Short Story Lesson –Planning Backward Using Plot Elements

Planning Backwards

Many students end their original short stories with “it was all just a dream”, or they ramble for several additional pages. They don’t move the story forward because they don’t know how to end the story. One of the best ways to write a story is to plan the major plot elements before beginning to write the story.

Teaching Plot

If students do not know the plot elements, a discussion should include the following:

A basic plot chart looks like a mountain.

  • At the base is of the mountain is exposition. Exposition includes the setting and introduction of characters.
  • The rising action is the left side of the mountain. There should be a few conflicts that the characters face.
  • The climax is the top point of the mountain. The climax is the turning point of the story.
  • The falling action is on the left side of the mountain and leads to the ending after the climax.
  • The resolution is the end where all of the conflicts are resolved. It is the right base of the mountain.

The best way to discuss a plot chart is to give examples of the plot elements from a story that the entire class has read. If it is the beginning of the year, a teacher can use movies to discuss plot as well.

Students Plan Short Story

Have students make a basic plot chart and include the plot elements before they write their next short story. They will have to plan the beginning, middle and end before they write the first paragraph. It is a different way of writing, but many students appreciate knowing their ending before they begin writing the story.

The easiest way to create the ending is to figure out the major conflict. Then, students have to figure out how to “fix” or “work out” the conflict.

In the end, some students will struggle with this backward planning of a short story. However, the stories will be better written, and the endings will be stronger. And, the teacher will have to grade less papers that end, “it was all just a dream.”

This post is part of the series: Creative Writing Lessons

Try these creative writing activities to bring out students’ imaginations and to practice the writing process.
  1. Create Your Own Spy Gear Creative Writing Activity
  2. Creative Writing Activity: New Uses For Old Things
  3. Use Pictures or Artwork to Spark Creative Writing
  4. Start at the End! A Creative Short Story Writing Lesson
  5. Get Creative in Middle School With a Scary Short Story Writing Lesson