How to Use a Mind Map to Outline Your KidLit Novel

You can start a piece in a number of ways; for example:

  • From a personal experience: some experiences are so powerful you can’t get them out of your head.
  • From more gradual inspiration: something that has been nagging at you for years.
  • From an incident in the news: find something that happened today and grab a few articles about it for your research folder
  • From an anecdote that someone tells you: ever find yourself wondering if that tale your uncle tells at dinner could possibly be true? Explore it!

It doesn’t matter what gets you started, so long as something does. But the real problem is how to develop the idea into something more substantial.

One way to build out your work is the mind map.

Map out a set of characters for your piece so you can play with who your characters will meet, love, hate, rescue, or fight.

  1. Write the full name of your main character in the middle of the page. Add in any nicknames or pet names they have.
  2. Insert all the people in the main character’s life around the name in the center and connect them to the protagonist with bold lines. Include names and details for family, friends, work colleagues, neighbors, lovers, and such.
  3. Add people who the main character doesn’t know but who might play a part in the story. Don’t connect them to the main character just yet. Just come up with a supporting cast.
  4. Draw connections between the other characters but leave your main character out of it for now. Try color-coding them so you know which connections your main character knows and which they are in the dark about.
  5. Identify potential enemies among the characters in these groups. Underline the characters with potential for evil in a different color so you can find them easily.

As you begin to define the relationship your main character has to the rest of the cast, consider writing it down along the lines you’ve drawn. As the map develops, you may begin to get a much more complete and complex picture of your main character.

And the plot of your novel will begin to reveal itself as you find possibilities for connections and further development.

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Originally published on February 25, 2022 @ 12:00 pm


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Published by J. M. Tuckerman

J.M.Tuckerman is a neurodivergent writer with a big education. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults, an MA in Writing, and a BA in Writing Arts (specializing in Creative Writing, New Media Writing, and Publication; concentrating in New Media Production), which she somehow managed to earn despite her three very loud and large dogs. Jessica was lucky enough to intern at Quirk Books and Picador, USA while earning her master’s degrees. Her service dog, Ringo, is very proud of all that she has accomplished and hopes to be on a back cover of a published book with her very soon. An avid reader, writer, and lover of young adult and middle-grade literature, Jessica’s bookshelf is overflowing with hardbacks, paperbacks, and a million half-filled notebooks. She is a proud fur-mommy to two lab/st-bernard littermates, a retriever-mix service dog, and one orange little hobgoblin cat, all of whom have made very audible appearances on the Booked All Night podcast.

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