~~~~ Because I’ve had so many requests about this post recently, I’m reposting it from the archives~~~~

I love writing, but I hate plotting.

Mostly because I’m terrible at it. I’m much more comfortable having no idea what’s going to happen, writing out of order, then putting all the pieces together like a puzzle. Of course this means tons of revisions and lots of time. So, to increase my productivity, I’ve read every craft book ever written and taken every online class about plotting. And while I’d still rather wing the writing, one of my favorite devices is Anne Lamott’s story structure mnemonic.

From A to E, it’s short and easy to remember. For those of you who don’t know it, I’ll give a short re-cap.

Action (which includes the inciting incident), Background (backstory, which is now woven throughout the story), Conflict (goals, motivations, and hindrances), Development (protagonist’s journey) and End–parts 1 & 2 (crisis and resolution).

Since I’m also a strong visual learner, I’ve come up with a visual representation of Ms. Lamott’s device, with an added prologue (because I love prologues, especially in stories where the heroine is a four-year old with a vivid imagination).

And this is how Ms. Lamott’s Story Structure saved the Princess, the Knight, and the Lamb.


Once upon a time, there was a Princess who wanted to play “Save the Lamb from the Evil Witch.” Except she didn’t have anyone to play with. So, with a smile and a cookie, she asked her twin brother, the Knight, “Will you play with me?”

He responded, his mouth filled with cookies, “Will there be fighting?”

“Yes,” she said. “With swords.”

He smiled. “I’m in!”


“We have to hurry,” the Princess said. “We have to save the Lamb from the Evil Witch who lives on the other side of the dark mountain. But first we must find the Unicorn.”

“Do we kill the unicorn?” asked the Knight.

No. We have to feed the unicorn. Then she will tell us how to defeat the witch.”

“Okay.” The Knight grabbed his sword. “Let’s go.”


Once the Princess and the Knight got to the magic forest with the talking trees, the Knight said, “It’s dark and scary. Let’s feed the unicorn and get out of here.”

“Wait.” The Princess gripped his arm. “We have to find the fairies who will give us the unicorn food.”

“Okay,” he said, holding his sword out in front to protect them. “Let’s do it.”

“We can’t just ask the fairies for food,” the Princess said.

“Why not?” The Knight frowned. “And when do I get to use my sword?”

The Princess sighed. “The fairies will have three riddles for us to answer. Then we have to attend the magical fairy feast where they will try to poison us. But we can get an antidote for the poison from a talking rabbit who will betray us, but then become our mentor and guide and be redeemed.”


“I don’t understand,” The Knight grumbled. “Where’s the action? When do I get to fight something?”

“Soon.” The Princess smiled. “After we get away from the fairies and the rabbit and find the unicorn, you’ll have to slay the dragon.”

“Whoa!” he said with a huge grin. “There’s a dragon?”

“Yes, But don’t touch his gold. It’s enchanted.”

“I just want to use my sword,” the Knight said. “Now let’s find those fairies, slay the dragon, feed the unicorn, and save the lamb from the evil queen!”


“I’m done.” The Knight leaned against a talking tree and sighed. “There was no dragon, no fighting, and this backstory is giving me a headache.”

The Princess pulled on his arm. “I thought you wanted to play with me?”

“I wanted to use my sword,” he said. “Not talk for three hours.”

The Princess stomped her royal foot. “You promised!”

“Whatever,” the Knight said, leaving the forest. “I hope the Good Queen has more cookies.”


The Princess and the Knight couldn’t agree on how to proceed. Should he go play with Legos and find more cookies? Could she fight the fairies, dragon, and evil witch on her own?

Seeing no end to the conflict, the Good Queen (mommy) showed up with homemade brownies and lemonade (deus ex machina) and said, “I slayed the dragon, sent the fairies out to the garden, put the lamb down for a nap, and the evil witch is doing laundry. So all is well!”

“Long live the Good Queen!” yelled the Princess and the Knight.

And the Good Queen took a bow. 🙂

Now I’d love to know–do you plan your stories or do the wait-and-see? And if you plot everything out first, do you have a favorite structure? Since I’m fascinated by writers who know where their stories are going, I’d love to hear how you do it!

All photos courtesy of Sharon Wray.


Sharon Wray is a librarian who once studied dress design in the couture houses of Paris and now writes about the men in her Deadly Force romantic suspense series where ex-Green Berets and their smart, sexy heroines retell Shakespeare’s greatest love stories.

Her debut book EVERY DEEP DESIRE, a sexy, action-packed retelling of Romeo and Juliet, is about an ex-Green Beret determined to regain his honor, his freedom, and his wife.

It’s available on: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | iBooks | IndieBound | Kobo.

And adding it to your Goodreads TBR list is also always appreciated!

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  1. Hey that’s me!!! Love you!

    1. sharonbwray@verizon.net says:

      Love you too!!!

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