Plotting a Problem, A Powerful Process

Today, as we continued to inquire about the power, process, and perspective of problems solvers, we took a look at the process authors use to plan with power, incorporating problems that propel their plots.

One tool that helps both plan and analyze development and resolution of problems is a plot diagram.

We then examined one illustration and caption from Chris Van Allsburg’s book, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick.

Archie Smith, Boy Wonder 

A tiny voice asked, “Is he the one?”

Having previously determined that problem solvers observe, we took some time to examine the illustration and record our observations. From the details in this simple scene, we then allowed our imaginations to wander and wonder. In addition to our noticings, we also collected some questions sparked by our curiosity and that of our prospective readers.

  • What are the balls of light?
  • Who is the tiny voice?
  • Is the voice related to the balls of light?
  • Why is Archie Smith a “boy wonder?”
  • Why is he sleeping? Is he tired because of something he has done?
  • Is Archie hiding something under the covers?
  • Is the window open? Why? How?
  • Why is there a boat in the scene?
  • Is the boat like Cinderella’s slippers? Does it cause the boy to change? Does it give him special powers?
  • Why is there a bat? How does Archie use it?
  • What is on the window sill? How does that affect Archie?
  • What makes Archie a “boy wonder”?

After taking a few minutes to start a story, we stopped to hear our hooks. Having saved ideas from Ms. Kraft’s first library lesson, we knew the first line of our story was critical if we wanted to capture our readers’ attention.

Will we be able to answer all these questions? How will our stories develop from this one mysterious image? What kinds of problems will our characters face? What will be their process and perspective?

Chris Van Allsburg

Who is Harris Burdick?



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