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Saturday, May 18, 2013


The Opening Scene: A Review of the Plot Whisperer and the Plot Whisperer Workbook

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 work, my confidence deflated. I remembered a plotting diagram in the Plot Whisper and The Plot Whisperer Workbook. They were in my “to review” stack. What better way to test them than this first chapter fiasco? I mentally issued the author a challenge. Drag me out of this writing slump, Martha Alderson. I dare you.

The plot diagram, Alderson’s Plot Planner, includes the character’s emotional development. Although I was convinced that the problem was plot not emotion, I sat down to do the activities. After all, a dare is a dare.

I created character emotional profiles for my protagonist, my antagonist and side kick. Apparently, Mr. Sidekick is not the goody-two-shoes people see; this new knowledge deepened the story.

I typed a list of scenes. Not difficult, but they were more numerous than I had expected.

I found a 6-foot-long piece of paper as recommended by Alderson for a full-sized plot planner. I wasn’t convinced I needed this much, but I typed my scenes including plot, subplot, emotional arc, dramatic action and theme. As I cut and taped to the chart, I realized it would take 6 feet of paper. Then I got another shocker. Original scene #1 was now scene #6, at the first turning point.

I had originally started the story way too late, a fact I would have seen on this type of plot diagram. Alderson has you look at turning points. At the first one, your character commits to a course of action different from his opening goal.

At the turning point, my character decides on revenge. If I had been using the Plotter from the start, I would have plunked down a revenge chapter and realized that the story needs to build to this point, not start here.

I highly recommend these books. The Plot Whisperer explains the concepts you will use, showing how each is essential. The workbook takes you through exercises that get the job done.

There are sections on exploring theme; creating story arcs for your antagonist and secondary characters; how and where to work in details; testing cause and effect; and working in backstory.

I’m looking forward to playing with theme but I’ll also study the sections on backstory and all the rest. Why? Alderson has already surprised me multiple times by supplying tools I need before I understand that I need them.


Find out more about Sue Bradford Edwards and her work on her blog, One Writer's Journey.



Writers, you're in luck! We have three copies of each book to give away, courtesy of the author, Martha Alderson! After Sue's marvelous review and recommendation, I'm sure you'll want to win the set for your writer's reference library. Just enter the Rafflecopter form below for a chance to win print copies of The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master (AVR $14.95) and The Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-Step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories (AVR $16.95) or e-copies—reader's choice! The contest is open to US and Canada for a print copies, and internationally for e-copies. We have six books total to give away, and we will randomly choose three winners to receive the set of both books.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

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Blogger Margay Leah Justice said...

I'm working on a romantic suspense novel about some attempted kidnappings in a small town that is based on some actual events in my life.

5:36 AM  
Blogger Ashley Berg said...

I am working on a YA dystopian novel. It is my first book, and I am having a lot of trouble getting the plot to line up right.

6:10 AM  
Blogger Debbie Alferio said...

Thanks for the awesome suggestions. I have been struggling with the opening for my latest book, and feel this is just what I need to try!

7:03 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

My current WIP is a Fantasy Romance. I have my characters pretty well fleshed out but I'm having issues weaving the Plot and sub-plots. In some instances I'm not sure which plot a scene would work better with. I've heard great things about The Plot Whisperer and it's companion workbook. If I don't win them I plan to buy them.

7:15 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Although I write predominantly nonfiction, I find books written for fiction, especially those that help you plan a piece, crossover nicely. After all, unless you're writing journalism style, nonfiction needs to be engaging and read well.

7:48 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

My current WIP is a horror series about vampires. I'm working on revising the first book in the series. I would love to win The Plot Whisperer and the companion book. I believe they would help me with plot issues I seem to be having.

7:51 AM  
Blogger Jackie Bouchard said...

I'm working on a "who rescued who" story about how a loner has her life changed by a mutt she rescues from a rest stop.

8:02 AM  
Blogger Ginia said...

I'm working on character development and setting researching.

