Minds On

Good plots are a story roller coaster

The ways in which authors can grab and keep a reader's or listener's attention can vary as much as the other story elements. For example, have you noticed that some stories introduce a problem that isn't solved? It's true. Some stories don't have a solution or a happy ending. That said, something most stories do have is a beginning, a middle, and an end. Each part of the story works together to help the reader follow along. These elements also help to build excitement as we read.

Think of a story that you remember well. Can you brainstorm what happened at the beginning? The middle? The end? Record your ideas in an audio, written, or digital brainstorming organizer. If possible, share your story.

Action

Each part of story

Let's break down each part of a story into smaller sections.

Exposition

The exposition happens at the beginning of the story. It is used to introduce the setting, characters, and theme. It's also what hooks the reader and makes them want to continue reading the story. Exposition is similar to finding your seat on the roller coaster ride. Before the ride begins, you spend some time taking in your environment and try to figure out what is going to happen next.

Rising action

The rising action introduces the main problem or conflict. It contains all of the smaller events that will eventually lead up to the climax. The rising action is used to help the reader get to know the characters better and to build suspense. On a roller coaster, this would be the part where you are beginning to ride up the first slope. Your anticipation is building and you can't wait to get to the top.

Climax

The climax is the most exciting part of the story. This is usually when you just can't put the book down. All the conflicts in the story are reaching a turning point and you need to know what is going to happen next. On a roller coaster, the climax is the very top of the slope, right before the drop. Your whole body might feel tingly as you wait for the drop.

Falling action

The falling action is the sense of relief you get when you see the characters solve their problem. It's similar to the sense of excitement as you finally race down the slope of the roller coaster. This is also usually where you learn if your predictions turn out to be true. This part is especially satisfying in a mystery story because it is when the case is solved.

Resolution

As the roller coaster ride comes to an end, we reach the resolution of the story. You think about all of the events that have happened and learn where the characters will go next. What will their future look like? How will they move on with their lives after the events of the story have taken place? In most books, all of our questions are answered by the time the story resolves. Sometimes, authors will choose to write a cliffhanger ending, which means there is a sudden plot twist and details are left unsaid, or a mystery is unresolved. This often happens in a book series to encourage people to read the next book in a series and to learn what happens next.

Your turn

Even simple stories like picture books follow a similar plot structure. You will try to map a story yourself.

It's time to hear or read a short story! You will now access Lili's New Year.

When you are done reading or hearing Lili's New Year, complete the following fillable and printable Roller Coaster Plot Structure Graphic Organizer. You can also complete this activity in your notebook.

Roller Coaster Plot Structure Graphic OrganizerPress the ‘Activity’ button to access Roller Coaster Plot Structure Graphic Organizer. Activity(Open PDF in a new window)

Student Success

Think-Pair-Share

If possible, share your story map with a partner. Together, check the following guidelines to determine if you were able to identify all five parts of the story. Does your story map match the following?

Exposition

Lili is excited to celebrate Norooz with her family. She is getting ready to host a party. She prepares by cleaning the house and making decorations.

Rising action

Lili's mother tells her that she must allow her little sister, Lola, to help set up for the party. Lili is upset by this because she thinks Lola will mess it up. Lili finishes preparing the Haft-seen table and allows Lola to add the last piece – her best wishes.

Climax

Lola adds a pile of toys and crumbs to the table. Lili gets upset and says that Lola has ruined everything.

Falling action

On the table, Lili finds an old photo album of the sisters playing with the things Lola had left on the table. She realizes that Lola has put them there because she wants to keep playing with her sister. Lili apologizes to her sister and asks her to help finish the Haft-seen table.

Resolution

Lili and Lola have a great time hosting their party together.

Note to teachers: See your teacher guide for collaboration tools, ideas and suggestions.

Developing a plot

In this next activity, you will plan and write your own story. Use an idea you have already worked on, a personal story, or come up with something brand new. Think about the things you have experienced and let them inspire your story idea.

Complete the fillable and printable Roller Coaster Plot Structure Graphic Organizer again, but this time fill it in with your own story. You can also complete this activity in your notebook.

Roller Coaster Plot Structure Graphic OrganizerPress the ‘Activity’ button to access Roller Coaster Plot Structure Graphic Organizer. Activity(Open PDF in a new window)

Self-checklist

Review each part of your story. Does it include the following?

Exposition

Rising action

Climax

Falling action

Resolution

Reflection

Reflecting on your story roller coaster, what are you most proud of? What parts of the story were most successful? What would you like to improve next time? What are some ways you could continue to develop this story?

Consolidation

Real-life stories

Many of the books we read are based on real-life experiences, so it makes sense that the story roller coaster can be applied to our own lives. Can you think of a problem you have faced? What caused the problem? How was it solved?

Reading Time

Creating more diverse libraries

We can even apply the story roller coaster to the world around us. For example, in the following article, you will learn about the Little Free Diverse Library.

You will now access How grassroots efforts are creating more diverse libraries.

As you explore the article, try to identify the different parts of the roller coaster. You may choose to record your findings in your journal as you read or listen to the article.

Record your thinking and be prepared to share your response.

Reflection

As you read through these descriptions, which sentence best describes how you are feeling about your understanding of this learning activity? Press the button that is beside this sentence.

I feel...

Now, record your ideas using a voice recorder, speech-to-text, or writing tool.