More Books Writers Should Read—1. 20 Master Plots: And How to Build Them by Ronald B. Tobias

In August 2016, I presented a series of blog posts called Books Writers Should Read, where I recommended six great writing guides. Today, I am going to extend that series by suggesting More Books Writers Should Read. Keep an eye out this week and next to learn about four more great books that can help improve your writing.

Do you have a great story idea that needs a plot? Do you want to learn more about the patterns found in successful stories? If so, then check out 20 Master Plots. Ronald B. Tobias covers what plots need in order to outline a story that is satisfying to yourself and your readers. He also reviews 20 of the most common plots, using classic literature and films to show the different elements of these plots and the directions they can take.

20 Master Plots-More Books Writers Should Read

  • “If you strike out without any idea of destination, you’ll wander aimlessly. But if you understand something about the kind of plot you’re trying to write, you’ll have supplied yourself with a compass that will know when you’re wandering and warn you to get back on track.”
  • “Plots have endless possibilities, so there must be endless plots.”
  • “Plot is story that has a pattern of action and reaction.”
  • “Three thousand years of generating plots has given us some common denominators that hold up as a general rule. And like all general rules, they frequently are broken. Pablo Picasso was on target, however, when he said we must first learn the rules to know how to break them.”
  • “Whereas life allows in anything, fiction is selective. Everything in your writing should be relative to your intent.”
  • “What all writers have in common is a method. Once they get the method down, some of them then write a book about it. Those books should be title “This Is What Works for Me,” because readers who respect certain writers too often take their methods as gospel. These methods may be tried and true for those writers, but there’s the mistaken assumption floating around that if it works for one person, it must work for everyone else, too.

“Not so.

“There’s a method for each of us. The writer must know how he works and thinks in order to discover which method works best.”

  • “The foundation of comedy is deception: mistaken identities, double meanings, confusion.”
  • “Put your main character between a rock and a hard place. That’s the true source of tension in fiction.”
  • “Your character will come to life by doing, not by sitting around and telling us what she feels about life or about the crisis of the moment. Do, don’t just say.”
  • “So what does this quest for originality mean? Find a new plot that no one has used before? Obviously not, because plots are based on common human experience. If you found a plot that had never been used before, you’re into an area that is outside of the realm of shared human behavior. Originality doesn’t apply to the plots themselves but to how we present those plots.”
  • “The skill in making obstacles is not just presenting hurdles for your character to run over, but hurdles that somehow alter your character. These are life experiences that teach your character something about his quest and something about himself.”
  • “Generally it’s good advice for any writer to start a scene late and get out early; that is, don’t drag your reading through every detail leading up to the action, and don’t ‘hang around’ after it.”
  • “Plot is the form your idea will take; give it shape and substance as you write. Whatever you do, however, don’t be a slave to the plot. You are not in the service of it; it is in your service. Make it work for you.”

Keep an eye out for my post tomorrow where I will share a book that is both a memoir and a writing guide.

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