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How to Write a Plot for a Book Report


When teachers ask students to write book reports, they want the readers to think about what they have written. A book report acts not to retell the story but to discuss some of the important elements of the story such as character, themes and plot. Many students tend to simply retell the story, reporting numerous details when in fact they need to simply summarize the plot, then move on to other aspects of the book.

Identify the main characters in the book. In particular, identify the protagonist and antagonist, and explain the nature of their conflict. Name supporting characters who help propel the action or influence the resolution.

Explain fully the situation, circumstances or conflict with which these characters are grappling. To do this, try to answer these questions: Who? What? Where? When? Why?

Describe the goal of the main character or the problem he or she struggles to overcome. What forces or obstacles prevent the protagonist from reaching this goal?

Describe briefly a few incidents that illustrate the main character's trials or triumphs. In particular, choose incidents that illustrate the conflict, the nature of the obstacles and the protagonist's movement toward the resolution or climax of the story.

Hint at the conclusion without describing exactly how the story ends. You don't want to spoil the story for other readers by saying too much. Instead you want your report to encourage people to read the book.

Analyze the plot, using examples from the book to support your analysis. One way to do this is to explore the themes or big ideas in the story. Explain how the conflict in this story is relevant to or symbolic of conflicts that exist in the larger society or in human nature.

Warnings
  • Conduct a plot analysis only if the assignment instructs you to do so.
  • State your opinion of the action only if you can provide solid evidence from the story to support this opinion
About the Author

Patricia Harrelson is a retired college English instructor who began writing in 1987. She writes about education, communication and theater in publications such as the "San Francisco Chronicle," "California English" and "Central Sierra Seasons." She specializes in Web content, including blogging for businesses. Harrelson has a Master of Science in speech pathology, and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Antioch University.

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