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20 Master Plots: And How to Build Them Paperback – December 1, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-1599635378 ISBN-10: 1599635372 Edition: Third Edition

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20 Master Plots: And How to Build Them + 45 Master Characters, Revised Edition: Mythic Models for Creating Original Characters + A Writer's Guide to Characterization: Archetypes, Heroic Journeys, and Other Elements of Dynamic Character Development
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Writer's Digest Books; Third Edition edition (December 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1599635372
  • ISBN-13: 978-1599635378
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #82,643 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Recommended reading for all serious writers.
epmom
The author has a clear and thorough understanding of how plots are created, their importance in the readers/viewers expectations, etc.
Wposton723
It's a book which is easy to read and understand for the novice.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Roger Sween on October 3, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
After 60 years of reading novels and 55 years of trying to write one to my satisfaction, I decided to take a course in writing fiction. The syllabus recommended Tobias' 20 Master Plots, one among three suggested titles. I read it first and liked it so much because it met my temperament. Consequently, I read it eagerly, penciling notes in the margins as I hurried along.

Being selective for most of my reading life and favoring the classics or what is termed literary fiction, I suspect I am well into appreciating the craft required. However, what has troubled me about most guides to fiction writing is the continued emphasis on conflict in plot structure. Most conflicts bewilder me into wondering why I should care about the characters. Tobias makes clear that action plots drive most popular fiction today; the rest are character-driven plots. He uses as an alternative expression to conflict the prospects from tension in the story. This may be a subtly semantic difference, but it promises greater complexity and subtlety in story-telling than the out and out razzle-dazzle of action plots.

Tobias hits the mark when he says, quoting Picasso, that the creator must first know the rules before setting out to break them. Okay, let's start with action and character examples of the most common plot usages. This he does with pinpointed relevance and incisive clarity. Also practically useful are the lists of check questions along the way. In short, did you learn the lesson?

I've read enough novels over my lifetime to learn that in the few hundred years of novel development, authors have exercised a great deal of experiment not only in plot, but in style.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By M. Morris on February 13, 2012
Format: Paperback
This book is on my night stand; I'm 30 years old and it's the same copy I used when I was 13. I've come to this book time and again to get ideas on what plot structure to use and then how to implement it.

The book has a chapter for every plot you could think of. It explains the plot and then breaks down the order of events that normally occur in the plot. The author provides numerous examples of books and films to look into in order to better understand each type of plot.

This is a huge help when working out an outline, whether on paper or in your head.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A.K. on May 16, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a writing guide, this book was just ok. It was more of a survey than a how-to. Tobias assumes the reader already knows a lot about established literature. At times he names characters as examples without listing which work they are from, or references authors and expects the reader is familiar with their plot trends. Also, he was repetitive to the point of monotony. If you don't need examples or you don't want to read every point five times, everything instructional about each plot can be found in the checklist at the end of each chapter. It didn't make sense that he constantly repeated himself as if we are beginners while also assuming we know a lot about literary works.

This entire volume suffered from a lack of editing. I don't mean grammar or nit-picky stuff. I mean, it was disjointed. Sometimes he switched gears without titling a new header, there were often no transition sentences between paragraphs to make things read smoothly, and he included things that made the reader wonder where that came from or why it was in that place (particularly in the six chapters preceding those covering master plots).

Not that I mind it since he is a screen writer, but he frames each plot according to the three-act play, and roughly 60% of his examples are from screen. What I did mind is that he showed his screen bias so obviously (more than once). He prefers plot-driven commercial plots rather than character-driven literary plots. He said they don't require as much thinking and that he doesn't like to feel "lectured" by moral characters in literary stories. He also dares to speak for most of America with this particular opinion, citing market trends. I completely disagree with him.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Umar on May 10, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Although I may not agree that there are ONLY 20 Master Plots, you'd be surprised as to how many stories use one of, if not a combination of these plots.

The truth is, your story may be applicable to a few plots; that's the genius of it. It allows you to see some really cool ways if telling it. There's always more than one. You may even find a few plots in there that you would have never thought of using but, after reading its dedicated chapter, find yourself curious enough to explore......

Chase your intuition. As a said before, it's a good supplement, certainly worth it's price.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Green Giant on October 26, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm not sure whether it is cultural indoctrination or basic human wiring, but I do recognize that I as a movie viewer tune in to certain patterns in a story that make it fulfilling and believable. The most compelling movies are those that work within the frameworks I know, the story structure and character interactions that I expect on some level. Movies that leave me wondering "what the heck" are those that stray far from these structures.

"20 Master Plots" is a must-read guideline for not only the most compelling plot structures but also for other advice that will help refine the writer's craft. I have ordered several extra copies of this book to give to other aspiring writers. I believe that when you review your favorite movies in light of this book's content, you'll have an "ah ha!" moment.
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