Bad Things Happen (Episode 4: Plotting)

A horrifying face

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. (“Fright-free” version at 33 minutes)

Listen on iTunesSpotifyGoogle Podcastsanother streaming platform, or right here:

Listen to “Bad Things Happen”:

“Bad Things Happen” – Cabin Tales Episode 4: Plotting

Read the full episode transcript:

Listen to the “Fright-free” version of “Bad Things Happen”:

Fright-free “Bad Things Happen” – Cabin Tales Episode 4: Plotting

Read the “Fright-free” transcript:


[0:00] Intro and

[1:35] Trigger warning:  Today’s story includes violence, terror, pets dying, people dying, mental illness, paranormal activity, prescription drug abuse, murder, suicide, stalking – the fictional storyteller Savannah likes to make bad things happen. So if you don’t want any of those things in your mind, skip ahead 10 minutes. Or download the “fright-free” version. 

[2:55]  Story: “The Critter Cam” 

[19:15] Commentary on Classic Plot Structure

[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 Plots

[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 

Download a simple Plot Structure diagram and exercise “Plotting in Pairs:”

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

[43:15] Thanks and housekeeping.

Coming up next week: “Author interviews about Plotting”

[44:25] Monster Movie Quote: Please say hello to me.

Guest Authors
Amelinda Berube

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

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

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.

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

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

Art: The B&W image of the creepy face is by Gustave Doré, from Les contes drolatique by Honoré de Balzac, 1881.

Published by Catherine Austen

I am an award-winning Canadian author of books for all ages, including Walking Backward (Orca), My Cat Isis (Kids Can Press), 26 Tips for Surviving Grade 6 and 28 Tricks for a Fearless Grade 6 (Lorimer) and All Good Children (Orca). I live with my family in Gatineau, Quebec.

7 thoughts on “Bad Things Happen (Episode 4: Plotting)

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