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103 of 110 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simplifying the Process of Plotting a Novel or Screenplay
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Reviewed by C. J. Singh (Berkeley, CA)
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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...
Published on September 21, 2011 by C. J. Singh

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85 of 92 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Solid teaching but too much 'whispering'
An author who calls herself the Plot Whisperer and writes a book on the secrets of structuring story plot, should have no trouble sticking to the plot, right? Er... actually, no. The book, whilst containing useful tips on structuring creative writing, is overwritten, takes way too long to get started, and is bloated with strange pseudo-mystical statements like "Explore...
Published on January 23, 2012 by AdamK


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103 of 110 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simplifying the Process of Plotting a Novel or Screenplay, September 21, 2011
By 
C. J. Singh (Berkeley, California, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master (Paperback)
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Reviewed by C. J. Singh (Berkeley, CA)
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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.
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85 of 92 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Solid teaching but too much 'whispering', January 23, 2012
This review is from: The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master (Paperback)
An author who calls herself the Plot Whisperer and writes a book on the secrets of structuring story plot, should have no trouble sticking to the plot, right? Er... actually, no. The book, whilst containing useful tips on structuring creative writing, is overwritten, takes way too long to get started, and is bloated with strange pseudo-mystical statements like "Explore your essence," and "Transform a piece of the invisible world into a visible form". In fact, by the time the 'Plot Whisperer' tells us that as well as whispering plot to struggling writers, she also heals dogs by channelling "energy" from the "other side of the veil", she appears rather to have lost the plot altogether. Don't get me wrong, it is not my place to judge the author's spiritual beliefs or healing powers, I just question the relevance of these things in imparting what is otherwise a solid introduction to story structure for writers. It seems her writing/workshops and business all hang on this concept of her as a Plot Whisperer, and I fear she has bought a little too far into the gimmick. A solid teacher of story structure, she may be, but a mystical plot whisperer? That might only be in the "invisible world".
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No writer should be without this book, October 20, 2011
This review is from: The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master (Paperback)
I began working with Martha Alderson a year or so ago after reading her first book. After making the changes she suggested I began to get full requests from top agents and editors for my fiction.
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!
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157 of 182 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Cluttered with new age junk, January 12, 2012
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This book contains far too much new age nonsense which clutters the subject matter. When the author starts off talking about how she learned to "channel and use energy to heal others", my mistake in purchasing the book became immediately apparent. If only I'd checked the online preview first; that's what I get for trusting other reviewers.

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.
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67 of 80 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars New Age Nonsense., March 26, 2012
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This review is from: The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master (Paperback)
I have no doubt that other readers may have enjoyed this book for the very reason that I couldn't stand it. I have purchased many books on the writing process, editing process, outlining process, etc., and I am happy to say that most of the books I've purchased have been helpful. They actually stuck to the topic of writing, without the need to fill each page with kumbaya nonsense.

The Plot Whisperer has very little information on writing. It is a feel good book, crammed with cheesy mantras meant to uplift you. This book should be listed under the "new Age" category, as it is new age, if nothing else. You'll read the phrase "universal Story" over and over again. We are all linked through our "universal Stories." Yes, that's right people, new age filler.

Maybe I'm wrong, and I certainly am not speaking for every writer, but it's my experience that many writers are cynical, analytical, and introversive. Again, I'm not claiming that all writers fit this description, but I believe there are enough that do to warrant my observation; myself included. Having said that, I'm not sure who Martha Alderson was marketing to when she wrote this. The cover states, "Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master." What irks me is that there are small sections in this book in which Martha Alderson discusses plot structure, but they are small sections, making up very little of this book. Again, most of this book is new age filler. If you doubt me, buy the book, start reading it, and within the first few pages you'll see where Martha Alderson talks about channeling energy for purposes of healing others. Now, if this is your kind of thing, awesome, that's super, and feel free to read as many new age books as you want, but I personally get annoyed when I read a book that's meant to reveal helpful bits of knowledge regarding the writing process but all I walk away remembering is the term "universal Story."

I gained nothing from this book. Truly...nothing. My memory may not be serving me correctly, as I'm sure there had to be one small nugget of value in this book, but if so, it was so ridden with garbage that my cerebral function shut down, unable to see any value hidden beneath such excruciating rhetoric. It was painful, it was boring, it was WAY off topic, and it was a waste of money.
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37 of 44 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Useful for structure, but bloated with spiritual nonsense, January 4, 2012
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This review is from: The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master (Paperback)
The Scene Tracker Template, Thematic Significance Bubble Template, and Plot Planner Diagram are all fantastic, and probably are alone worth the price of the book for anyone untrained in fiction who is interested in writing a well-structured story. As an MFA-holding poet who is much more timid about attacking fiction, I found the templates and diagrams supremely helpful in terms of getting myself organized and preparing for the stamina and attention needed for a longer project. The four stars are for the templates and diagrams, as well as the author's concise explanations of how other successful stories have fit these parameters.

