- Paperback: 240 pages
- Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; Reprint edition (June 18, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0312309287
- ISBN-13: 978-0312309282
- Product Dimensions: 5 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 63 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #497,296 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life Reprint Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
Lukeman's second book on writing after 2000's The First Five Pages (a third volume on dialogue is still to come) discusses the craft of writing well-plotted fiction. Lukeman, a literary agent, rallies against the lazy and mundane that cross his desk in the form of 50,000 manuscripts submitted in the last five years. Initially, at least, he is less concerned with artfulness than the simple need to make the book compelling beyond the first few pages. He asserts that the foundation (and often the first casualty) of a book is character, and accordingly, Lukeman dedicates the first two chapters to an exhaustive list of questions a writer should ask about the "outer" and "inner" life of each character. He encourages a Dr. Frankenstein-like approach to creating realistic fictional characters: devising them with the intention of bending them to the writer's own will, but at the same time investing them with enough life that they are capable of making their own way in the world and ultimately surprising their creator. A third chapter called "Applied Characterization" discusses how to use this knowledge to form a plot. The remaining five chapters cover different aspects of plotting: "The Journey," "Suspense," "Conflict," "Context" and "Transcendency." Lukeman's advice is practical and often entails multiple, time-consuming steps without a hint of the flakiness that creeps into many writing guides. The closest he ever gets to sounding like a guru is when he sagely stresses, "Real life is the best teacher." Though Lukeman works with books, he wisely asserts that the observations in this volume are applicable to all types of imaginary writing, from film to poetry. Indeed, it is a worthy addition to any narrative writer's reference shelf.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --Este texto se refiere a una edición agotada o no disponible de este título.
In this follow-up to the author's successful First Five Pages (2000), literary agent Lukeman focuses on the mechanics of storytelling. He introduces budding writers to the techniques of characterization (ask yourself questions about the people you've created), the various ways of generating suspense (danger, a ticking clock), and the importance of conflict. He writes from experience: he's read, he tells us, more than 50,000 manuscripts in the past half decade. Curiously, he mostly uses movies to illustrate his points, on the assumption that more of his readers will recognize his references that way. (This premise--that would-be writers won't be familiar with literary references--may strike some as slightly insulting, unintentional though it may be.) All in all, though, this is a crisply written, nicely detailed examination of the art of storytelling. Beginning writers will find plenty of practical tips and useful advice in its pages. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --Este texto se refiere a una edición agotada o no disponible de este título.
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Nonetheless, several have been fortunate to publish books, freelance articles, and novels.
Lukeman's advice is sound, useful, and clear; it provides points for workshop discussion and peer-editing.
Moreover, I have no problem with Lukeman's references to movies because many of my writing students are more familiar with that genre than with classic literature, just as I am not familiar with many of their favorite novels. I introduce them to canonical literature, and they introduce me to the more contemporary. We both learn and share.
Although we do not always share common reading interests, we are nevertheless able to meet on common ground when we discuss movies.
For example, I have found it easier and quicker to discuss the lack of character development in Ghost Rider and the character arc in A Beautiful Mind, as opposed to comparing a Mickey "I write stuff that people read" Spillane novel with Moby Dick.
Or to compare the flatter characters in Crossroads (1986) with the richer characters in O Brother, Where Art Thou?--especially because many of my students have neither heard Bobby Bare's "Marie Laveau" nor read The Odyssey.
Good writing of any sort provides such frames of reference to link the reader with the writer. The Plot Thickens is not for accomplished writers; it is for those who are developing their new-found talents.
He uses many examples from film because this is the media where life is visualized for the audience, and his "chief concern is illustrating (sometimes abstract) points." (Lukeman)
* A young man is unhappy and feels trapped in his rural life.
* He hungers for adventure.
* He is inducted into thrilling adventures by chance.
* He is part of a mystical adventure, for which he is unprepared.
* Circumstances force him to face his inadequacies.
* He gains friends and companions along the way.
* Ultimately he finds the confidence he needs to succeed.
* He saves the realm.
The ideas belongs to many stories from Lord of the Rings to Harry Potter to Star Wars, and more. The magic of each story is wrapped into the characters and the lives they live; they are real.
Each chapter and the introduction are deeper than I can show in a review. The book should be on every writer's desk.
Both chapters one (Characterization: The Outer Life) and two (Characterization: The Inner Life) are 90 percent questions. I decided that a great addition to the book would be a CD listing of all of the questions. However, as I read and contemplated the details a writer must know about the people who live in their stories, I realized that a CD would make it too easy. By taking time to write the questions and answer them, they become part of a writer's arsenal. Even more significant is the gathered information can generate ideas to carry the story forward and create new plots.
Chapter Three -- Applied Characterization discusses whether the character is major or minor, the frequency s/he appears, entrances and exits, and more. "Plot does not magically appear with the creation of a character; Frankenstein's monster might open his eyes, but until he gets up from the table and does something, there is little basis for a plot." (NL) Think of Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde -- if the elixir he drank had killed him there would be no story, yet if it was murder mystery a or ghost story the death is instrumental to the plot.
Chapter Four -- The Journey takes us on an emotional or mental experience (not necessarily a trip) that brings about change. Simple and familiar examples are Star Wars, Saving Private Ryan, The Bourne Identity, Speed, Cujo, Carrie, etc.
Chapter Five -- Suspense, "more than any other element, affects the immediate, short-term experience of the work." (NL) What is the destination, why is it significant, and what obstacles stand in the way? In The Lord of the Rings, if the dark riders killed the young hero Frodo, then there would be no story. The suspense is heightened because we know the ring has been awakened, it is calling to its dark master, and Frodo (and anyone near him) is in grave danger. This is how J.R.R. Tolkien created the roller coaster. A great writer constantly raises the stakes and provides some relief between encounters.
Chapter Six -- Conflict causes changes; they can be obvious (court, sports, or battle scenes, etc.) or subtle, such as Sandra Bullock's role in Miss Congeniality: Gracie Hart must become Gracie Lou Freebush, a beauty queen. No matter what the conflict is, it must exist on multiple levels because people, therefore characters, are complex. One single conflict is not enough to propel a plot.
Chapter Seven -- Context "influences suspense, conflict, pacing, progression, and ultimately meaning." (NL) A writer or editor must keep the entire work in mind, and gauge the overall impression of each element in the creation of the story -- does it work? Judging repetition of information is one of the important steps. The keys in a murder mystery may be listed for analysis, but repeating the scenes can be disastrous and boring, yet might be necessary to solve the case. The obscure repetition of inferred information can also be deadly.
Chapter Eight -- Transcendency taps "...into the universal, timeless truths and facets of the human condition." (NL) The examples are clear and powerful.
The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life is profound, and as I read, I applied much of the information to my own life -- in the end, I am richer than I was before I opened the first page. The highest compliment I can give to a book is that it made a difference to me.
Noah Lukeman's books should be required reading. Without doubt, this is five-star book for everyone.