Author Interviews about Plotting (Episode 4.5)

Listen at:

Featuring guest authors Cary Fagan, Philippa Dowding, Raquel Rivera, Ishta Mercurio, and Kari-Lynn Winters, talking about plotting—how and when they plot, how they feel about tormenting characters with obstacles, and what they recommend to those who want to improve their own plotting.

A full transcript of this episode, plus full audio, is available at

[1:15] When to plot your story

Plotting happens while coming up with ideas, drafting, and revising – activities that overlap through the entire creative process.

[4:30] Author Interviews about Plotting

[5:10] Cary Fagan on plotting before and while drafting

[7:20] Philippa Dowding knows her ending

[8:25] Raquel Rivera does not know the ending

[10:35] Ishta Mercurio does not know the ending

[12:55] Kari-Lynn Winters knows the end but not the path

[14:20] Plotting as character challenged.

Think of a story as a path a character is taking toward what they want, and plot is everything that gets in their way. If you want to be a writer, you’ll have to make your characters suffer.

[16:05] Interviews about tormenting characters

[16:15] Philippa Dowding is a tormentor

[18:05] Raquel Rivera says torment is a sad necessity

[19:00] Kari-Lynn Winters wants some kind of hope

[20:20] Ishta Mercurio is an enthusiastic tormentor

[22:40] Cary Fagan mitigates the torments with humour

[25:10] Classic and experimental plots

Plotting is important even to quiet literary novels. Even experimental fiction is organized and intentional. So long as you fulfill the promises of the story that you set up when you invite a reader in, you’re plotting well.

[28:15] Author Interviews about plotting advice

[28:25] Philippa Dowding recommends keeping the end in sight

[29:25] Cary Fagan makes the unlikely believable

[31:30] Raquel Rivera talks it over with herself

[32:25] Ishta Mercurio puts a story away

[34:00] Kari-Lynn Winters layers her stories

[35:40] The best plots are inside you

If your plot fails in a way you can’t articulate, dig in and ask what you’re trying to say about life. Test and resolve a big issue, offer some revelation about life, lift up your reader into this big important drama. Use the heartline of your story to frame its plot. 

[37:45] Write your own tale

Show us what your character wants and make us fret and worry and cringe and weep when she doesn’t get it.

[38:15] Thanks and coming up on the podcast

Next week takes on the subject of creating tension on Episode 5: “Squirm,” with guest authors Lena Coakley, Sarah Raughley, and Don Cummer.

If you enjoyed this episode, post a link to the podcast on your social media to recommend it to your friends. And write your own tale. Thanks for listening.

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:

cary-fagan-small.jpg Photo by Mark Reynes Roberts

Cary Fagan has written many books for children, including The Hollow Under the Tree, Mort Ziff is Not Dead, and Wolfie and Fly. His many awards include the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award, the IODE Jean Throop Award, the Betty Stuchner–Oy Vey!–Funniest Children’s Book Award, and the Vicky Metcalf Award for Literature for his body of work. Cary lives in Toronto. Find him online at


Philippa Dowding is an award-winning children’s author, a poet, musician and marketing copywriter. Her poetry and short fiction have appeared in many literary journals. Her children’s books have been nominated for awards in Canada, the U.S. and Europe, and her 2017 middle-grade novel, Myles and the Monster Outside, won the OLA Silver Birch Express Honour Book award. Philippa lives in Toronto with her family, where she reads, writes, plays guitar, and walks her dog every day. Find her on her website at or on her blog at


Ishta Mercurio was born and raised in an interracial family in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she developed a love of reading and books and big ideas. After leaving for college at the exactly right age of 16, she went on to explore the world and, with it, to explore various ways of storytelling, from dance to theatre to poetry to prose. She now lives and writes in Brampton, Ontario, where she serves as the Chairman of the Board for The FOLD Foundation, a non-profit whose mandate is to lift underrepresented and marginalized voices in Canadian literature. Her picture book debut, Small World, illustrated by Jen Corace (ABRAMS Books for Young Readers), was selected as one of NPR’s Best Books of 2019 and won the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award for the Canadian region. Find Ishta online at or on Facebook at @theoneandonlyishta/, on Twitter @IshtaWrites; or on Instagram @IshtaMercurio.

raquel-small.jpg Photo by Katya Konioukhova

Raquel Rivera is a writer, artist and performer based in Montreal since 1999, where she has published five books for young readers. Prior to this, she lived and worked as a copywriter in Washington DC, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore, and she taught ESL in Barcelona. Raquel also writes about books for Constellations, a library and online database of quality children’s literature, for use by teachers, librarians, and the public. When she’s not reading, writing, practising acrobatics, or drumming, Raquel leads creative workshops for children, youth, and adults around Quebec and across Canada. Visit her online at


Dr. Kari-Lynn Winters is an award-winning children’s author, playwright, performer, and academic scholar. She is an Associate Professor at Brock University and the author of French Toast, Jeffrey and Sloth, On My Walk, Gift Days, and more than a dozen other imaginative picture books for children. Find her online at

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: