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Elements of Fiction Writing - Plot

51 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 003-5313106446
ISBN-10: 0898799465
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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

"There are ways to create, fix, steer and discover plots--ways which, over a writing life, you'd eventually puzzle out for yourself," writes Ansen Dibell. "They aren't laws. They're an array of choices, things to try, once you've put a name to the particular problem you're facing now."

That's what this book is about: identifying those choices (whose viewpoint? stop and explain now, or wait? how can this lead to that?), then learning what narrative problems they are apt to create and how to choose an effective strategy for solving them. The result? Strong, solid stories and novels that move.

Inside you'll discover how to:
- test a story idea (using four simple questions) to see if it works

-convince your reader that not only is something happening, but that something's going to happen and it all matters intensely

- handle viewpoint shifts, flashbacks, and other radical jumps in your storyline weave plots with subplots

- get ready for and write your Big Scenes

- balance scene and summary narration to produce good pacing

- handle the extremes of melodrama by "faking out" your readers--making them watch your right hand while your left hand is doing something sneaky

- form subtle patterns with mirror characters and echoing incidents

- choose the best type of ending --linear or circular, happy or downbeat, or (with caution!) a trick ending

Whether your fiction is short or long, subtle or direct and hardhitting, you'll learn how to make the correct narrative choices that will lead to strong plots -- and fiction others will want to read.

About the Author

Ansen Dibell is the author of the five-novel science fiction series, The Rule of One. Currently she is involved with community writing groups and college level writing programs, in addition to working as a freelance writer and editor in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Product Details

  • Series: Elements of Fiction Writing
  • Paperback: 170 pages
  • Publisher: Writer's Digest Books (July 15, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0898799465
  • ISBN-13: 978-0898799460
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #662,915 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 65 people found the following review helpful By The Travel Insider on January 26, 2001
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.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 2, 2000
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.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Kokoski on April 15, 2005
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."
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45 of 54 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 27, 2003
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.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Pump Kine on June 2, 2010
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".
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