Q&A with Christina Banach on Plot and Structure

James Scott Bell's Book
Plot & Structure

Reams have been written on how to hook readers with stylish writing, vivid characters and believable dialogue, but the scaffolding of it all is plot and structure. 

Novelist Christina Banach, who’s offering an expert SCBWI workshop on this topic in Edinburgh next month, tells us why writer James Scott Bell’s guidance is some of the very best writers can use. 

When did you discover James Scott Bell as a plotting expert, and what have his methods done for your writing? 

I came across James Scott Bell in 2006 and bought my first book of his that October. Since then I’ve added several more of his works to my ever-increasing collection of writing guides. Through deep analysis of his methods I finally got to grips with the difference between plot and structure, learned how to structure a manuscript more effectively and understood the importance of conflict and suspense within any story I am trying to tell. 

For people who don’t know his work, can you explain what LOCK is? 

The acronym, LOCK, is James Scott Bell’s set of principles to help fiction writers grasp the fundamentals of a strong narrative. He believes that if these elements are in place you will end up with a solid story. In fact he guarantees it! 

L = a Lead. It’s essential to create a lead character with which the reader can bond, one who will access the story world for each reader. 

O = an Objective, ie what she wants or desires (can be external or internal). This is crucial because it gives the story forward motion - gets your main character into action and means that something is at stake for her. 

C = Confrontation – opposition from characters, and from outside forces, brings a book alive. The confrontation can be either physical or psychological. Novels are about confrontation. 

K = a Knockout ending – the final choice or battle the lead character faces. It’s important to leave readers satisfied at the end of the book. Endings are critical. 

I haven’t read “Write Your Novel From the Middle” yet – should I? 

Bell subtitled this book as ‘A New Approach for Plotters, Pantsers and Everyone in Between’. Although it’s a very slim volume it’s one that I’d heartily recommend because, for me, it’s a very interesting take on plot and structure. It focuses on finding your story’s heart in the mid point. I’ve found it invaluable in crafting my latest manuscript; I’ll go into more detail about this during my SCBWI-SES workshop on February 6th. 

What can participants expect from your February SCBWI workshop in Edinburgh on plot and structure? What do you hope they come away with? 

Amongst other things, participants can expect me to illustrate and discuss:

  • how plotting systems can work for the plotter, the pantser and those in between 
  • the relationship between the Three-Act Structure and Mythic Structure 
  • the importance of character arcs 
  • why raising the stakes is important  
  • why conflict and suspense is vital to creating a page-turning manuscript 
  • what constitutes a successful scene 
  • how to avoid a ‘flabby middle’ 
  • how to balance Show with Tell 
  • practical sessions on selected aspects of plot and structure 

I hope participants will go home with a clearer understanding of plot and structure and will be able to apply what they’ve learned to their own work and thereby dig deeper into the story they want to tell. 

Thank you Christina for taking the time out to show us what's on offer at this invaluable SCBWI SE workshop. 

If you're looking to book - get your skates on - tickets are selling out FAST! Click here to look and book.

Christina Banach is author of MINTY, a young adult novel that was shortlisted for the prestigious 2015 Crystal Kite award and nominated for the 2014 Cybils' Children's and Young Adult Blogger Literary Awards. The title was also named a Scottish Book Trust Teen's Book of the Month. Christina is currently editing her next book, COIRA, a young adult mystery set in the legendary village of Glencoe in the Scottish highlands.


  1. I have used the Plot and Structure book ever since you first recommended it, Christina – actually I think I have some ebook credits to spend so I'm going to go grab the other one right now! Can't wait for this workshop.-Sheila

  2. Look forward to it! I'm definitely a pantser by nature. A bit of tightening can only do me good!

  3. Please do this workshop next time you're in London Christina - sounds really good

  4. This looks like a fantastic workshop, Christina! Loved the book and would love to hear your take on it.

  5. I signed up for the workshop! Looking forward to it!


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