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The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating Details ·  719 Ratings  ·  107 Reviews
When it comes to writing bestsellers, it's all about the plot. Trouble is, plot is where most writers fall down--but you don't have to be one of them. With this book, you'll learn how to create stories that build suspense, reveal character, and engage readers--one scene at a time.

Celebrated writing teacher and author Martha Alderson has devised a plotting system that's as
Paperback, 256 pages
Published October 15th 2011 by Adams Media Corporation (first published September 6th 2011)
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May 28, 2014 Jane rated it really liked it
Where I got the book: borrowed from a friend.

Plotting is one of those aspects of novel writing that looks a lot simpler from the outside. New writers (and sometimes not so new) can find they have a great story in their head, have solid writing skills, a good command of dialogue, and a knack for description, but once they transfer their story to paper it just isn’t working. The middle’s saggy or the ending lacks pizzazz or the beginning is overloaded with backstory—if you hang around writing grou
Oct 04, 2012 Ij rated it it was amazing
The Plot Whisperer

Written By: Martha Alderson

Published By: Adams Media, Avon, Massachusetts, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4405-2588-9

Alderson writes how she teaches using “The Universal Story,” the plot planner, and the scene tracker. An in-depth explanation of “The Universal Story” is covered in Chapter 2. Diagrams of the plot planner and scene tracker are included in the book.

Alderson covers how to get started and identifies barriers to writing fiction including procrastination, writing ability, disciplin
Mar 29, 2012 Alina rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
This book is a mixed bag. The author's primary idea is to structure novels based on four critical points -- The End of the Beginning, the Middle, the Crisis, and the Climax. She suggests plotting the narrative as a graph to ensure it fits that scheme. I know some aspiring writers who struggle with story arc and might benefit from that approach. She also includes writing aids such as scene templates and character questionnaires, and sprinkles the instructional material with motivational ...more
Lady Entropy
Oct 26, 2012 Lady Entropy rated it it was amazing
There's a caveat to this book's 5 stars - do yourself a favour and learn about structure first. Learn it well, then come to The Plot Whisperer.
For me to explain why it deserves 5 stars (a rare note for me to give), I need to invoke the story of the philosophy teacher and the ping-pong balls. It went something like this:

Once, a philosophy teacher comes to his class, carrying a large glass jar and a bag of ping-pong balls. He opens the bag and pours it into the jar, filling it up with the balls,
Bill Tillman
This is the most comprehensive book on writing I have read! Sometimes a particular book just sticks to me, 'The Plot Whisperer' is such a book, it gets down to the differences between 'pantsters & plotters' in a meaningful way. Want to go to the next stage in your writing? Grab hold of a copy of this book and you will leap forward in your quest to be a great writer.
Michelle Griep
Oct 27, 2011 Michelle Griep rated it it was amazing
Look on any writer's shelf and you'll discover what their weakest link is. If they can't structure a sentence to save their life, then you'll find a boatload of grammar books. Character development? You guessed it. How to bring your protags and antags to life. Come on over to my house, and you'll see quite a collection of books on plot.

So here's another I just might set on a display stand.

The Plot Whisperer is chock full of hands-on, real world ideas that can shore up a sagging plot be
Sue Edwards
Jun 20, 2013 Sue Edwards rated it it was amazing
My first fantasy novel has become an ongoing project that has sucked me in and spat me out countless times. My plot as a whole is solid, but the beginning has been a challenge. When I say that, I’m being polite.

I took my first beginning to my critique group. Nope. It was too confusing, because I had started the story too late. I started the story earlier and tried again.

I took the new first chapter to my critique group. Still not enough backstory so I started still earlier.

When that didn’t wor
Rashad Pharaon
Jun 23, 2012 Rashad Pharaon rated it it was amazing
Five stars ALL the way.

Hands down the best book on plot and structure I have ever read. Whereas many other books describe structure decently well, M. Alderson raises the bar and answers all your questions, from plot conception to emotional development to thematic flair, beginning with: "How do I start??"

The book is peppered with encouragement and advice, as well as numerous examples from modern best-sellers and Classics.

This is a must-read for anyone, experienced or not.

