Martha Alderson, otherwise known as The Plot Whisperer, defines plot as, “a series of scenes arranged by cause and effect to create dramatic action filled with tension and conflict to further the characters emotional development and create thematic significance.”
In her book, Blockbuster Plots, Alderson breaks down the above statement an element at a time to explain what each part means.
Cause and effect means that the events that happen in one scene cause the events that happen in the next scene. For the most part, we want our stories to flow from scene to scene and not feel episodic or random. Episodic scenes can make a novel feel disconcerting and choppy. (Of course, this isn’t a hard and fast rule—I’ve read purposely episodic memoirs or novels where the author intended this. But, the key here is the authors knew what they were doing and used the technique on purpose).
If you want to hear more on cause and effect by Alderson watch this 7-minute video:
In my last post, “Plotting a story is like solving a puzzle,” I mentioned that I read several books to help me demystify that four-letter word “plot.”
Below are resources and books I highly recommend adding to your craft collection or checking out at the library:
Blockbuster Plots: Pure & Simple by Martha Alderson. She has another book called The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master, which is also very helpful, but Blockbuster Plots really does a great job of breaking it all down. Learn about structure, scenes, character development and everything a good story needs.
I love Alderson’s youtube channel because it’s full of fantastic short clips about the craft of writing and plotting that I play in the background when I’m cooking, doing dishes, or when I need a short break. Read more
I like author and writing mentor Martha Alderson’s definition of story. Alderson, also known as “The Plot Whisperer,” says that, “Story is conflict shown in scene.”
In order to have the most impact, our stories should be written mostly in scene—in moment by moment detail. But we should also remember that a story made up entirely of scenes can inject too much conflict and exhaust the reader.
Summary is a place to rest. It’s a place where time is compressed. It’s tells the reader the events that aren’t important enough to show in detail. Read more
When you can convey authentic, universally true emotions through your characters, you connect with your readers and they’ll keep turning the pages. Your readers become invested in your story the moment they viscerally feel what your character feels.
See what else the Plot Whisperer, Martha Alderson, has to say about writing emotions in her 5-minute video here: Read more
In her book The Plot Whisperer,author Martha Alderson writes about creating the climax scene in a novel. This is the scene that holds the greatest intensity and highest drama in the story. This is where all the forces of the story come together and where the protagonist must directly confront the antagonist. Just when it looks as if all is lost, the protagonist will discover or rediscover something within her that allows her to prevail.
The climatic scene directly answers the question at the outset of the novel—will the protagonist reach her goal and be victorious?
Alderson says, “A writer who has not experienced a transformation in her own life often cannot see, feel, touch, smell and hear the scene depicting such a moment for the protagonist.” Read more
Writer’s Digest recently offered a webinar on how to plot a novel by the Plot Whisperer, Martha Alderson, that I found very helpful. Alderson has a YouTube channel with 27 short videos for each step of the process.
The first video in the series is below (she says to ignore the barking dog in the background).
If you’d like to view more of her videos, her YouTube channel is: http://www.youtube.com/user/marthaalderson
And the remaining 26 videos for her plot tutorial can be found here.