A while ago I wrote Novel Planning about different ways that you can plan out a story. Mapping things out is something that’s important to me because I like the structure. In middle school I remember writing a story that I was enjoying, but then I realized that it kept going on and on, I’d just add a new challenge and it seemed like the characters were never really going to get to the end. Most of it was just a bunch of pointless fluff that I would stick in because an idea popped into my head. That is when I realized I need to map out my stories.
Story mapping is a method of planning out your story so that you know what direction you need to take it. By no means do you have to be detailed and know everything that will happen before you start. A structure just helps with knowing what needs to happen next and what is or isn’t necessary in the story.
In elementary school I learned that a story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. While these are necessary parts in a story, it isn’t always enough to include in planning. But this is where I start. If I were to map out the story about the Tortoise and the Hare, I would say the beginning is when there is a challenge issued for a race. The middle is the race, and the ending is the result of the race. I know that the Tortoise is somehow going to beat the Hare, but I don’t really know how. I also know that there will be a race between the two animals, but how does it start?
Part of this planning includes character development, say we establish a normal life pattern and something happens to instigate the race. Like the Hare mocking the Tortoise for being so slow and challenging him to a race. Now you have two parts of the beginning, the normal and the inciting incident or “the big bad thing”.
Now, for the middle, you know there will be something to mess up the race somehow. Since we’ve established the cocky attitude of the Hare, we can have him decide he can take a nap. The two animals are committed in the race and the Hare is a victim of his character traits, the point of no return. Then the Tortoise passes the sleeping Hare, this is the climax. The middle now has two parts, the point of no return and the climax.
The end of the story is coming as the Hare wakes up and realizes that the Tortoise has passed him. A mad sprint ensues as the Hare attempts to overtake and beat the Tortoise, but he doesn’t make it. Accepting his loss, the Hare gains respect for the Tortoise and no longer teases or mocks him for his slow and steady pace. The big battle, the resolution, and the new normal are now part of your story map.
This is the bulk of the short story, but you can add more details and sections for each part of the story map when you are writing a novel or other longer story. I want to share a Story Mapping Template so you can try mapping out your own story. Try it out with a more detailed version of the Tortoise and the Hare, with a different twist, or a different story altogether. Download the PDF from below and have fun mapping!