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Writing Blockbuster Plots

Book Description

Plotting a story filled with memorable, engaging scenes from beginning to end can feel like an insurmountable challenge. Having the right plan - and the tools to execute it - can make all the difference. Writing Blockbuster Plots pulls back the curtain on story structure with step-by-step strategies and visuals that turn plotting and scene writing into a no-stress endeavor.

In this completely revised and updated edition, celebrated writing instructor and plot consultant Martha Alderson helps you navigate the intricacies of story with the help of her exclusive Plot Planner and Scene Tracker tools. Using Alderson’s effective, accessible techniques, you'll be able to:

  • PLOT your story from beginning to end with a focus on dramatic action, the emotional development of your characters, and thematic significance.
  • ENSURE that each scene contributes meaningfully to the narrative by tracking the seven essential elements of scene.
  • LINK scenes by cause and effect to create a tight, seamless narrative.
  • INJECT tension and conflict to keep readers glued to the page.
  • TARGET weak areas in your story and learn how to fix them.
Filled with examples from both classic and contemporary novels, as well as illustrations of the Plot Planner and Scene Tracker in action, Writing Blockbuster Plots strips the confusion out of the plotting process, enabling you to write a story that deserves a standing ovation.

Table of Contents

  1. Title Page
  2. Copyright Page
  3. Acknowledgments
  4. About the Author
  5. Introduction to the Revised Edition
  6. Introduction
    1. Who This Book Is For
    2. How to Use This Book
    3. Sensory Feedback
    4. Examples
    5. What to Expect
  7. Part One: Plot Planner
    1. Introduction: Plotting Is Like Juggling
      1. The Plot Planner
    2. Chapter One: What Is Plot?
      1. Sifting Through the Layers
      2. Plot Redefined
      3. Other Layers of Plot
    3. Chapter Two: How to Use the Plot Planner
      1. The Benefits of Using a Plot Planner
      2. Formats for the Plot Planner
      3. Plotting Above and Below the Lines
      4. The Structure of Stories
      5. Tips for Creating Plot
    4. Chapter Three: Plot Planner Parameters
      1. Plan by Scene
      2. Plan by Page Count
      3. Take a Break
    5. Chapter Four: Construct Your Plot Planner
      1. The Beginning
      2. Create the Plot Planner
      3. The End of the Beginning
      4. Changing POV
    6. Chapter Five: Plot the Beginning
      1. Example
      2. Plot the Beginning
      3. Keep Writing
    7. Chapter Six: Plot by Cause and Effect
      1. Using Cause and Effect
      2. Avoiding Episodic Scenes
      3. Linking Scenes Through Chosen Details
      4. Example
      5. Plotting Nonlinear Stories
      6. Plot the Cause and Effect in the Beginning
    8. Chapter Seven: Plot the Middle
      1. The Anatomy of the Middle
      2. Plot the Middle
    9. Chapter Eight: Plot the Dramatic Action
      1. Dramatic Action vs. Passive Action
      2. Test Scenes for Dramatic Action
      3. The Pattern of Stories
      4. Generating More Dramatic Action
    10. Chapter Nine: Plot the Tension and Conflict
      1. Avoid Making It Too Easy
      2. The Benefits of Taking Risks
      3. Add Antagonists to the Plot Planner
      4. Introducing Plot Twists
      5. Intensifying the Conflict and Tension
    11. Chapter Ten: Plot the End
      1. The False Summit
      2. The True Summit
      3. The Light Switches On
      4. Plot the End
      5. The Resolution
      6. The Whole Story
    12. Chapter Eleven: Creating the Character Emotional Development Profile
      1. Developing Character Emotional Development
      2. Character Emotional Development on the Plot Planner
      3. Fill Out the Character Emotional Development Form
    13. Chapter Twelve: Plot the Character Emotional Development
      1. Pacing the Character Emotional Development
      2. Keeping the Character Consistent
      3. Inserting Foreshadowing
    14. Chapter Thirteen: Plot the Thematic Significance
