An episode about plotting stories, with guest authors Robin Stevenson, Wendy McLeod MacKnight, and Amelinda Bérubé. Featuring an original story, “The Critter Cam.” With excerpts from Harold and the Purple Crayon; “The Band-Aid;” and Holes. 45 minutes. PG-13. (A “fright-free” version is available at


A full transcript of this episode is available at


[0:00] Intro and Story Intro

[1:35] Trigger warning: Violence, terror, pets dying, people dying, mental illness, paranormal activity, prescription drug abuse, murder, suicide, stalking – if you don’t want any of those things in your mind, skip ahead 10 minutes. Or download the “fright-free” versions of episodes available on the website at


[2:55]  Story: “The Critter Cam”


[19:15] Commentary on Classic Plot Strucuture

[14:30] Excerpt from Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

[15:15] Copy the technique


[17:45] Commentary on Simple Plots

[15:50] Excerpt from “The Band-Aid” by Andy Griffiths

[19:45] Copy the technique


[21:40] Commentary on complicated plotlines

[23:50] Excerpt from Holes by Louis Sacher

[24:30] Copy the technique


[26:45] Interviews on planning out plots

[27:15] Robin Stevenson on finding character before plotting

[28:50] Wendy McLeod MacKnight on messy middles

[30:35] Amelinda Bérubé on crawling to the finish


[32:15] Interviews about tormenting characters

[33:15] Amelinda Bérubé loves tormenting characters

[35:40] Wendy McLeod MacKnight finds torment cathartic

[35:15] Robin Stevenson has reservations about tormenting


[36:25] Advice for young writers on plotting

[36:40] Wendy McLeod MacKnight on caring about characters

[37:55] Amelinda Berube on the worst that could happen

[39:00] Robin Stevenson on holding back


[39:50] Story Prompt: “Crossing the Field”


[43:15] Thanks and housekeeping


[44:25] Monster Movie Quote


Music on the podcast is from “Stories of the Old Mansion” by Akashic Records, provided by Jamendo (Standard license for online use). 

Host: Catherine Austen writes books for children, short stories for adults, and reports for corporate clients. Visit her at

Guest Authors:


Amelinda Bérubé is a freelance writer and the author of YA novels The Dark Beneath the Ice (Sourcebooks Fire, 2018) and Here There Are Monsters (Sourcebooks Fire, 2019). A mother of two and a passionate gardener, she lives in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada in a perpetual whirlwind of unfinished projects and cat hair. Find her on her website at or on Twitter: @metuiteme.



Wendy McLeod MacKnight grew up in a small town with a library card as her most prized possession. She worked for the Government of New Brunswick for twenty-five years until the siren call of writing became impossible to ignore. She is the author of three middle grade novels: It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! (Sky Pony Press), The Frame-Up and The Copycat (both from Greenwillow Books). In her spare time, she gardens, hangs with her family and friends, and feeds raccoons. Visit Wendy online at or on Twitter @wendymacknight or Instagram @wendymcleodmacknight.



Robin Stevenson is the award winning author of 29 books, including board books, picture books, early chapter books, middle grade fiction and non-fiction, and young adult fiction and non-fiction. She lives on the west coast of Canada with her family: her partner, teenage son, a cat, and a very loving and slightly needy spaniel who is usually lying on her feet. Robin is launching three new books in 2021: a picture book, PRIDE PUPPY (Orca), a middle-grade non-fiction book, KID INNOVATORS (Quirk), and a young adult novel, WHEN YOU GET THE CHANCE (Running Press Kids). Find Robin online at or on Twitter @robin_stevenson, on Facebook at @RobinStevensonAuthor/, or on Instagram: @robinstevensonwrites.



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