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The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life Reprint Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 61 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0312309282
ISBN-10: 0312309287
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  • The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life
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  • The First Five Pages: A Writer's Guide To Staying Out of the Rejection Pile
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  • Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print
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Editorial Reviews

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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • 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 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #556,069 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
How does a writer turn an idea into a plot? How many brilliant flashes of inspiration lead to books, movies, or plays? Not many because ideas wither away without great characters and events that drive the story forward. Although this book is plot development, Noah Lukeman addresses the threads that are woven throughout the story in order to create the fabric from which beautiful, lasting images are created.
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)
An example:
* 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.
Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
This should be on every writer's bookshelf. Noah Lukeman writes as though he's an ancient finger-wagging English teacher, so I was surprised to see the bookflap photo and find he's quite young.
Overlook the slightly disapproving tone, because the book is a gem. Few books are able to distil so much knowledge into such a short space.
Detailed character-building exercises take up a large chunk of the book, because Lukeman firmly believes that character is the plot. He doesn't just work through appearance and background, though he does this in detail. He also covers which characters to put together, major and minor characters, how often they should appear, who they should interact with and when, what they react to, etc.
Next he explains the different types of journey your characters can be on and how that affects the story, how to build suspense and develop conflict.
Each chapter has suggested exercises to practice what you've learned.
This deserves to be a classic.
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Format: Hardcover
New writers do need advice about writing, the market, and structure. This is a shortcut to years spent cruising the learning curve. Noah's book is a nice addition to the books that serve the novice writer. G. Miki Hayden, author of Writing the Mystery, an Agatha and Macavity nominee.
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Format: Paperback
I can't help but feel that I was deceived by some of the other reviews of this book. Helpful they said. Great guide they said. I am not a well-published writer, but I found little in this book helpful.
The first half is composed of mostly questions to ask yourself, mostly about your characters. How does the character treat other characters? Who does he choose to spend time with? Does he have a disfiguring disease? Perhaps these questions could be useful in inventing a character to base a story off of or in developing characters as a beginning writer, but not to an experienced and reasonably-competent writer trying to flesh out an already existing idea.
Anyone who reads regularly will know most of this information already. It can help inspire new ideas though. The exercises aren't terrible, though they really just recap the rest of the writing.
He seems to push conflict and tension over the top. He actually recommends cliches. For instance, if a character has to cross a river in order to continue journeying with his colleagues, Lukeman recommends that the story migt benefit if the river has a rushing current AND is full of man-eating crocodiles AND the character is being chased by an army AND 90% of the people who try to cross die. A story full of super-high tension and rediculous obstacles and conflicts is not my idea of good writing. It's more like the formula for a Hollywood blockbuster for testosterone junkies too pumped-up to recognize the difference between plot and situational window dressing. Jeopardy isn't jeopardy unless we believe he might not succeed.
Even the title is misleading. This book is about how to start writing a story, not how tho thicken the plot. I liked "The First Five Pages" and did find that helpful for revising stories, especially the early parts. Lukeman just dropped the ball on this one.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I found this book useful for the fiction writer working on an extensive, detailed manuscript. The book is a lengthy set of prompts. It assumes the writer already understands something about structure and the writing process. The book assumes character is king and that plot emerges from character. If your technique is different from this, you may find the book irritating. If you need help fleshing out characterization to either augment or fundamentally build your story, this book is for you.
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