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Plot (Elements of Fiction Writing) Hardcover – 5 Jul 1993


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 170 pages
  • Publisher: Writer's Digest Books (5 July 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0898793033
  • ISBN-13: 978-0898793031
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 15.2 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 763,804 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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First Sentence
If you're like me and most of the writers I've known over the years in writers' groups, at conferences and in classes, you're coming to plot the hard way. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By P. Holmes on 3 Sept. 2002
Format: Paperback
While 'Plot' was a good read, I found that the author assumed that everybody has read every book he used examples from without much explanation, which detracted from the overall value of the book.
This is not a 'how to plot' book, but more of a 'generalist hints on writing' approach, where individual bits of plot were analysed in reasonable detail (along with a lot of other elements of writing). Putting all the bits together and advice on how to do so was missing from the picture however.
This book goes in one of my bookshelves - 'How to Plot your Novel' by Jean Saunders is the book on plot I will be keeping near me while writing...
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 15 Jun. 2005
Format: Paperback
I found the book interesting enough, but the good ideas are hidden in dense, lofty prose. Whilst I appreciate it is useful to mention great novels when writing about plot, Anson Dibell uses more titles than most; the same old books, almost clichés in a writers' reference book these days. Examples: 'Star Wars', 'The Grapes of Wrath', 'Vanity Fair', 'Wuthering Heights', 'Bleak House', 'Lord of the Rings', and so on. All good stuff, yes, but I got the feeling I was being told. 'Look, I can't plot much better than you, dear reader, but I know a good plot when I see one!' As I didn't want to turn out yet another 'High Noon', or a 'Jason and the Argonauts', in different settings, I started with a character suited to my story idea, and then outlined, after lots of old fashioned thinking. I coupled that with Michael Leggat's book on plot, and went for it. Strangely, I ended up with an outline that was based on 'The Hero with a Thousand Faces'. Serendipity indeed.
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By Bugbear on 26 July 2008
Format: Hardcover
For a beginner, I think this book is pretty handy. I don't have a problem with the titles the author refers to (Star Wars, Lord Of The Flies and so on) because they're books/films a lot of people have access to so if you're going to refer to other works, choose those which you can assume most people have read/seen.

