I seem to be stuck – not just with my current picture book WIP but caught between “plot” and “reading experience” and I think I’m confusing myself. How do I know which I’m working on? I can’t quite put my thumb on the difference, not in any practical way.
Let’s take this one on the road: You’re a passenger in a car. Your ride is smooth or bumpy, it’s noisy or quiet. You feel big and safe, or big and clunky, or small and vulnerable, or small and zippy. That’s the experience. The pieces of the car and the way they work together create that experience, and the carmaker is responsible for those pieces and their interaction. You’re the carmaker. The plot is your pile of pieces and how they work together, the readers will be your passengers. Do you want your readers to feel big and powerful? Then construct a plot with bold events and big triumph. Want them to enjoy being bumped about and then be left breathless and satisfied? Construct a plot that twists, jars, surprises. Whee! Decide what you want the reading experience to be, then lay out a series of events that create it. Don’t get tunnel-visioned about plot creation, though: Just as a car gets painted and tricked out, you’ve got word choice and rhythm and, eventually, illustrations to help shape the experience. Plot is a core element and matters greatly, but it’s not Everything.