How to write a story ladder layout

Updated April 17, 2017

A story ladder layout is an easy and good way of organising the plot line for your story. It is a chart listing all of the characters and events in the plot of a story, and how they are related to and interact with each other. It is also a good way of helping you kick-start the writing process. It can help you identify strengths and weaknesses in you story ideas and help you to tap into your inner creative abilities.

Decide what your story is about. This is not the plot line of the novel, instead, this is just the basic idea or message you want to get across to your readers.

List out and imagine the main characters in your story. Create a list for all the central characters with details about them: their age, what they do and their gender are the basics for beginning to develop a character. Once the basics have been established, you can consider more detailed information, such as: how these characters are related to one another and what are their speech patterns like. Last, decide who the narrator is --- is it one of the characters or is it a third party?

Repeat the above step for supporting characters. These are the characters that are not the primary focus in your story, but rather they help to flesh out or make more real your main characters and their situations.

Determine what is the primary concern in your storyline. This means that you need to decide the main problem or inciting incident in your story. This is the event that helps drive and direct the majority of your plot.

Decide on the order of events in your plot. Create a chart where the order of events are in a column on the left and the characters are on the Y-axis, or top of the chart. There will be boxes where there are potential intersections or interactions between characters and events. Fill in the details of each interaction in the box where the character and even meet. Use this chart as your guideline while writing your story. This is a good way of making sure you stay on track with your original plot idea.


Taking your time in the planning process will make the writing of the story easier.


Don't be afraid to change or alter your story ladder a bit once you've begun writing. The ladder is there to help guide you, and it should be a flexible tool.

Things You'll Need

  • Pen
  • Paper
  • Computer (optional)
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About the Author

Based in Toronto, Ontario, Charlie Johnson began writing professionally about music and food in 2006. She has worked in the food service industry since 2003 and has been a professional musician since 1998. She writes about music, food, cooking, education and travel. Johnson holds a Bachelor of Music degree from McGill University.