Friday, August 1, 2014

Jill Santopolo: 20 Master Plots - Go on a Story Brainstorming Binge

Jill Santopolo
Jill Santopolo is an executive editor at Philomel Books, and is the author of book series for YA and MG readers, including the Alec Flint series, Sparkle Spa, and Follow Your Heart.

As an editor, she works with Jane Yolen, Andrea Cremer, T.A. Barron, and more wonderful authors. Her list includes picture books, middle grade, and young adult novels.

Jill was worried that no one would show up, but she ran out of handouts and several people were sitting on Dan Santat's lap.
She talked to us about strategies for developing plots, which she considers to be the backbone of stories. Her goal was for us to leave the room with five potential stories we can tackle in the future.

In addition to sharing several plot types with us, she walked us through questions designed to help us build the scaffolding of our stories.

Among the plot types she described:
  • The quest: Rick Riordan's THE LIGHTNING THIEF is a great example of this. Percy is at home, lacking an understanding of his life and relationship with his father. A force makes him act in a new way. A motivating incident occurs. And he meets buddies (there are always buddies). The middle makes things interesting; the end provides the answer to the lack.
  • The pursuit: Marie Lu's LEGEND. She establishes the good guy and the bad guy, the stakes of the pursuit, and the incident that sets it in motion. Twists, turns, and reversals follow. In the end, she sets someone free (though catching him could also be the resolution).  
  • The underdog plot: The story starts in a conflict-ripe world. A catalyst pits rivals against each other. There is a power struggle. The antagonists gain upper hand. In the middle: two sides are equal in power. Then come more power shifts. Then the underdog is empowered. In the end, there's a confrontation and the underdog wins.
It was an incredibly useful session, with lots of great insight about how we can frame the shape of the stories we're working on using a simple series of questions.

Jill's website.

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