      1. Finding the Thematic Significance of Your Story
      2. Plot the Thematic Significance
      3. Deriving Theme from Within
      4. The Story Concept
      5. Examples of Theme
      6. More on Theme
    15. Chapter Fourteen: When to Plot
      1. 1. Pre-Plot
      2. 2. Revision
      3. 3. Final Edit
  8. Part Two: Scene Tracker
    1. Introduction: Track the Seven Essential Elements of Scene
      1. The Scene Tracker
      2. Layout
      3. Format
      4. Scene Identification
      5. Take a Break
    2. Chapter Fifteen: Scene Versus Summary
      1. What Is a Scene? What Is Summary?
      2. Summary
      3. Using the Scene Tracker for Determining Scene vs. Summary
    3. Chapter Sixteen: Create the Scene Tracker Form
      1. The Seven Essential Elements of Scene
      2. The Scene Tracker at Work
      3. Create a Scene Tracker
      4. Take a Break
    4. Chapter Seventeen: The Scene or Summary Column
      1. Case Study: All the Pretty Horses
      2. Track Your Story
      3. Flashbacks
    5. Chapter Eighteen: The Time and Setting Column
      1. Case Study: The Sea-Wolf
      2. Case Study: All the Pretty Horses
      3. Tracking Your Story
      4. Researching Time Periods and Settings
    6. Chapter Nineteen: The Character Emotional Development Column
      1. Case Study: White Oleander
      2. Case Study: All the Pretty Horses
      3. Case Study: The Sea-Wolf
      4. Tracking Your Story
    7. Chapter Twenty: The Goal Column
      1. Case Study: Where the Heart Is
      2. Case Study: All the Pretty Horses
      3. Case Study: The Sea-Wolf
      4. Case Study: White Oleander
      5. Tracking Your Story
    8. Chapter Twenty-One: The Dramatic Action Column
      1. Case Study: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
      2. Case Study: All the Pretty Horses
      3. Case Study: The Sea-Wolf
      4. Case Study: White Oleander
      5. Case Study: Where the Heart Is
      6. Tracking Your Story
    9. Chapter Twenty-Two: The Conflict Column
      1. Case Study: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
      2. Case Study: All the Pretty Horses
      3. Case Study: The Sea-Wolf
      4. Case Study: White Oleander
      5. Case Study: Where the Heart Is
      6. Tracking Your Story
    10. Chapter Twenty-Three: The Change in Emotion Column
      1. Case Study: A Shameful Affair
      2. Case Study: All the Pretty Horses
      3. Case Study: The Sea-Wolf
      4. Case Study: White Oleander
      5. Case Study: Where the Heart Is
      6. Case Study: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
      7. Tracking Your Story
      8. The Writer’s Strengths and Weaknesses
      9. The Role of Emotions
    11. Chapter Twenty-Four: The Thematic Details Column
      1. Case Study: The Stone Diaries
      2. Case Study: All the Pretty Horses
      3. Case Study: The Sea-Wolf
      4. Case Study: White Oleander
      5. Case Study: Where the Heart Is
      6. Case Study: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
      7. Tracking Your Story
      8. Theme as a Reflection of Your Life
      9. Repeating Details
      10. Inspiration for Thematic Details
    12. Chapter Twenty-Five: Creating a Lasting Tapestry
      1. Analyzing the Scene Tracker Form
      2. Using the Plot Planner and Scene Tracker Together
      3. Scenes to Cut, Scenes to Keep
      4. Getting Closer to the Character
      5. Test Your Final Product
  9. Appendices
    1. Appendix I: Plot Planner Form
      1. Above the Line
      2. Below the Line
    2. Appendix II: Scene Tracker for The Adventures of Tom Sawyer​
    3. Appendix III: Plot Planner for The Adventures of Tom Sawyer​
      1. Scenes Above and Below the Line
      2. Cause and Effect
    4. Appendix IV: Character Emotional/Psychological Plot Information for A Lesson Before Dying
    5. Appendix V: The Beginning of the Plot Planner for A Lesson Before Dying
      1. The Beginning of A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines
    6. Appendix VI: Plot Planner for The Grapes of Wrath
    7. Appendix VII: Plot Planner for Their Eyes Were Watching God