- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Writer's Digest Books; 3 edition (January 12, 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1599635372
- ISBN-13: 978-1599635378
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 126 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #41,010 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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20 Master Plots: And How to Build Them 3rd Edition
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Top customer reviews
It's a book that breaks down the principles underlying the types of stories we tell,
why and how we tell them and what makes them work. Ronald Tobias breaks these
"master plots" into dramatic phases which allow a writer to maintain a structure
without being robbed of their own creativity. Your writing is never forced by
"template" into some cookie cutter model, but you're given principles to apply
depending on the kind of story you want to tell. A masterfully written and
extremely useful book.
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. What appeals to me as a reader spending his limited time on a novel is the author whose delivery shows a pertinent sentiment that no other writer reveals. Plot unravels the life of the protagonist or characters; and characters can propel the plot. Tobias shows why and how.
At the end of the week, I answered "A Final Checklist" of all twelve questions that shows my grasp of the story on which I am presently centered - two pages of responses. No other writing guide has given me the challenge and confidence to go forward as this one has.
Thank you, Mr. Tobias.