Blockbuster Plots: Pure & Simple
by Martha Alderson, M.A.
Illusion Press, 2004
Reviewed by Beth Morrow
Copyright 2006 - All
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
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