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The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master Paperback – October 15, 2011

4.5 out of 5 stars 162 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Martha Alderson's The Plot Whisperer is the most practical, accessible resource on story structure I've found. I recommend the book to all my students, and I follow its advice in my own work. Thanks for all you do - you've helped me through some tough times!" 
Eleanor Brown author of the New York Times bestseller The Weird Sisters

"I don't work from an outline initially, but once the story is written, I'll go back and make a rough outline of what I have, just to make sure the order of the scenes makes sense. It's a technique I learned from the plot whisper Martha Alderson."
Jen Doktorski author How My Summer Went Up in Flames and The Summer After You and Me

"Plot problems? Turn to Martha Alderson! She's wonderful." Katherine Applegate Newbery Award winner and author of The One and Only Ivan 


"Folks, if you have the chance to learn from Martha Alderson, Plot Whisperer through her books or at a conference do not pass it up! Brilliant!" Danielle M. Smith Literary Agent at Red Fox Literary

"My primary go-to for plotting!!" Janet Fox author of Sirens, Faithful and Forgiven
*
"Best Book for Writers. Alderson provides insight on how to create works of fiction with powerful stories and focuses on how to devise a Universal Plot, plot lines and subplots, compelling scenes, and character transformation." Poets & Writers

About the Author

Martha Alderson is a historical novelist and the best-selling author of The Plot Whisperer. Her most recent books for writers are Writing Blockbuster Plots and Writing Deep Scenes. She also has written The Plot Whisperer WorkbookThe Plot Whisperer Book of Writing Prompts and the forthcoming Parallel Lives: A Novel.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Adams Media (October 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1440525889
  • ISBN-13: 978-1440525889
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (162 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #258,955 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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.
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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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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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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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