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Plotto: The Master Book of All Plots Hardcover – December 13, 2011

ISBN-13: 978-1935639183 ISBN-10: 1935639188

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 350 pages
  • Publisher: Tin House Books (December 13, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1935639188
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935639183
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.7 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #134,601 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

I consider it a must-own book for prolific novelists.
Aisling D'Art
It is like a lego set of ideas: pieces (characters, settings and plots) that can be assembled any way you like - mix and match, build a story.
Christy
I'm not saying it's completely worthless, but it is hard work, and more than I want to put it in.
Baron Von Cool

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Margie Read VINE VOICE on January 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There has probably never been a better book on plots than Plotto written back before the crust of the earth hardened, but never done any better. A writer can find endless combinations of plot development, but this is far from easy. The manner of presentation requires full concentration and an aptitude for math is helpful. You will simply not pick up this book and come up with the plot for the next great American novel. However, if one is willing to study the method and understand the flow of development, it is a most valuable tool.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Lila Louise on January 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover
There are plenty of books on how to write... the craft of writing... what publishers look for... all that general nonsense that if you really are a writer you generally shouldn't need/waste your money on. This book however is a holy grail. We can generally agree that almost no plot is really unique. Plotto acknowledges that and does so in a way that is useful and practical. Cook wasn't doing this for our benefit but rather for his own... Plotto was his story writing machine... no wonder he was the king of pulp.

I have been endlessly looking for a book that can fill that gap between writing prompt and writing tool... and Plotto is brilliant and effortless. This should be required in any college media or writing class. There is something to be gained no matter what genre you are attacking...it can put bones in the story you are already building... or give you the skeleton to hang your thoughts on. The point of Plotto isn't that it's so much telling you "how to write" but rather assuming you can and working with you to achieve a mutual goal of completion.

Professors, writers, aspiring writers, and film fans... this book is old, but it's so relevant to all we do-- it should be a vital part of our libraries.

Why the one less star? The book's mechanics of navigation are a little convoluted... they aren't impossible to master... but that's just it, you have to master it to use the book fully. It's a fully coded system-- which has it's bonuses and setbacks.

Do yourself a favor and get this book... this book needs to be shared and gifted and spread!
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Robert Plamondon on September 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Plotto is a plot-generation aid published in 1928 by the amazingly prolific William Wallace Cook (who also wrote "The Fiction Factory" under the alias of John Milton Edwards).

Plotto is an unusual book that takes some practice to use well. Like everyone else, I dove into it with high hopes and a blank mind and hoped it would write my story for me. That's not how it works. As everyone who has ever dealt with plot knows, a bare statement of plot always sounds boring, and someone else's plot idea always has something wrong with it. Plotto is there to help spark ideas, but you still have to provide the heavy lifting yourself.

More than anything, Plotto reminds me of Roget's Thesaurus in its standard form, which takes a while to learn how to use. Most people never bother, and rely instead on the relatively useless "dictionary form" version. You have to take the time to learn the tool. This is aided if you can lay your hands on Cook's 32-page Plotto instruction booklet, which is more detailed than the instructions in the book itself.

That said, it's a pretty spiffy tool! The book consists largely of numbered paragraphs giving "conflict situations" that describe a predicament and what the viewpoint character does about it, and what the result is. Each of these situations has references to other situations that might work out to elaborate or complete the plot. One group of references points forward in time, the other backwards (giving you backstory).

There are two major entry points into the conflict situations. One is indexed by a general description of the nature of the viewpoint character, the conflict, and the type of resolution, and the other is by the relationship between the major characters.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Baron Von Cool on April 30, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Conceptually, this book is brilliant, but the execution is painful. It's difficult to figure out how the system even works, and the archaic, overly formal and complicated 1928 version of English it's written in makes my brain hurt. There are two different instruction manuals (one front, one back), but they aren't as helpful as one might think. I've tried to figure this system out on two separate occasions and come away bored and annoyed.

I can see the basics: A (male protagonist) + B (female protagonist) + C (Conflict) = plot. The A's and B's are then given numbers (A-5 = male criminal, for example). But once all the other numbers and symbols come in, it becomes a pain to try and piece it all together, flipping back and forth between sections.

Here's an example of what just part of a Plotto formula looks like:

(15) Finding A Sustaining Power In Misfortune

364

(a) (245 ch A to B & A-3 to B-3) (305)

B, a white woman, contemplates suicide when a mystery of her birth and parentage apparently yield an evil secret * A, B's loyal lover, working in secret, secures proof of B's unsullied lineage (1051) (1052-*); and they marry ** (431) (437)

Argh! Does this sound like an easy or fun way to plot your next story? If you are extremely patient, you might be able to figure this gobbledygook out. For me, and I imagine most of the people who buy it, Plotto becomes an exercise in frustration more interesting as a curio of the past than a helpful or relevant reference work. I'm not saying it's completely worthless, but it is hard work, and more than I want to put it in.
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