25 March 2013

My Take on the "The Plot Whisperer"

In my continuing self-education for my writing craft, I read The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master by Martha Aldersen.

Before I start my review, I have a confession of sorts. Many of the writing books I read lately sound the same to me: Show, Don't Tell; Details Matter; Dig Deep; Develop unique Characters; Conflict in Every Scene, etc. I get that these are important story elements, and that the authors of these books can't assume the reader has read other writing books. However, reading the same advice for what seems like over and over again, doesn't reinforce the concepts for me, but makes me want to put the book down. I haven't done that yet, keeping an open mind that I just might find a new way of improving my writing craft. Not that I haven't been tempted. Confession over.

So, given that, I'll focus on the aspects that stood out as unique.

Much of Alderson's approach in the book concerns her almost meta take on writing. She asserts that as one writes, one also undergoes a story arc, almost parallel to the main character of the story. Throughout the writing process, she suggests taking moments to realize one's own place in the story arc. She also includes journaling ideas to help get at the root of any resistance one may have during the writing process.  (Something I'll explore to see if I can get over my revision dislike.)

Source: http://www.blockbusterplots.com/resc/PP.html
She introduces the Plot Planner, a visual representation of the story's plot, traced out on a large pieces of banner paper. For a more complete description of her method, see her blog post about it here. Uses sticky notes representing certain aspects of the story, like characters and theme, one graphs out the story plot while keeping track of external and internal conflicts.

I can see how this might be a useful tool, keeping track of the who, what, and when of a story. Her structure, with the beginning, middle, and end, dovetails nicely with Larry Brooks' Story Engineering structure.

Source: http://www.blockbusterplots.com/resc/ST.html
She also uses a scene tracker, a spreadsheet of sorts that tracks each scene. Holly Lisle and Larry Brooks both use scene tools, this one is unique in that it lists emotional change, thematic details, and goals. I'll be adding these extra elements to my scene essentials such as POV character, protagonist, antagonist, conflict, setting, and twist to my meta-data in Scrivener. Perhaps, by adding these few extra details in the outlining process, I might have less to do in the revision process. And an easy add to my meta-data in Scrivener. Always a blessing.

I'd recommend this book to any level writer. Less experienced writers will get good advice on the basics. More experienced writers will get a deeper understanding of the how and why of their writing, getting breakthroughs that could get them to the next level.

Aldersen maintains a blog in which she discusses various aspects of the Plot Planner and other tools she's developed. I've just added her blog feed to my RSS reader.

Until next time ...

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