Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish by James Scott Bell
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The best book on how to write I've ever read! Novelist and screenplay writer James Scott Bell has won awards for inspirational fiction. I say he deserves awards for inspirational non-fiction! So many of his books are how-to-write guides and even if only a small portion of them are as helpful as this one, he's a bloody writing guru!
Plot & Structure is part of the Writers' Digest series, Write Great Fiction. Most writers are quite aware of Writers' Digest. Before the internet, WD published the would-be author's bible, Writer's Market, an annual tome of articles with tips and contact information on publishers and agents. I gleaned some helpful lessons from the occasional Writer's Market I'd buy or borrow over the years, about as much as I'd get from reading books about writing from established writers like Stephen King or Ray Bradbury. "Just write" was and still is the most boiled down, golden rule essence of what 99.9% of them will tell you.
Bell's book goes well beyond that. Not only does it give advice like the above, it gives practical assistance, step-by-step instruction on how to put a readable, or even captivating novel together.
Granted, this is best for genre writers, those who pen thrillers, mysteries, fantasy, sci-fi, romance, and what all else where a model has clearly been established over the last century's worth of published work. But that doesn't mean literary writers won't benefit from this. Bell does his best to explain how the different aspects that make up a fine novel are nearly interchangeable. That intriguing character who meanders about in your favorite lit fic would be just as at home and welcome in chick lit. Just as the rigid three act in the countless mysteries that have downed many a tree over the years is often and surprisingly floating about behind the scenes of that supposedly inventive work of genius.
What is plot? How does it work? How do you come up with plot ideas? What is plot up to during the different stages of a book? How does the character arc unfold over a plot? These questions and more are not only answered, but many an example is given...and not only that, but helpful systems for coming up with your own answers are laid out. Recognizable patterns are discussed. Writing and revising techniques are detailed. Tips and tools are readily dispensed like candy to children on a successful Halloween outing.
This is my second time through Plot and Structure and it won't be my last. This is the sort of book that writers should read intermittently until all aspects are down pat. Read this and use the wealth of helpful advice, tips and techniques and you should be able to pump out as good or better a book than much of what's being put out these days.
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