can be referenced to discover the plot.

Simplistically, a plot has five stages:
1.The Exposition where characters and setting are introduced.
2.The Rising Action where conflict is introduced.
3.The Climax where an accumulation of events create a peak in the conflict.
4.The Falling Action is the turning point of the story leading to a solution.
5.The Resolution or Dénouement (derived from the Old French word denoer, “to untie”), is the conclusion.

There are seven basic plot types. Try to discover which of these fit the story.

1. The Quest
The Quest, also called a “Hero’s Journey,” is a story model that centers on a central character who strives to meet a noble and distant goal. The hero pursues his journey through various obstacles and forces that try to stop him (sometimes his own reluctance), but triumphs in the end. This one can develop into an extensive study later, but for children, keep it simple.

Examples: Lord of the Rings, the story of Jonah, The Odyssey, The Count of Monte Cristo and even Star Wars (particularly, the original—episode IV).

2. Voyage and Return
Much like the Quest, the Voyage and Return story type is based around a journey. In this plot type the hero is transported to another world and then back again. While it is at first marvelous, there is a sense of increasing peril. After a dramatic escape, they return to the familiar world where they began. On this journey the protagonist learns things that give him a deeper understanding of himself and the world around him.

Examples: Alice in Wonderland, Gulliver’s Travels, The Hobbit, The Wizard of Oz, and The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe are obvious examples, but also consider Gone with the Wind, or Charlotte’s Web .

3. Rebirth
The rebirth story type contains a mounting sense of threat as a dark force approaches the hero until it emerges completely, holding the hero in its deadly grip. Only after a time, when it seems that the dark force has triumphed, is the hero liberated. He is usually redeemed through the power of love and a new-found inner strength.

Examples: A Christmas Carol, Beauty and the Beast, and It’s a Wonderful Life.

4. Comedy
This type comes from the classical sense, not just any story that is humorous. Aristotle described comedy as showing people to be worse than they are. The characters are thrown into a state of confusion, tangled relationships and bewilderment. The resolution comes only when everything is played out to it’s extreme. Shakespeare’s comedies are perfect

Examples: All’s Well that Ends Well, As You Like It, A Midsummer’s Night Dream, etc. Jane Austen was a master of this style. Also, think of the play Into the Woods.

5. Tragedy
In a tragedy, the hero goes through a series of events and decisions that unwittingly bring about his own downfall. This fatal course comes from an inner flaw that draws him toward disaster. Children’s literature is usually not of this type until they are older. By ten or twelve, Macbeth can be introduced.

Examples: Hamlet, Macbeth, Oedipus the King, Anna Karenina, The Picture of Dorian Gray and Wurthering Heights.

6. Overcoming the Monster
In Overcoming the Monster stories the hero must overcome a dark evil creature/person/entity that has exerted an evil destructive force over a place, persons or people.

Examples: Jack and the Beanstalk, Dracula, Hansel and Gretel, and The Dark is Rising.

7. Rags to Riches
Sometimes a central character is seemingly plucked from nothing to greatness where they become rich or powerful. They can also be average people with a hidden, exceptional self within. A variation is when they achieve quick success that is taken away and they must return to the “rich” state by defeating a foe.

Examples: Aladdin, Cinderella, Great Expectations, Ugly Duckling, Jane Eyre and Clark Kent.

Basically, a plot is a story line or the way a story is written. After discovering the plot of a story, try outlining a story with your child with the same plot type. Challenge them to be as creative as they desire.