Plotline Planning with Maps


Writing and planning a story can be daunting and some plot planning outlines can be restrictive or boring. This session involves making a map and then using it as an outline for a story. The map provides settings, a way to plot the story and prompts for key events. There is flexibility to vary the amount of writing depending on the children you are working with. They can just talk about their story, write a few lines, or write multiple pages. Children can use this to plan the plot for a story they already have some character ideas for or use it to generate ideas for a story and add in characters as they go or develop them when they have finished.



In this session children will make their own map then use it to help write a story. You will find prompts and examples for different places and dangers to face which become the main settings and events for the story. Children can use as many of the ideas given, or come up with their own ideas.


What you need

  • Paper for the map and for writing notes and story
  • (Optional) tea bags – if children make an ancient map
  • Pencil and pens


What to do

  • Step 1: Plan a map
  • Step 2: Instructions to make a map
  • Step 3: Use the map to plan and write a journey-themed story


Step 1: Plan your map

Lots of great stories involve a journey through different places. Some famous examples are The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien, which are both based in Middle Earth. The characters in these stories go on a journey through different lands, meeting lots of people, and facing many dangers and exciting adventures.

Starting with a map is a great way to plan and write a story where characters go on a journey. Work through the instructions to help plan a map for your story.

Guide to creating a map

First decide what sort of map you will make. What is the outline of your map? A planet, a realm, a town? It could be anything from a house to outer space!


  • Fantasy world map like Middle Earth
  • A theme park
  • Treasure island (see the Treasure Map Story activity for this particular idea)
  • A zoo or other wildlife park
  • A map of space for a journey to different planets
  • An underwater city
  • An underground realm
  • A map based on your local area
  • A map of a place you like to go such as a local park, a town centre, even an indoor play area!
  • A fairground


Next decide on the different locations on your map. Think of at least three locations. Try to make them quite different from each other so that your story has lots of different things that happen. It will make your story more interesting and allow you to create an exciting plot line. A good idea is to make one of the places really dangerous or scary and another a safe place or a happy place. You can really build up the tension around going to the dangerous place.

Having a variety of places means you’ll have lots of interesting setting descriptions as well as allowing for different types of characters and events.

Even a small area like a house and grounds could have a good variety of settings – a dark cellar, a mysterious attic, a secret passageway, a nice garden with bright flowers and a magical fountain, and a peaceful roof terrace with spectacular views.


  • An enchanted lake
  • The monkey enclosure
  • A waterslide
  • Woods or forest
  • Swampland or bogs
  • Big Dipper rollercoaster
  • Dodgems
  • Swings at a play area
  • An underwater cave
  • The town of the Fluffelnuggets
  • The waterfall of decay
  • Valley of Bones
  • Black hole
  • An Endless Abyss
  • A live volcano


Step 2: Instructions to make a map

Tip: Do everything in pencil first, then when you’re happy with it go over the pencil with a black felt-tip pen.

1. Draw an outline of the area on a sheet of plain paper.

2. Add different the lands, areas, or landmarks you have thought of – and any more you think of as you go.

3. Label any terrains in between the different places the characters will need to cross. Examples: a thick jungle, forest, beach, mud and rocks.

5. Decide at which location the journey begins and where it will end.

6. Think about where you want all the locations and landmarks to be on the map – which ones will be close together and which will be on opposite sides of the map? What will be the route to the character(s) will take?

7. (Optional) If your map is ancient, use a wet tea bag to stain it and tear the edges to make the map look really old


Step 3: Write a map-inspired story

Children can now use their finished map to make a story about going on an exciting journey. Support them in going through the guide below to help them come up with ideas for their story.

Children’s stories can be anything from discussing a basic synopsis and plot to a fully written out adventure! They don’t have to complete it in one sitting, they could plan the basic outline and characters for their story now and develop it over time. If children are keen to write a fuller story, do the Adventures in Description course to help them write some great setting and character descriptions. They can use the settings and any characters they have thought of here when they come to write their descriptions throughout the course. They could also use any of the Creating Characters activities.

Making a story from your map

To develop a plot from your map we will first have a short think about a character (or characters) who will be going on the journey as well as the different settings. We will then develop the plotline.

Main character

  • Who is the person going on the journey?
  • Why are they going?
  • What are they like as a person? (For example: adventurous, nervous, friendly, grumpy, brave)
  • Are they going alone or will they have a companion / companions?

Take a moment to jot down some initial ideas for the main character(s) who are searching for the treasure.


The different places on your map will help you create interesting settings as well as providing opportunities or dangers for your character(s) to face.

Does anyone live in the setting?

  • Who are they and what are they like?
  • How do they react to your character?
  • Are they a friend or foe?
  • A help or a hinderance to their journey?

Is the setting itself a help or hinderance?

  • Is it a harsh or difficult place to travel through?
  • Is it a dangerous place?
  • Does it provide important shelter or food?

Write some descriptive words and phrases for the different settings on your map. If you want to develop what you have written, look at the Describing Settings module in the Adventures in Description course.


Imagine your character(s) walking through each part as you answer the questions below. Write the different places on a sheet of paper and make notes about the things you think of as you work through the questions.

  • What emotions will your character(s) be feeling at the different places on the map?
  • What dangers do they face and how will they overcome them?
  • If there’s a group, will they all survive the journey?

Make some notes about what happens to your character(s) at the different places on your map. Which parts of the map will be easy or help them on their journey and which will provide setbacks and danger?

  • Will they be involved in some exciting action?
  • Will it be a tense moment where they are in hiding from danger or trying to get something by stealth?
  • Will it be a place of rest and recovery?
  • Will it be a place where their dreams come true or they achieve their goal?
  • Will something unexpected happen?

How does the journey end?

  • Is it a success?
  • What happens to the character(s)?
  • Does your story have a sad or happy ending?


You now have the a good outline for a plot as well as some settings and ideas for a character. Write a story using these ideas. It can be a synopsis, short story – or as long as you like!