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

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  909 ratings  ·  126 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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4.01  · 
Rating details
 ·  909 ratings  ·  126 reviews

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Mar 15, 2019 rated it liked it
For what this is, it's pretty good.

For whether it was helpful to me, personally, I'd say... no.

So what WAS it? Exactly what it says. It refers to two different types of writers and allows for the differences between right-brained and left-brained individuals, saying, point-blank, that you've got to shore up your defenses. Good enough.

Beyond that, we're dealing with the very basic ideas of keeping tension, not overwhelming the opening with too much backstory, keeping the descriptions strong and
Apr 29, 2014 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
Sep 08, 2011 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
Jan 05, 2012 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 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.
Feb 10, 2012 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
Lady Entropy
Jan 21, 2012 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,
Michelle Griep
Oct 27, 2011 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 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 18, 2012 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.

Jul 22, 2012 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.
Dec 27, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: reference, writing
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
Aug 30, 2013 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
Apr 28, 2016 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.
Dawn CM
Nov 23, 2016 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!
Jun 23, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2-ok, writing
One-sided advice for plotters. She may talk about pantsers, but she isn't helpful for them.
Gus Sanchez
Aug 09, 2013 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 09, 2012 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 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 24, 2012 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
Nov 15, 2011 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
Debbie Bateman
Apr 12, 2012 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.
J.M. Maison
Nov 21, 2011 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.
Dana Wright
Jan 10, 2012 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
Jan 12, 2013 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.
Aug 16, 2013 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.
Debra Daniels-zeller
Oct 05, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, writing
This book has a great title and I really liked all of the side bars labeled Plot Whisperer. I also appreciated the plot planners and the idea of using post-it notes for scenes, but the overall stucture and narrative content within didn't work as well for me as other books on writing fiction, such as Creating Characters by the Editors of Writer's Digest. Also I was a bit put off by the mystical aspect of transformative energy and the universal story flowing throughout our lives. I'm all for posit ...more
May 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Close to 4 stars, but couldn't quite bump it up.

There are a lot of helpful takeaways from this book about how to structure a plot, it helped me brainstorm on my new novel, and I took several notes that I plan to reference as I write.

I also appreciate the emphasis on actually writing the damn thing—the encouragement to not spend forever dithering in planning and outlining.

I didn't find much inspiration in the "universal truth" pep-talks. Also, the author's analyses of other works of f
Katie O'Bryan
Jan 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This book takes the idea of themes beyond foreshadowing. I read it for free. As a beginner, it help me understand the notion of building momentum in emotional character development. For example, I realized that the character in my story needed to change her perception of a friend as the story progressed. It’s a rough draft, and so the behavior of the friend in question ‘is what it is’, rather than a reality as seen through the eyes of the protagonist.
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For updates about Martha’s new releases, plot tips and creativity inspiration to live your best life, sign up for her free monthly eZine at
MARTHA ALDERSON is passionate about helping you live your best creative life, realize your artistic ambitions, and she invites you to embark on a spiritual odyssey to higher creativity.
She is a historical novelist and i
“Beginning hook readers. Endings create fans.” 2 likes
“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
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