[DWJ] Cinderella Graph

Sally Odgers sodgers at iinet.net.au
Sat Aug 19 12:30:04 EDT 2006

A Cinderella Graph is a method of teaching plotting. It looks at story 
events from an emotional perspective, because it is usually the emotional 
effect of an event that makes it drive a plot onward.

The graph is drawn like a giant capital E with long horizontal bars. The top 
bar is marked JOY, the middle one OK or SIT-NOR (for Situation Normal) and 
the bottom one is DESPAIR.

If we decide JOY is 10, OK is 5 and DESPAIR 0, we can plot visually.

Cinders' story starts at point 3. She's not OK, but she is fed and housed so 
she's not at 0. The first story event takes her to 6, as she hears about the 
upcoming ball (I tell kids to think Big Game or Live Concert).
The next event takes her to 2, because being disappointed is worse than 
never being offered something. The next event, when FG arrives, takes her to 
7. (A dress! A coach!) The next one is 9 (Dancing! Prince!) The next one 
takes her crashing down to 1, having loved and lost... then up she shoots to 

This is simplistic, but it has a very good effect on kids' writing. The 
stories they write using their own graphs are usually markedly better than 
before. If they plot an existing story they have written, they often find it 
goes 5,6,6,6,6,7, which tends to be dull. A story that goes 2,7,3,8,3,9, 2,8 
(say) can be over-predictable.

If you look at the Cinderella graph, 3,6,2,7,9,1,10, it echoes the shape of 
most modern romance novels and a lot of mysteries and detective stories.

ODWJM - 'twould be interesting to graph F&H!

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