Writing Book Spotlight: 20 Master Plots and How to Build Them
It’s been argued over and over again that there are only so many plots, that the reason literature and film often seem so familiar – sometimes too much so – is that there’s nothing new and nothing fresh. At its core, it’s all been done before. Only the window dressing changes.
Tobias’ book provides some of the theory behind that, first breaking down what plot is, then building up from there. He covers tension as a driving force behind plot, the three-act structure, plots of body and mind, character relationships within plots, and then the 20 Master Plots themselves.
If you’re looking for a blow-by-blow plot-building template, this will disappoint. The examples are more general, with pointers for the key elements needed to build a particular plot. It’s almost less a book for the beginner writer, and more advice for someone who has a first draft and knows there are problems, but isn’t sure how to tidy them up. I think it’s quite a common first draft problem to not really know exactly what the book is about when you start writing, but once you’ve got to the end and figured that out, 20 Master Plots will help provide a framework to stretch your story to fit.
Each plot is linked to some popular examples from film and literature to help you place the advice into context, and each section ends with a summarising checklist of the advice given for easy reference back.
So, if you want to know if your book is a Quest or an Adventure plot (and what the difference between the two is) this book is a thought-provoking, insightful read that won’t immediately solve all your plot problems, but will leave you with a richer understanding that will inform your edits and your next writing projects.
Ronald B. Tobias