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Blockbuster Plots: Pure & Simple

by Martha Alderson, M.A.

Illusion Press, 2004

191 Pages

Reviewed by Beth Morrow

Copyright 2006 - All Rights Reserved


Don't have problems plotting? Think a book on characterization, theme, editing or synopsis might help your writing more? Do yourself a favor and don’t dismiss Blockbuster Plots: Pure & Simple on the merits of title alone.

True--the majority of the book focuses on plot, how to go about discovering the one hiding in your story and strengthening crucial details to help it become, well, the blockbuster plot you envision. But throughout the book, Alderson provides more than plotting activities--she also gives lots of insightful writing advice that help you think of ways to improve your story in different, dynamic ways.

While the book boasts twenty three chapters (each only a few pages) and six appendices, the crux of the information focuses on two separate but equally important elements of storytelling: scene and plot.

Alderson shares that her experience in trying to "….[pin] down the elusive concept of plot to the point where I could actually "see" it (9)" took her on a search for ways to encapsulate the notion of plot into something concrete. Part of Alderson's discovery, the scene tracker, is the focus of the first meaty section of the book. As a result of her research, Alderson has distilled the fiction scene into eight critical components: scene/summary, setting, character emotional development, goal, dramatic action, conflict, change and thematic detail. With the help of classic and contemporary fictional excerpts, Alderson takes us step-by-step through the process of learning to use the scene tracker--a visual chart incorporating all eight elements--on other works then invites us to transfer that knowledge to our own writing. The definitions and details are thorough and show the writer just how and where their works-in-progress might need more attention.

The second section of the book incorporates the scene tracker, another concrete representation of the elusively-abstract enigma known as plot. Alderson begins with a lengthy yet pointed definition of plot and from there two slightly different physical, visual representations of the direction of plot in a story. Being familiar with the "W" method of plotting, I wasn't expecting to learn too much new material, but Alderson pleasantly surprised me by giving me a few different ways to think of the actual physical setup of the line in order to help plot a little more effectively. Additionally, she provides some mathematical parameters for helping writers consider the length of their story and the corresponding number of scenes for the necessary sections of the story for maximum impact.

If plots aren't your cup of tea, or maybe if they are but you're willing to look at another interpretation of how to get more mileage from them for your story, Blockbuster Plots is an excellent place to start.


About the author: Beth Morrow has mastered the art of mentally plotting (fiction, of course) while maintaining a fašade of attention--even at the most boring meetings. When she isn't writing fiction, she's freelancing. Her latest offering for writers, on the differences in male/female speech patterns, will be in the October 2006 issue of the Romance Writers Report. Visit her on the web at: www.bethmorrow.com


         Last updated: February 19, 2007