*However*, readers should beware that there is a great deal of "fluff" in the book referring to one's personal relationship with story, emotional motivation, and general new-agey spiritual nonsense that bloats the book unnecessarily. Perhaps the author or editor thought that a slimmer tome wouldn't sell as well, but I would have preferred the condensed, related-to-writing-only version. I'm surprised it has gotten five stars in all 30 reviews to date and that no one has mentioned this. I was tempted to drop my review to three stars because I found that so distracting, and nearly gave up reading the book early on because of it. I'm glad I stuck around for the full treatment, but you buyers should be forewarned.
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33 of 39 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars But where are Alderson's own novels??, September 9, 2012
By 
C. C. Martin (Litchfield, CT - USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master (Paperback)
After considerable searching, I was able to come up with only two titles of allegedly "prize-winning" historical fiction books written by Alderson: Parallel Lives and Spirits of War, but try to buy one or find a review! They certainly are not available on Amazon, and Google offers only a passing reference to their very existence. Apparently Alderson is one of that swarm of charlatans who has discovered it's more profitable to write about writing than actually to write!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just what the doctor (and the publisher!) ordered...an amazing journey., January 3, 2012
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Martha Alderson came onto my radar screen sometime during NaNoWriMo 2010 and the social media activities I was involved in during the process of completing the first 50,000 words of a work of historical fiction. I didn't do anything beyond "follow" her, sign up for her updates, look at a couple of YouTube videos on plotting and, basically, agree that this probably a really good resource but I'd see how I got on.

A year later, I'd added another 50,000 words or so to my manuscript, accomplished a lot in spite of my own insecurities, sabotage and a move to live in another country...and found myself stuck. Again. Just not moving forward. Not writer's block. Not laziness. Not abandoning anything, still committed but, well s-t-u-c-k. My own worst enemy and all for reasons that I didn't really understand.

Along came Martha's invitation to join her in December 2011 on-line plotting workshop, PlotWriMo, a 31-day march through the holiday month. I took up the challenge and, in the process, bought the Kindle edition of Martha's book and began working through the daily exercises and the book--sortof in tandem.

As the month took a life of its own, I didn't quite keep up with the PlotWriMo side of things, having become so fascinated with the book and what I was learning. It was clear that there was much I could gain from the process but I seemed to be spreading myself across PlotWriMo activities, YouTube videos--and the book itself. So I put PlotWriMo aside, eventually, and did the 'back to basics' thing with The Plot Whisperer for the remainder of the month. I felt the focus would be useful and the book was what underpinned everything else.

And so began my own journey with Martha Alderson, the Plot Whisperer...with a great big piece of paper, some marking pens, coloured post-its, an Excel spreadsheet or two (and so on) on the eating bar island in the middle of the kitchen late one night. It was a sometimes scary, often exhilarating and ultimately gratifying experience. Working through the book and concentrating primarily on the areas I knew less about, or assumed I needed the most help with, I found an easily comprehensible set of instructions, pearls of wisdom from someone who clearly knows what she's about, and practical analysis tools. I'm a bit of a left brain + right brain person and Martha addresses both types, or the mixture thereof, very well.

I've been a professional writer on the loosely technical side for many years; this is my first full-blown foray into fiction. All of Martha's exercises and activities ultimately illustrated, to my joy, that I did, in fact, have a lot of the basics in place--and, most importantly, I learned from Martha, in the RIGHT place in the manuscript--and that the end was actually in sight. What's more, I could get there and was suddenly galvanised to do just that.

The surprise to me was in doing the exercise at the end of Part One, which involved writing about my own reactions and feelings about the process. Why write about me? I wondered. Martha draws a parallel between the process of transformation the Protagonast goes through and that of the author. I'd never seen it that way--but at the end of this Plot Whispering process I can only heartily agree that she is right. That new understanding has given be a far deeper sense of confidence about what I'm writing--and why I'm writing it.

Martha asked in the referenced exercise "[Are you] calmly confident and ready to move forward?" and I could only write "Absolutely!" to begin my response. Mirroring my heroine's transformation is, in fact, my own: Martha indicates that we will see the Protagonast's "changed behaviour" at the end (as compared to the beginning) as proof of her transformation. I now see very clearly that it will also be proof of my own. I'm not stuck any more. We're both going to get through this crisis, my heroine and I.

I strongly recommend The Plot Whisperer for anyone beginning a novel (I'll use it earlier in the process on the next one!) or wanting to make sure they're on the right road with the one they've got in process. It's a wealth of information, advice and wisdom. I suspect I have only scratched the surface. Well done, Martha!
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38 of 49 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This is crap, June 17, 2012
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This review is from: The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master (Paperback)
I've read a lot of books on writing over the years. Some good, some bad...and then there's "The Plot Whisperer". Wow. This is such crap I can't believe it got published. I was looking for practical advice on plotting, some help in getting past some rough spots, and instead I get a bunch of new age channeling of energy. From page 3..."This is a book about plotting that also functions as a spiritual and emotional guide to writing." What I was looking for was a practical guide to recognizing and correcting plot pitfalls, not a lot of nonsense about writing "lifting you to a higher truth.", or muses that appear as snippets of a dream and magically connect you to the "universal story." Please. If you're looking for practical advice in plotting out your story, about where to foreshadow or where to plant hooks, keep looking. This ain't it.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Throw Out All Your Other Books On Writing! This Book Has It All!, May 2, 2012
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I can throw out the other hundred books I have on writing. This book says it all clearly and concisely. It tells you what you need at the beginning, in the middle and at the end. Martha Alderson understands the Universal Story better than anyone I have read. She translates Jung and Campbell into everyday English so we can use it in our writing.
Too bad I lost contact with the 5 time published author who recommended this book to me. Five books under her belt and she thought this book was the best thing out there. She said it was helping her write her 6th book.
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The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master
The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master by Martha Alderson (Paperback - October 15, 2011)
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