Mar 08, 2016 Melanie rated it did not like it
Shelves: writing
I hate to give any book one star, but this book...oh, dear.

I was intrigued by the title and the author's bio, and was really looking forward to reading the book; unfortunately, that anticipation probably made the "let down" all the more disappointing.

This book is poorly organized and meandering, the "mystical" undertones are bizarre, and the writing is not good (which is an even bigger sin in a book on how to write, in my opinion!).

In addition, while I have great respect for basics and regula
Mar 12, 2012 Jerilyn rated it it was amazing
Where have you been all my life, Plot Whisperer?


This lady has explained story structure to me in a way that I can finally grasp. And I love how she weaves in character development and theme, too.

Bottom line: If you're a writer and you struggle with story structure (or even if you don't) you should read this book.
Sep 12, 2013 Jessica rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013
There are a great number of good things about the book. I like the concepts and learned a good bit. Alderson has a "new age" approach and I think it's excellent. I read the first few chapters of this book (it's not very long and a pretty quick read.) but I started to feel like the book was a little...smothering? I started feeling like all my creativity was leaking away I decided to take a break. I almost went back to finish it, and one day I might, but it was due at the library and I didn't want ...more
Jan 21, 2012 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
Shelves: how-to-write
Very helpful. I attended Martha Alderson's lecture a few months back, thinking I probably wouldn't get much out of it but found just the opposite and ended up buying her book. Alderson not only gives suggestions for plotting one's story, but also tips for how to push through a section when you're stuck. I am terrible at creating outlines for myself, but her suggestions helped me to draw an timeline of my novel and plot the all the scenes. This book is a wonderful reference tool and handy to keep ...more
Apr 28, 2016 Katharine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-52-books
Most Touchy Feely Writing book I have ever read

At first I thought that there was little about plot that I hadn't read before. But then the author described right-brain and left-brain writing, the emotional journey of the protagonist and how our personal thresholds shape our souls to become great writers. I took lots of notes on character development and I can't wait to apply many of these ideas to my next project.
Debbie Bateman
Sep 02, 2016 Debbie Bateman rated it it was amazing
It's generally considered un-couth for literary writers to study what is considered formulatic story structure, but this book helped me a lot. It gave me just the idea I needed to shape a short story I was struggling with.

I am now purposely reading similar books looking for structural ideas and I don't care who knows it. Ha.
Gus Sanchez
Aug 09, 2013 Gus Sanchez rated it liked it
Like a lot of "how-to-write" books, The Plot Whisperer is a well-written and well-intention book that breaks down the fundamentals of story structure. But the age-old adage of the road to hell is paved with good intentions applies at times to this book. Martha Alderson bombards you with a lot of hacky New Age-jargon and an overly strict, overly reliant emphasis on story structure that feels more like work than actual writing.

There's nothing really wrong with this book, per se. It's simply overw
Kat Sommers
Sep 25, 2012 Kat Sommers rated it really liked it
There are so many books on writing, and some wash over you, and some just click. This was the latter for me.

I was a bit worried at the start when the author mentioned she was into energy and healing, but actually the use of "energetic points" (nothing more than first turning point, second turning point, crisis and climax) around which your story must be constructed was helpful to me, as my writing suffers from a lack of excitement and direction. The descriptions of how your story must develop an
Feb 01, 2012 Boingboing rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
I enjoyed this book and will definitely be keeping it. Ms. Alderson takes the basics of story structure and applies two visual techniques for the writer to see how they are progressing along the story arc and the plot. Not a book for non-outliners, although she is very supportive for those who choose to write that way, she does encourage giving much of the plot previous thought and mapping out, utilizing visual learning as a way to help stay on track.

It's not a dry textbook kind of writing guide
Jan 02, 2013 Hikaru rated it liked it
Shelves: writing, reference
Not sure whether to rate this as three stars or four. Maybe three-and-a-half will work. An interesting look into plotting a story, but I'm still not quite sure what a "universal story" is and how people's stories fit into it. And at some points it seemed like the advice was a little heavy handed, demanding that plot be injected into every pore of your work.

