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  • Writer's pictureLaurie Wallmark

The Plotting Technique For WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY + Activities & Printables.

Usually, when it comes to plotting a novel, I struggle with getting it all to come out the way I envision. I have a strong beginning and knowledge of how I expect it to end. It's what comes in between that throws me for a loop. I'll write down possible scenes, things the character(s) need to do or potential conflicts that could arise. Most of the plot ideas that end up staying in the story are ones that I discovered after many revisions. I expect there are many of us out there with this same kind of problem.

For my new novel in verse WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY, plotting was a totally different animal. The main character Jack spoke to me in a voice so loud and clear. He was insistent that I tell his story the way he spoke it, which turned out to be free verse. So, instead of plotting what might happen, I began to compile a list of words that would spark a conversation between Jack and me. (The title for the story at this stage was Fish, Wish, and Other Four Letter Words...hence the list of four-letter words).

Each day I'd sit down with the list, choose a word and let Jack tell me his thoughts on it. The list expanded as we got further into the story and the final version that became the book veered from the strict four letter word format. But that list is the plot, sure and true. Every crossed out word is a poem in the story. I hope you enjoy the result.


Eleven year old Jack misses his Dad who is MIA in Vietnam. It’s been months since he and his family had word of his whereabouts. The last thing Jack wants to do is spend summer with his grandparents. Mom believes it will be good for them all – Jack, his sister Katy, Mom, Gran and Pops – to be together while they wait for word about Dad. Keeping busy will keep them out of trouble and help them think of other things.

Jack expects the worst summer of his life. The first summer without. Without Dad, without friends, without his room and all the things that remind him of Dad. When Jack meets a girl named Jill - a girl with a brother who makes trouble for both of them – things they believe are turned upside down. Welcome to a summer of fishing, camping, bullies, and a fish who grants wishes. A fish that could be the answer to Jack’s problem. But when Jill makes wishes of her own, things don’t turn out the way they expected. Every wish has a consequence.

Will the fish grant Jack’s biggest wish? Will Jack be brave enough to ask?

Here's an easy ORIGAMI CRAFT for making fish book markers. The link has a step-by-step video:

Here's a printable WORD SEARCH PUZZLE with a list of words used in the book.

wishes wordsearch 3
Download PDF • 54KB

And, since we're all indoors or close to home these days, why not try out an ALPHABET SCAVENGER HUNT? Here are two versions, one using the book, another using objects from your own home.


Until we’re able to travel freely again, it doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the fun of scavenger hunts. You and your friends can try both these hunts in your house and neighborhood, or by using the book to find objects from the story.

Version One: Copy the letters of the alphabet vertically on a sheet of paper and then use it to search for items in your house, or yard until you get all 26. If you collect all of them and take a photo, send it to us and we will put it on this blog.

Version Two: Again, list the letters of the alphabet vertically, but this time, use the book WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY to find as many things as you can from the story. Examples: Poem titles (Jack, Katy, Kite, Fish, etc) or fun things Jack and his friends did or played with during their summer together (Camping, Fishing, bike, vegetables, etc.)

Happy Hunting!

Darlene Beck Jacobson is a former teacher and speech therapist who has loved writing since she was a girl. She is also a lover of history and can often be found mining dusty closets and drawers in search of skeletons from her past. She enjoys adding these bits of her ancestry to stories such as her award-winning middle grade historical novel WHEELS OF CHANGE (Creston 2014) and WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY (Creston 2020).

Darlene lives and writes her stories in New Jersey with her family and a house full of dust bunnies. She’s caught many fish, but has never asked one to grant her a wish. She’s a firm believer in wishes coming true, so she tries to be careful what she wishes for.

Her blog features recipes, activities, crafts, articles on nature, book reviews, and interviews with children’s book authors and illustrators.

Twitter: @DBeckJacobson

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