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The Plot Genie Index Paperback – November 21, 2014
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About the Author
Wycliffe A. Hill sold two silent film screenplays when the great director Cecil B. DeMille rejected one of his submissions. "...Although an interesting narrative," DeMille wrote, "it contains no dramatic plot." Apparently, Hill was inspired to created THE PLOT GENIE, a book containing lists of plot elements, characters, and settings. A cardboard spinner wheel -- "The Plot Robot" accompanied each copy. Plot Genie and its subsequent supplements flourished during the Depression, when newsstands were filled with pulp magazines, and every magazine sported at least one short story. Hill spent most of his professional career as a story consultant and gave lectures and workshops on plot construction.
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Top customer reviews
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The quality of the Print Replica book is pretty good, given that it appears to be a scan of an original book. It appears that they cleaned up the images some, which resulted in some of the text can be a bit thin in places (but it's still readable). I'm using a Fire HD 10 to access this book and the larger screen make using one of these Print Replica ebooks a lot easier to navigate and read the pages as a whole.
I've also purchased a few of the supplemental editions - short story and action-adventure which I think I should find useful. Keep in mind that these are fairly old books, so some of the plot elements might be a bit dated - but a resourceful writer should be able to tweak the results into something more modern. Make sure to read the front of each of the books, there is some pretty good advice on writing to be found.
I've only used the "wheel" (actually a random number generator app on my phone) as a test and although at first glance the pieces made no sense after a little tweaking it all came together. A story! Hot-diggity!
Be sure not to skip ahead to the lists. The author has some great advice not just on using the lists but also on writing in general. And don't let the fact that it was written in the 30's turn you off to this great little tool. Everything in it can be updated/tweaked to suit whatever times/genre you may be working with.
The cool thing about this tool, the Plot Genie, is that once you've gotten used to its ways, it gives you the capability of generating brand-new, interesting, eminently writable story ideas for the asking. Like, if it's Halloween and you want to do NaNoWriMo but have no idea what to write about, you can be roaring through the second chapter of a completely original story, on track for 52,000 words, by November 3. There's something cool about knowing that you can just launch yourself on a new novel project anytime, anyplace, and wrap it up in a month or two and move on to something else.
I got really excited when I found out that a reprint had been issued. My old copy is very worn, and has rocketed up in value so much over the past 10 years that I'm afraid to even get it off the shelf any more. This is great news. The only challenge is generating the numbers needed to work the system; I use a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to do that. If you plug the following formula into an Excel spreadsheet ... =(RAND()*179)+1 ... it will generate a random number from 1 to 180, which is all you need.
Highly recommend this book. Have fun with it. And THANK YOU, publisher, for reissuing it!
Oh, one more thing. This is an 85-year-old document, and it reflects the social order and morals of another age. As such, it is quite sexist (all the female characters are somebody's 'daughter or sister') and a little bit racist in places (not badly so -- nothing on the "N-word" level -- but "Half-breed" is there, and so is "Octaroon"). It's a product of another age.
EDIT: Since leaving this review, I've developed a better way to generate characters than the Excel trick I mentioned above. You get a set of Dungeons and Dragons dice -- you want a 20-sided (d20) and a 10-sided (d10) one specifically. Use them to generate a number between 1 and 200, discarding all rolls over 180. It's faster and more fun. (You read 18 on the d20 as zero and discard all rolls of 19 or 20.)