Elements of Fiction Writing - Plot

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Writer's Digest Books, Jul 15, 1999 - Reference - 176 pages
5 Reviews

"There are ways to create, fix, steer and discover plots—ways which, over a writing life, you'd eventually puzzle out for yourself," writes Ansen Dibell. "They aren't laws. They're an array of choices, things to try, once you've put a name to the particular problem you're facing now."

That's what this book is about: identifying those choices (whose viewpoint? stop and explain now, or wait? how can this lead to that?), then learning what narrative problems they are apt to create and how to choose an effective strategy for solving them. The result? Strong, solid stories and novels that move.

Inside you'll discover how to: test a story idea (using four simple questions) to see if it worksconvince your reader that not only is something happening, but that something's going to happen and it all matters intensely handle viewpoint shifts, flashbacks, and other radical jumps in your storyline weave plots with subplots get ready for and write your Big Scenes balance scene and summary narration to produce good pacing handle the extremes of melodrama by "faking out" your readers—making them watch your right hand while your left hand is doing something sneaky form subtle patterns with mirror characters and echoing incidents choose the best type of ending—linear or circular, happy or downbeat, or (with caution!) a trick ending Whether your fiction is short or long, subtle or direct, you'll learn to build strong plots that drive compelling, unforgettable stories your readers will love.

 

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User Review  - LisaMaria_C - LibraryThing

An editor once told me that if you're going to take advice on writing, take it either from name-bestselling writers or gatekeepers such as acquiring editors or agents--not necessarily anyone who ... Read full review

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This book immediately gets the story going, piques the reader’s interest and introduces the protagonist which is the writer whose job is to communicate. Substance and simplicity trump style. Plot concerns cause and effect. There are many structures which can be considered for this and these are shown in brief sections, each with a summary subtitle. They include various types of beginning and endings, and big scenes in the middle. The subtleties of viewpoint are reviewed. The author uses plenty of exposition before showing how things are done. The book has many brief cases and informative behind-the-scenes-type anecdotes about popular fiction writers, e.g. Golding, Melville, Emily Bronte, Dickens, and Margaret Mitchell. There is some discussion of myth, such as Pygmalion, and scifi and fantasy, e.g. Lucas, Tolkien and Shelley. It outlines how to do parallel plot structures, as well as patterns and echoes. Revelation is seen by the reader as motion. Expectations are set and met, possibly along with surprises. This consists of pacing and transition. Visual metaphors are also used, e.g. flashes, frames, contrast, juxtaposition, mirroring, braid, collage and mosaic. The latter is composed of parts such as a mood piece, character sketch, slice of life, theme and variation, and allegory. Melodrama is used for intense emotional effect. There are four basic questions for a good story idea: Is it your story to tell? Is it too personal for readers to become involved with? Is it going somewhere? What’s at stake? 

Selected pages

Contents

WHAT IS PLOT?
5
GRAND OPENINGS
19
WOULD YOU TRUST A VIEWPOINT WITH SHIFTY EYES?
30
SHUT UP HE EXPLAINEDHANDLING EXPOSITION
43
EARLY MIDDLES NEW DIRECTIONS AND SUBPLOTS
58
BUILDING THE BIG SCENES SETPIECES
69
HARNESSING MELODRAMA
81
PATTERNS MIRRORS AND ECHOES
94
PACING TRANSITIONS FLASHES AND FRAMES
111
WHEN YOU COME TO THE END STOP
120
BEYOND PLOT
144
INDEX
164
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