The Story Spine

I recently read a post at Imagination Soup by the talented Deborah Underwood, author of A Balloon for Isabel and the NYT best-selling The Quiet Book.

In the post, Ms. Underwood discusses how daunting she assumed it would be to teach plot to elementary-aged children. Then, someone introduced her to the story spine.

I liked this method so much, I asked permission to share it with you. Sometimes, hearing something in a new way makes all the difference. (At least for me, it can.)
The Story Spine is exactly what it sounds like: a structure that supports a story. It consists of a series of sentence beginnings that you complete:Once upon a time… Introduce your character.Every day… This is the character’s ordinary world. Before everything changes.But one day… The inciting incident, or change, that sets the story in motion. Because of that…Because of that…Because of that… Each event causes the next to happen, “so the plot elements aren’t disconnected incidents.”Until finally… Cues the climax of the story and resolution.And ever since then… Shows how the character has changed as a result of the conflict or event.

Although the Story Spine seems simple, it’s really an ingenious way to help kids learn how to construct a satisfying story.

My wish is it will help us construct a satisfying story, too. Happy writing.

7 Responses to “The Story Spine”

  1. Clara Gillow Clark

    Thanks for sharing The Story SPine, Kristin! It is perfect for showing kids how story works, and it's also a cool reminder to the not beginning writer set just what it is we MUST remember when we write.

  2. kristinlgray

    Clara – We'll miss you during your blog break. Enjoy!

    Christina – Thanks for dropping by. I didn't know you were a teacher by day. What grade do you teach?

    Corey – Yep. Very good. That Deborah's one smart cookie.