How to Critique Part 3

Plot and Setting

A plot contains the major points of the book that together form a roadmap or “spine” of the novel. It has a beginning, middle and end. There is rising action, conflict, tension, falling action, resolution and impact. The plot must serve as a framework for the characters to tell the story. Plot differs from “story” in that the story is what the characters do to move the plot forward. “Plot” is still a sequence of events that happen, but the events occur in an order arranged by the writer in order to reveal his thematic elements and story in the most powerful way. Each chapter in the book should end with a “hook” that sets up the next chapter, enticing the reader to turn the page.

Setting is where the story takes place, and includes geographic location, time, and context, such as social conditions relevant to the story. Setting contributes to the emotional state of the novel and helps to support the theme of the story.

What to look for:

  1. Can you identify all the plot points in the book? Is there an understandable order of events?
  2. Is there a beginning, a middle and an end? Can you identify where the conflict occurs? Can you identify the rising action? Is there room enough for tension to build and then resolve? Is there enough conflict? Would the target child reader be able to follow this roadmap?
  3. Does each chapter end with a “hook” that sets up the next chapter?
  4. Is the conflict internal to the character or external? Does the conflict remain consistent, or if not, does the plot support the change?
  5. Is there a “sense of place” to the book? Are the scenes and settings clear? Can you map a timeline? (Is it night in one chapter and suddenly day in the next with no transition? Does it make sense?)
  6. Are the senses used effectively in describing setting? Do the seasons change if and when they need to change?
  7. Are characters seemingly aware of their surroundings? Are they dressed appropriately? Do they ever react to their setting?
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