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20 Master Plots: And How to Build Them Second Edition Edition

42 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1582972398
ISBN-10: 1582972397
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Ronald B. Tobias has spent his career as a writer moving from genre to genre, first as a short story writer, then as an author of fiction and nonfiction books and finally as a writer and producer of documentaries for public television. He is currently a professor in the Department of Media and Theatre Arts at Montana State University and the author of The Insider's Guide to Writing for Screen and Television. He lives in Bozeman, Montana.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Writer's Digest Books; Second Edition edition (January 17, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582972397
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582972398
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #358,486 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

138 of 144 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Thompson on January 24, 2004
Format: Paperback
If you've looked inside the book yet then you've noted the twenty master plots that are exposed in this book. So I won't list them here.
For each one there is an example, an analysis of the example and a three-act structure for using the plot. There is also a checklist at the end of each plot so you have some idea what you should be doing to develop this plot in a successful manner.
eg plot 3 the pursuit: the checklist is
* the chase is more important than the people who take part in it
* Make sure there's a real danger of the pursued getting caught
* your pursuer should have a reasonable chance of catching the pursued; they may even catch them momentarily
* rely heavily on physical action
* Your story and your characters should be stimulating, engaging and unique
* Develop your characters and situations against type to avoid cliches
* keep your situations as geographically confined as possible; the smaller the area the greater the tension
* The first dramatic phase should have 3 stages. a) establish the ground rules for the chase b) establish the stakes and c)start the race with a motivating incident
okay this book does a slightly cookbook feel about plot developement, but for those new to the game, what's wrong with getting a little support and help? Consider it a training manual for plotting! And sure you might not agree with the checklists and the manner...but don't you see, that it's getting you thinking about it too! So even if you hate it, you still gain because it pushes you to refute or accept or partially accept what it presents, and this requires effort. Effort creates thought, which leads to understanding and the development of your own ideas! So where's the problem! The only problem is if you're looking for a 'do-it-for-me'...
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72 of 77 people found the following review helpful By Erin on December 18, 2004
Format: Paperback
'20 Master Plots: And How to Build Them' is a well thought out idea that falls a little short in it's delivery, but in the end saves itself through originality.

The first chapter, titled 'Invisible Fiction', sets the mood for what's to come. The author expresses his opinions on plots and the many forms, how they all originate from a top three to be broken down into a 'top 20' for easier following. Chapter two, ' The Lowest Common Plot Denominators', discusses building tension through opposition, the three sections of a story (beginning, middle, and end), and other crucial things a plot requires to stay alive. Chapter 3, 'The Strong Force', is short in length, basically informing the reader what a 'character driven plot is' versus a 'plot driven' one.

Chapter four, 'Deep Structure', focuses on themes and moral arguments, while chapter five, 'Triangles', is an interesting, unique way to see characters and how they interact with each other.

After this, we finally begin the '20 plots', each divided by chapter. Each goes through all three 'acts' of the plot (again: beginning, middle, end), ending with a checklist to recap all that has been learned.

The wrap up chapter, 'Parting Shots', reminds you that the book is not a guide etched in stone and that rules are made to be broken. It's also stated that many times a plot is a mixture of two or more basic '20 Master Plots'.

At 232 pages, this book covers quite a bit. I was enthused as the sections, and recognized many of the 'patterns', but was left wanting in other areas. The information was useful, but if you read it straight through, many of the plot types repeat the same thing and it becomes redundant and dull. Also, some held examples of other novels and stories to illustrate what the author meant.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 18, 2003
Format: Paperback
I have three big boxes of books on writing I'm going to sell and just keep this one. I almost didn't buy this book because I don't want to write formula fiction and was put off by the title. But this isn't about formulas -- it's about understanding the dynamics of story and what the reader needs.
It's well written, concise and unexpectedly entertaining. But best of all, it has helped me break down the elements of my novel to better understand what's working and what's not -- and how to fix it. I wish I'd bought it when it first came out. For the writer struggling with plot, this is the book for you.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Ray Salemi on February 19, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have been working on a mystery novel and I picked up 20 Master Plots to help me structure the story. Since I've already got my basic plot (Mystery) I was able to use the book to help me make sure that I had my ducks in a row.

However, the book will not go much deeper than getting you started in any master plot type. It essentially delivers a magazine article about every plot type -- a great starting place.

The book is a great reference book and should sit in the writers library. From there it will deliver wisdom in 10-minute shots and get you going on any story.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By C. Yu on May 30, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is a masterwork. It's taught me how to write a story with an actual plot. Now I can sit down at the computer with a tiny seed of an idea and *know* that I'll be able to grow it into a competent story.

That's kind of amazing.

I disagree with the few criticisms I've read. I didn't think it was particularly repetitive. And if it was repetitive here and there, I didn't think it was a problem. I read each chapter twice anyway; I mean, it's a workbook, not a quick read. I wrote a complete story for each plot type. I also didn't think the author was condescending regarding popular fiction. He seemed to find more value in literary fiction <yawn> than I do, but hey, maybe his insights will make literary fiction less boring if I ever read any again. Seriously, even if you're not a writer, this book is worthwhile for the way it'll help you better appreciate your reading.

I'll admit, I was disappointed that the book didn't give me a cookie cutter formula that I could create a book around. Instead, the author taught me how to analyze and understand plots and create my own. It's like a parable: A woman buys something on Amazon seeking one foolish impossible thing and ends up with something so much more valuable than she imagined. She went to Amazon not even knowing what she lacked; then she bought this book that helped her understand what she needed and then helped her achieve it on her own.

This is an absolute standout book. Probably one of the most significant books I'll read in my life. The NEXT time I get on the NYT bestsellers list (hehe, I'm not being facetious, I took one of the pictures in How to Take Over Teh Wurld: A LOLcat Guide 2 Winning 'wuz awsome.
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