Then again, apparently I'm a right-brained writer, so I'm, I guess, against structure or something.

Has some interesting tips, but I don't con
Mar 10, 2012 Sara rated it liked it
I did my first NaNoWriMo this past November. When I finished the first draft I realized that the major problem was my plot - the pacing and energy were off. The PLOT WHISPERER is definitely focused on the basics of plot creation and even talks about how and where the "energy" of a plot should be. The book put me off at the beginning with its diagram of a plot (rising action, crisis, climax, resolution) because it brought back negative memories of both teaching and learning about plot diagramming ...more
I've been poring over this book for months. I took it out of the library twice, then ordered a copy.
I'm writing middle grade, and plotting is tough for me. This book is loaded with ideas and specific strategies and instructions. It has really helped me move forward with my current project. I like the idea of "energy markers."

Of course, I wouldn't take any writing "how-to" book as gospel, but it is loaded with inspiration. Martha Alderson has instructions throughout for ways that writers can ge
Jan 08, 2013 Anneke rated it did not like it
After finishing Stephen King's On Writing, I've come accept that this type of left brain plot formula isn't for me. I'm an intuitive writer. Like King describes, digging the fossil out of the ground. Nothing wrong with how the book is written. I just glaze over. Dull as dirt, this approach to writing.
J.M. Maison
Dec 08, 2011 J.M. Maison rated it it was amazing
This book has been instrumental in helping me as I work on ironing out plot issues with the first draft of a novel. It is clear and well written and has many useful exercises and examples. It also offers a blueprint for helping devise storylines that will engage readers.
Feb 20, 2013 Amy rated it it was ok
Good for getting your head on straight and clearing the fog. No real new information. If you just hate classic story structure or plotting or stories with plots, this isn't for you. Found the formatting/structure difficult to navigate with Kindle.
Dana Wright
Jan 10, 2012 Dana Wright rated it it was amazing
This is reading very well so far. It has identified a few problems I have encountered with my work. Love it!
Laura Gilfillan
Mar 24, 2013 Laura Gilfillan rated it liked it
This book talked a lot about the universal story, but I had a hard time envisioning that every story would fit this pattern. Some useful tips.
Dec 02, 2013 StrixVaria rated it it was ok
A little bit too preachy. Inspirational, I guess, but it is light on actual techniques and heavy on writing to a formula and personal encouragement.
Matthew Bieniek
Nov 21, 2016 Matthew Bieniek rated it it was ok
I didn't get a lot out of this book. I'm a "pantser" when I write, but I recognize that when I do a little plotting -- even if it's just to plan what I'll write that day -- I can write quicker and the ideas flow more easily. I thought that I might try fully plotting my next project to see if that benefit scales up to an entire story.

I took this book out of the library after hearing a recommendation on a podcast, hoping to get some general tips on basic plotting, but I could not get into the aut
Dawn CM
Nov 23, 2016 Dawn CM rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved reading this - it got me so excited to sit down and write. Beyond books about motivating yourself to write, I hadn't read anything about the actual process and this book nailed it for me! A must read for any writer!
Sep 22, 2016 Zora rated it did not like it
If Writing Down the Bones and The Artist's Way weren't newagey enough for you, perhaps you'd like this.
Rachelle Ayala
Dec 04, 2012 Rachelle Ayala rated it it was amazing
I recommend this book to anyone who has written a first draft and is now wondering how to tackle revisions. The Plot Whisperer encourages the author to look at the story as a holistic union of character transformation, dramatic action and thematic significance. Instead of merely creating index cards and tracking characters and settings, the Plot Whisperer method suggests relating the entire story to that of a writer's life or that of the Universal story typical of all human condition. Birth, ...more
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For updates about Martha’s new releases, plot and writing tips and inspiration to live your best life, sign up for her free monthly eZine at
MARTHA ALDERSON is a historical novelist and international plot consultant for writers. She was born in San Francisco as a 5th generation Californian and grew up in the Bay Area in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Her new novel PARA
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“One of the greatest benefits of writing a truly awful, lousy, no good first draft is that it can only get better from there.” 1 likes
“Beginning hook readers. Endings create fans.” 1 likes
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