Plot (Elements of Fiction Writing) Hardcover – 5 Jul 1993
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Top Customer Reviews
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...
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
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.