Lynne Barrett’s Plot Workshop

On 
Sunday, 
March 
25,
the 
Flatiron 
Writers 
sponsored
 a 
three‐hour 
workshop 
by
 Lynne Barrett
 on
 Plot 
followed
 by 
a 
reading
 from
 her 
latest work, 
Magpies.
 Lynne
 is
 an
 incredibly
 talented
 teacher 
and
 an 
acute reader 
of fiction, 
and
 three 
of 
our
 Flatiron members
 are
 lucky enough
 to have studied 
with her.


For her presentation, she
 took
 apart the
 structure 
of
 the 
Hansel 
and 
Gretel fairy
tale,
 mapping
 it 
out
 visually
 to
 show
 the various elements
 that
 are used, 
such
 as the
 basics
 of 
the
 plot; the 
catalyst
 that 
activates 
the plot,
 which 
must 
be 
resolved; the
 power
 various 
characters 
have 
or 
haven’t;
 the 
boundaries and
 thresholds
 of the
 story;
 the
bright
 and
 dark
 spots
 in
 the narrative;
 strategies 
used
 by
 the
 characters 
to
 achieve 
their goals; 
and
 so on.

The rendering 
of 
the
 fairy 
tale
 into its 
various 
parts was 
Awesome
 (to use 
our
 grandson’s favorite word).
 But
 what 
was 
most
 significant
 for 
me
 was
 her
 discussion
 of
 the
 power
 structure
 in
 the 
piece.
 I
 have 
been stuck
 in 
a
 short story for 
a 
month.
 It
 took
 me
 five
 tries 
to 
find
 the right 
opening 
and, 
usually, once 
I 
have 
that, 
the
 rest 
of
 the 
story
 flows.
 Not
 this 
time. 
The 
story was 
flat 
and I 
couldn’t 
figure
 out the
 problem 
until
 I saw Lynne’s 
mapping 
of 
the power structure
 of 
the
 characters.
 There
 it
 was
 in front 
of 
me.
 I
 had 
no 
power structure
 in the 
piece, therefore
 no 
one
 character
 dominated.
 There 
was 
no 
one 
to 
fight
 against and 
overcome,
 because by
 the
 end 
of 
a
 story,
 the
 power 
structure
 must reverse.
 The
 example
 in 
Hansel and
 Gretel:
 at
 the 
beginning,
 the
 stepmother
 has 
the
 power
 and 
is 
at 
the 
top, 
while 
Gretel
 is
 powerless 
at
 the 
bottom; 
at 
the 
end,
 Gretel 
has 
the 
power 
and
 is 
at
 the
 top,
and
 the
 stepmother
 is 
dead.

There 
was my
 solution. 
As
 soon
 as 
I
 sign 
off, I’m
 going back
 to
 that 
story and
 figure
 out
 the
 power
 structure 
I 
need
 to 
successfully
 complete the
 story.


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