8:18 AM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

I love writing technique books that offer solid, helpful advice; this sounds like another good one!

8:36 AM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

And I'm currently working on another edgy realistic YA suspense novel.

8:37 AM  
Blogger Plot Whisperer said...

Thank you, Sue, for the terrific review of the PW books!!!
I love learning how the process of creating a plot planner works for writers. That following the exercises gave you new insights into your story and fired up your imagination and energy to write thrills me no end.
Thank you, again Sue.
Happy plotting!

11:22 AM  
Blogger G. Donald Cribbs said...

I'm working on my first novel, a contemporary YA male POV, about a teen with recurring nightmares who must figure out to regain his dignity, or face the person behind his debilitating dreams.

Currently working on a structural edit, after an R&R, several full and partial requests, and an offer to publish with a small press.

I've heard amazing things about TPW. Please help my MS find completion. Thank you for the opportunity.

11:27 AM  
Blogger Slynne said...

I'm working contemporary and suspense romance novels. This sound like what I need to add depth to some of my plots/sub-plots.

2:07 PM  
Blogger Pat Kahn's Childsplay said...

Martha Alderson taught a half-day session through SCBWI at Dominican College. She's terrific!

3:29 PM  
Blogger Sue Bradford Edwards said...

I have used Alderson's books when I was prewriting, writing and rewriting and found them helpful each time. Thank you for your comments, everyone!

8:08 PM  
Blogger Carmela Martino said...

Thanks for the great review! I'm working on a YA historical, and finding the right beginning is an ongoing issue for me. I'm going to have to look at this book even if I don't win it. :-)

8:35 AM  
Blogger Dana Carey said...

I'm working (on and off) on a contemporary YA. Thanks for this generous giveaway!

9:23 AM  
Blogger Kathy said...

Working on a middle grade fantasy. This giveaway is wonderful and would be perfect in helping with my novel.

9:41 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Today I took a break from editing a novelette collection to edit a short story I wrote for a competition last night. Nice to add some writing (yesterday) into all of the editing!

10:43 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I'm working on a young adult fiction novel and I watch her youtube videos all the time for aid. What a great giveaway

10:50 AM  
Blogger Sherezada said...

I am working on a love story between a jaded travel writer and a timid first-time adventurer. Been working on this for over a year!

11:46 AM  
Blogger Charmaine Clancy said...

Too many projects ;)

Main WIP is a historical YA mystery set in rural Australia in 1939. Love the videos.

5:50 PM  
Blogger Julia said...

I'm working on a YA paranormal thriller. It's my first book and it sounds like Martha Alderson's books would be perfect to help me straighten out all the subplots I have going on.

10:32 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Nothing at the moment, I'm still gathering ideas.

12:31 AM  
Blogger Claire said...

I am working on a post-apocalyptic YA about a young girl who escapes from a cult in pursuit of her exiled brother.

9:27 AM  
Blogger Rosemond said...

I would LOVE to win this!!

11:33 AM  
Blogger Rosemond said...

I would LOVE to win this!! I'm currently working on a PB, but could really use this for a MG I have in my mind!

11:34 AM  
Blogger Michal said...

I was about to buy this as an ebook, and was checking it out, throughly, like I do! So glad to find this contest and I love WOW. You have wonderful teachers.
Michal IN Israel

4:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I NEED this book! Ive been stuck and it sounds like it would def help get me over this hump!

8:08 PM  
Blogger LuAnn Schindler said...

I am ordering this NOW! Sounds like a great resource any writer can put to practical use.

9:38 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I'm so excited about this giveaway. Thank you for the opportunity to win. Martha's YouTube videos have been such a great resource for me, I'd love to add her books to my bookshelf, too. : )

9:07 AM  
Blogger M.L. Bull said...

I am currently working on a Christian book series about a family that lives in a pretty rough city neighborhood and work together to help their community improve for the better, while also dealing with their own life situations.

9:56 AM  

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