Although the author uses other books as examples, in addition to this I would have preferred some written examples, such as in the case of "show, don't tell". A lot of beginners are confused by the show not tell thing, so some examples would have been good.
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10 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Richard I Urwin on 18 April 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Using examples from classic literature the author leads the reader through the process of designing and developing the plot in a work of fiction. While concentrating its main attention on standard plot forms as most appropriate for novice authors it also gives some advice on more "arty" modes (eg. collage, where scenes are juxtaposed for their texture without being tied by a narative thread.) I am not a published author, and so I can not report authoritively on its veracity or completeness, but it certainly looks good to me, and will be an essential background and reference for anything I write from now on.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 51 reviews
58 of 64 people found the following review helpful
Highest Recommendation 26 Jan. 2001
By The Travel Insider - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The simple one word title of this book - "Plot" - and its slim 170 pages do not adequately hint at the wealth of guidance that is packed into every one of its pages. This is the best book on the subject of writing that I've yet purchased.
If you're like me - a hopeful author-to-be, then you're probably, also like me, casting around for some desperately needed advice and guidance on how to turn the winning story that you know you have into a published and popular novel. Sadly, there doesn't seem to be a magic formula that can be revealed, and the challenges in trying to define what is as much a creative art as a pseudo-science means that many "how to write a book" texts promise a very great deal more than they deliver.
By happy contrast, Ansen Dibell's book delivers a very great deal more than it promises. It not only gives extremely easy to follow, hard-hitting advice on plot construction and development, but it offers extra "bonus" material on just about every other aspect of authorship. Unlike some books which end up in a morass of generalities, she talks in easily understood specifics, and also uses some excellent examples of published material, while avoiding the temptation that other authors have suffered from of padding the book with many pages of unnecessary example.
To summarise, this is an excellent book that discusses most aspects of writing a novel, with Plot as its central unifying subject. It has my highest recommendation and I urge you to add it to your own collection accordingly.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
GREAT FOR BEGINNER AND ADVANCED ALIKE 3 Mar. 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
As a writer myself, plotting is my hardest job. This book has helped me immensely. Dibell shows us how to structure our beginnings with a bang, then goes on to help us hold reader interest throughout the book. She explains both circular and linear endings and lets us know when each is most approporiate. She also covers the area of subplots extremely well, helping us understand what a valid subplot really is and how much support it really needs. I, myself, found the discussion of braided plots most useful. I used my copy so much it literally fell apart and I had to buy another. This is absolutely the best book on the complex subject of plotting I've ever seen.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Great Start For Plot-Newbies 15 April 2005
By Christopher Kokoski - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Look, the book isn't Shakespere, but for someone like me who smiled and nodded--and that's about it--when I head the term, "plot," there is good information to glean. However, even after finishing the book, I didn't feel like a master of plotting. Two of the best books on plots that I've read are "Scene and Structure," and the more recent, "Plot and Structure."
43 of 52 people found the following review helpful
Way Too Convoluted. Nothing New In Here 27 Feb. 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I've read some 30 books on story craft and this is easily one of the least useful of the bunch. This author doesn't believe in Outlines but this book could have definitely benefitted from one. Not only is the information put forth in a confusing manner, the author compounds this by attempting such things as trying to make up new terminology for age old story elements (apparently in an attempt to sound original and to convince you she has some pearls of knowledge that no one else has thought of).
If you're looking for a useful source of story elements, this isn't the book. "Story" by McKee "The Writer's Journey" by Vogler and "Building Better Plots" by Kernen are FAR better, and more importantly, they are straight forward and easy to use in regards to your own work.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Sounds great, but ... 2 Jun. 2010
By Pump Kine - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Suppose you have an idea for a novel. Potential characters are evolving in your mind. Perhaps you've decided on a theme, statement or a message. The perfect setting comes to you easily or you possibly have a killer beginning and sometimes even a natural resolution. But how do you go about finding a story to fit to the idea. How do you invent the journey that gets you from A to Z. In my mind this is what is meant by Plot. Perhaps I'm wrong, but when I flicked through this book in Borders one day, the chapter headings seemed to confirm my belief. I thought I'd found a mystical guide for creating effective plot.

Having already read, and found useful, two other books in the Elements of Fiction series: "Conflict, Action and Suspense", and "Characters and Viewpoint", it was frustrating then to have to review at great length the subject of Viewpoint, when I was wanting to learn specifically about Plot. I'm sure one is dependent on the other, but maybe the book should have been called, "How to Construct a Novel". In fact, maybe it should have been "How to Construct a Screenplay" as many of the examples were from films. At least the film examples were recognisable. Some (not all) of the novel examples were obscure with little or no explanations as to what the books were about. It was condescending that the author expected her audience to have read each and every one of these.

Try as I might, I can not finish this book. I find I have to read and reread each sentence so many times I lose patience. The sentences are often poorly constructed and paragraphs are chopped off at odd points. Many of the paragraphs would benefit from being run together. An often disputed point in writing is that sentences shouldn't begin with "And" or "But". This author begins many entire paragraphs with these words, requiring much rereading to find out what the conjunction is referring to.

I wish she would take a dose of her own medicine when it comes to the question of degree and judicious use of craft. An example on page 82 of my edition in the 2nd paragraph of the subsection "The Power and Problems of Melodrama", the author bombards the reader with analogy. I like her reference to salt, but one sentence would have been enough. The entire book is overwhelmed by similes, metaphors, hyperbole and any other literary device you can think of, each of them cutting off the train of thought, making her point hard to follow.

No, this book does not show you how to construct the journey that is called plot. It gives you clues and occasional useful tips, but these are more often than not disguised with made-up labels, such as "monster" instead of the usual antagonist, or "curse" instead of ... well I never quite got what curse meant. Plot maybe.
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