I think it’s safe to say that I am in love with this book.
Ronald B. Tobias’s craft book, “20 Master Plots and How to Build Them” takes an approachable and wizened tone to the subject of plot and plot-doctoring. At no point is the craft “preached” or laid out as hard-set rules to follow (indeed, he hastens, on many occasions, to remind us that the book only offers patterns).
The tone makes the text approachable, and the layout of the book is logical, concise, full of literary examples to illustrate points, and not at all gimmicky.
The twenty plots examined by Tobias include Quest, Adventure, Pursuit, Rescue, Escape, Revenge, The Riddle, The Rivalry, The Underdog, Temptation, Metamorphosis, Transformation, Maturation, Love, Forbidden Love, Sacrifice, Discovery, Wretched Excess, Ascension, and Descension. Each come with three or four literary or cinematic examples to help get the point across, and a checklist at the end to help “guide you” back on target. The text can be read cover to cover or piecemeal, however you plan to use it.
I personally recommend reading the book with a story already in mind. By the time I got to Chapter Five, I had so many new ideas for writing that I almost put it down… I’m glad I didn’t, because in Chapter Thirteen, I was hit by another plot twist that basically fixed a lot of my tension issues in the outline.
This book not only helped me understand some of the fundamentals that are not inherently obvious, but did the most important task of all: got me psyched to start writing!
As an FYI for authors out there who don’t quite have a budget at the moment, the book has a free companion PDF that includes all of the checklists for the various plots. You can access that PDF here.