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The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master Kindle Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
I also found the fact that every pronoun is "she" rather wearing, and think it should have been mixed up a bit. After all, I as a writer am not a she.
But this one, for me, has given me at least one nugget "at the right time". I've read something here that I was ready to believe and act on. That might not apply to everyone.
This book does seem to be quite insightful and written by someone who knows their subject. I'm still working through it so I can only really give a first impression.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Reviewed by C. J. Singh (Berkeley, CA)
THE PLOT WHISPERER begins by showing two diagrams: "The Plot Planner" diagrams the entire process of plotting, and "The Scene Tracker Template" diagrams the seven essential elements that constitute effective scenes. Although Figure 1 displays the Plot Planner, Alderson favors writing the scenes first approach. These two diagrams also appeared in the author's "BlockBuster Plots: Pure and Simple," published in 2004. (Years ago, I attended one of her brief workshops in San Francisco, where I bought two of her workshop DVDs. Both DVDs are excellent.)
The second chapter, "The Universal Story," is a simplified version of Joseph Campbell's classic "The Hero With a Thousand Faces." ("The Plot Whisperer" lacks acknowledgements of earlier fiction-craft books.)
In later chapters, the plot planning process is exampled by analyses of three widely read novels: William Golding's "Lord of the Flies", Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mocking Bird," and John Steinbeck's "East of Eden." The scene tracking process is exampled by analyses of the opening three scenes of F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby."
New to this edition is "The Thematic Significance Bubble Template, " introduced as follows. "The more you home in on the deeper meaning of your story and the big problem that needs to be solved in your protagonist's life, the more focused the scenes will be and the richer their presentation. Many writers scoot as far away as possible from the thematic significance of their stories. I believe, instead, that you should dive right in" (page 60). This template is illustrated by an analysis of John Steinbeck's "East of Eden," coming up with the theme: "The choices one makes, not one's blood, determine one's destiny." Excellent diagrams.
"The Plot Planner" diagrams the beginning--one-fourth of total pages; the middle--one-half; and the end--one-fourth. (These divisions were popularized by Syd Field in his pioneering book, "The Screenplay," published in 1978, based on the classic "The Poetics" by Aristotle, the original guru of dramatic writing.)
In the Plot Planner diagram, above and below the rising plot line are plot scenes "that connect by cause and effect." Below the plot line lies the "territory of the protagonist," and above it is that of antagonist (s)--"other people, nature, society, machine, God." Below the plot line, the protagonist develops character by "calm, coping, planning, solving problems" and is in control. Above the line, protagonist's character development occurs by "loss, failing to cope, grief, rebellion, ambition, unhappiness, flaw, hatred, loss of power, anger." Dramatic action is presented by "discovery, conflict, tension, suspense, catastrophe, the chase, betrayal, deception, curiosity."
"The Scene Tracker Template" comprises seven elements: Chapter/Scene; Date and Setting; Character Emotional Development; Goal; Dramatic Action; Conflict; Emotional Change; Thematic Significance.
The above template and "The Thematic Significance Bubble Template" are the author's specific contributions toward simplifying the plotting process of novel-writing. And that merits five stars for the book.
Many writers wrongly assume they should automatically know how to craft a plot if they are talented. A writer might have a great talent for language and voice, but plot is something you have to learn, just like any other skill in any other occupation. Martha Alderson deconstructs plot in such a way that you can fully grasp what you need to know. After working with the plot planner and the scene tracker I found myself instinctively making the right choices when I returned to my story. Now I find I don't get as confused and bogged down, and that makes for a happy writing experience!
Every few pages, the author stops to remind you that everyone and every story are all cosmically connected by the "Universal Story" (literally). In order to buy into this, I feel like I need to check my horoscope religiously, or think that the psychic hotline is a great way to make life decisions. Alas, I do neither, and I find the ad-nauseum couching of the content in this manner to be off-putting and cluttered.
The author further spends an inordinate amount of time pigeonholing writers into "left brain" and "right brain" writers. This theme too clutters up the content every 4-5 pages. I haven't checked the author's credentials, but I'm fairly sure I wouldn't find a degree in neuroscience. Even if I did, I bought a book about plot. If the point is that different people have different strengths, it can be made ONCE without attempting repeatedly to legitimize it by some vague and superficial interpretation of an unrelated subject.
Several other reviewers have commented glowingly on the tools this book offers: the "plot planner" (a line graph) and the "thematic significance bubble" (a glorified mind map) being two of them. While these may be interesting points of view, they are hardly the earth shakers other reviewers make them out to be.
There is undoubtedly some good material in here (hence the second star), but wading through the junk is a real effort. I surrendered at the 4th chapter.
I will not be purchasing from this author again.