ON WRITING PLOT: What’s the Problem? by Joyce Moyer Hostetter


One of the most boring books I ever read was about Jesus.  Okay – to be honest, I mostly said that to get your attention – please don’t get mad and click over to Facebook!

But, the truth is, I never actually finished reading Joshua by Joseph Girzone because this modern-day portrayal of Jesus did not contain a page-turning plot. Joshua, who represents Jesus, was just a little too perfect for my reading tastes. As I remember it, (And it has been a long time!) problems arose, Joshua responded, and the problems fell by the wayside. But of course!  Jesus was perfect. He could defeat his antagonists with a searching gaze or a searing question. Anyone rewriting His story has the daunting challenge of presenting Him with all His deity and His humanity at the same time.

I suspect that the Bible is the only book capable of doing this. And the Bible? Well, it’s filled with conflict. Do I need to mention the sexual immorality of King David, the rebellion of the Prodigal Son, and the betrayal by Judas Iscariot? Then there’s the ultimate conflict – government-sanctioned murder by crucifixion!

I’m a follower of Jesus Christ. I want his character to be perfected in me. But I am a long way from arriving at that goal. So, along the way, I manage to create a ton of conflict. When I write, I have to sometimes let my characters behave as badly as I do. Or worse. Or maybe they struggle in different areas than I do or make adolescent mistakes that I have hopefully outgrown. I have to put obstacles in their paths, give them problematic relationships, and allow them to make some wrong choices.

The thing is – without conflict we don’t have a plot. Or, at least, not an interesting one. So how does one write an interesting plot? I confess this is an ongoing challenge for me. But I’ve learned some things about plotting while writing BAKERS MOUNTAIN STORIES—my series of historical novels. This summer I’ve moved away from those stories. I’m all set to revise a novel set in western North Carolina during World War I. But first, I’m reading up on some popular plot structures in hopes of applying their methods to my story.

On September 19, I’ll share what I’m learning at Write 2 Ignite’s Fiction Writing Master Class.  We’ll explore some of the challenges and pitfalls of plotting, discover tips for finding plot ideas, and discuss using the power of three. Of course, we’ll take a look at some of those popular plot structures!  I hope to see you there!


Our teen reviewer, Kathryn Dover, has been reviewing the Bakers Mountain series, written by Joyce. If you missed the reviews, here they are Aim and Blue. Watch for Kathryn’s review and our giveaway of Comfort next week!

Because of Covid, Joyce’s Master Fiction Writing Class will be virtual. But one fortunate attendee will still receive ALL FOUR books! Click HERE to register.


Joyce Moyer Hostetter lives in Hickory, North Carolina, where she enjoys spending time with her children and grandchildren. Before she wrote historical novels, Joyce taught special education, worked in a camp for at-risk children and directed a preschool program. She also wrote Christian curricula, magazine articles, and a newspaper column & feature stories. Her novels have won an International Reading Association Children’s Book Award, Parents’ Choice Honor Awards, and a North Carolina Juvenile Literature Award. Her books include Healing Water: An Hawaiian Story about a teen boy’s survival in Hawaii’s leprosy settlement and the Bakers Mountain Stories series: AimBlueComfort, and Drive. Equal, the fifth book in the series will be released in Spring, 2021.


10 thoughts on “ON WRITING PLOT: What’s the Problem? by Joyce Moyer Hostetter

  1. Love your opening “grabber” and the points about the nature of conflict! What a great example for all of us. Funny how we struggle to write conflict when we are so immersed in it in our daily lives.

    1. Thanks, Marci. I hope you can join us for the Master Class workshop. Did you see Joyce’s other posts on what she is presenting? Just search for her name. Carol Baldwin

  2. Will the September Master Class be of interest to picture book writers or is it geared to middle grade/YA?

    1. Trine, I will send your question to our presenter, Joyce Hostetter. My first guess is that ALL fiction needs characters, dialogue, point of view, and plot. So, even though it’s not particularly geared towards pb writers I think it will be useful to you. I’ll send you her reply when I receive it. Thanks for asking. Carol

    2. Hey Trine–JOyce got back to me right away. THis is what she said: “I am working at including information about and examples of picture books but of course my strength is in middle grade fiction.
      However, as you said – character, plot, dialogue and viewpoint are important to picture books. I believe that a picture book writer will benefit and learn a lot unless they are a fairly seasoned picture book author. I’m not an expert in that area.”

      on a personal note, I am also considering writing picture books after I finish my mg novel. I study picture books as a result (which I am sure you are already doing). If you do, you’ll notice that these elements are in most picture books too. One time I was in a pb class and they talked about discovering whose POV you wanted to use to write the story. Interesting exercise! I hope this helps, and I hope we’ll see you in September. Carol

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