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

4.01 of 5 stars 4.01  ·  rating details  ·  570 ratings  ·  92 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 (first published September 6th 2011)
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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
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
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 pep-talks ...more
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
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
Lady Entropy
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,
Rashad Pharaon
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.

Sue Edwards
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
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
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
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.
Debbie Bateman
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.
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
Kat Sommers
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
[2 stars] As a writing book, I thought The Plot Whisperer was average. According to the author, all stories follow a pattern she calls the "Universal Story," and her focus in this book is to teach writers to find this pattern and bring it out by structuring the plot and energy of their novels. She's basically describing three-act structure which other writing instructors have written about as well, and overall, I didn't learn that much new from this particular book.

Unlike other writing books I'v
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
Gus Sanchez
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
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
Sara  (
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
Finally, someone who has broken it down and served up a comprehensible explanation of what your story should be doing and where it should be doing it. Usually this kind of advice is flounced out from within a veil of vague authorly metaphors and poorly explained -- or reluctantly given -- techniques.

Story structure seems to be a subject briefly explored and less importantly regarded, in my experience anyway, and cast in the shadow of the opinion that a good story doesn't rely on plot but charac
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
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.
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.
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.
Laura Gilfillan
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.
Kathy Purc
Dear Martha,

I found you two weeks ago through joining NAMW. I've been stymied with plot and structure and have been searching for a left-brain tool(s) to whip my scene-written memoir into a shape that would satisfy me, my story, and my potential readers.

Listening to your phone interview on NAMW led me to download your e-book and today the Workbook I ordered will arrive. I am confident that not only will I finish my memoir, but its quality will match the people, places, time-period and themes I
R. B. Young
A little fanatical, but provides guidance for the plot-challenged. Not specific to my genre--mystery.
Dana Wright
This is reading very well so far. It has identified a few problems I have encountered with my work. Love it!
Rachelle Ayala
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, cro ...more
Gwendolyn Gage
I picked up "The Plot Whisperer" on an author friend's recommendation, thinking it'd help me hone my strengths in story plotting. The author communicates story structure and plot/character relationship in way that makes for easy reading and comprehension, and not only has it helped me get a better grasp on plotting and structure, it's taught me some tricks for deeper character development.

For example, I've learned that a story "crisis" acts as an important finish to the Second Act, as well as th
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Martha Alderson is the bestselling author of The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master where she first introduced the Universal Story to transform writers’ creative lives and to “show” plot. The Plot Whisperer Work book: Step-by-Step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories and The Plot Whisperer Book of Writing Prompts: Easy Exercises to Get You Writing quickly f ...more
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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.” 0 likes
“Beginning hook readers. Endings create fans.” 0 likes
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