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20 Master Plots by Ronald Tobias
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20 Master Plots

by Ronald Tobias

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'20 Master Plots: And How to Build Them' is a well thought out idea that falls a little short in it's delivery, but in the end saves itself through originality.

The first chapter, titled 'Invisible Fiction', sets the mood for what's to come. The author expresses his opinions on plots and the many forms, how they all originate from a top three to be broken down into a 'top 20' for easier following. Chapter two, ' The Lowest Common Plot Denominators', discusses building tension through opposition, the three sections of a story (beginning, middle, and end), and other crucial things a plot requires to stay alive. Chapter 3, 'The Strong Force', is short in length, basically informing the reader what a 'character driven plot is' versus a 'plot driven' one.

Chapter four, 'Deep Structure', focuses on themes and moral arguments, while chapter five, 'Triangles', is an interesting, unique way to see characters and how they interact with each other.

After this, we finally begin the '20 plots', each divided by chapter. Each goes through all three 'acts' of the plot (again: beginning, middle, end), ending with a checklist to recap all that has been learned.

The wrap up chapter, 'Parting Shots', reminds you that the book is not a guide etched in stone and that rules are made to be broken. It's also stated that many times a plot is a mixture of two or more basic '20 Master Plots'.

At 232 pages, this book covers quite a bit. I was enthused as the sections, and recognized many of the 'patterns', but was left wanting in other areas. The information was useful, but if you read it straight through, many of the plot types repeat the same thing and it becomes redundant and dull. Also, some held examples of other novels and stories to illustrate what the author meant. I loved this; it enabled me to get a firmer grasp on things. Unfortunitely many of the plots don't have as many examples, or none at all, and I missed it when they did.

Wrapping up, this is a great resource guide for writers. If you have trouble with plotting, pick this up for a reasonable price. Heck, even if you don't, still pick it up for there are things out there you may not know about yet. On the downside it wasn't the most interesting thing to read, was a bit redundant, other times not being consistent enough. ( )
  ErinPaperbackstash | Jun 14, 2016 |
Excellent resource on outlining plot. Why reinvent the wheel? ( )
  sydsavvy | Apr 8, 2016 |
Hugely disappointing. One of the worst books on writing that I have read (or not read really, as I was unable to trudge through the whole thing). The numerous grammatical errors in this book are distracting enough to undermine the credibility of the book as a book about writing. The so-called master plots are not really plots at all, but broad story types. The "how to build them" part is just not really there. For a more solid plot-centric book about writing, I recommend Christopher Vogler's Writer's Journey, which is based on the work of Joseph Campbell. ( )
1 vote scott.bradley | Jul 24, 2014 |
Published in 1993. The politics and world-view is dated, and the overt homophobia and ingrained Judeo-Christian moral sensibility are a little surprising. Likewise, the race and class issues are rampant, but the determined use of female and male pronouns in his examples is both welcome and sort of adorable in that "awww, early 90s! Look at you being inclusive!" way.

The plot examples from literature and film are very good. The world has changed a fair bit in 19 years, however, so the way he describes relationship dynamics reads as overly simplistic to me.

I do wish he'd addressed multiple plot. Yes, there needs to be a main plot, but subplots are essential for a story to have depth and wrangling them successfully can be difficult. I suppose that was beyond the scope of this book, sadly. ( )
  sageness | Feb 7, 2014 |
The most common plots in fiction, with plenty of examples. ( )
  rmagahiz | Dec 21, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0898795958, Hardcover)

Presents 20 fundamental plots that recur through all fiction -- with analysis and examples -- outlining benefits and warnings, for writers to adapt and elaborate in their own fiction.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:59 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

"The best stories linger in the hearts and minds of readers for decades. These tales gain their power through plots that connect with the audience on both an emotional and intellectual level. Inside Ronald B. Tobias details these 20 time-tested plots. Each is discussed and analyzed, illustrating how a successful plot integrates all the elements of a story. Tobias then shows you how to use these plots effectively in your own work."--P. [4] of cover.… (more)

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