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The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life

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Overview

As a literary agent, Noah Lukeman hears thousands of book pitches a year. Often the stories sound great in concept, but never live up to their potential on the page. Lukeman shows beginning and advanced writers how to implement the fundamentals of successful plot development, such as character building and heightened suspense and conflict. Writers will find it impossible to walk away from this invaluable guide—-a veritable fiction-writing workshop—-without boundless new ideas.

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The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life

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Overview

As a literary agent, Noah Lukeman hears thousands of book pitches a year. Often the stories sound great in concept, but never live up to their potential on the page. Lukeman shows beginning and advanced writers how to implement the fundamentals of successful plot development, such as character building and heightened suspense and conflict. Writers will find it impossible to walk away from this invaluable guide—-a veritable fiction-writing workshop—-without boundless new ideas.

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Editorial Reviews

Authorlink
"One of the best-ever books about the craft of writing."
The Writer
"A highly useful book that is written in an accessible style and filled with valuable examples."
Midwest Book Review
"A written version of the mentor you always wished you could have."
Prarieden.com
"The type of book you need to purchase so it can sit on your desk, dog-eared and underlined."
Netauthor.org
"Lukeman understands... what makes for excellent, not just bestselling, fiction. Treat yourself to his superbly written reference guide."
From the Publisher
“One of the best-ever books about the craft of writing. It is a book that can change the world of every writer who embraces Lukeman’s ideas. His classroom on paper should be on every writer’s shelf to be read again and again.” —-Authorlink

“Full of practical common sense about how to write fiction and [he] answers many of the difficult questions first novelists ask themselves.” —-Michael Korda, author of Making the List

“Lukeman’s advice is practical—-and often entails multiple, time-consuming steps—-without a hint of the flakiness that creeps into many writing guides. Though Lukeman works with books, he wisely asserts that the observations in this volume are applicable to all types of imaginary writing, from film to poetry. Indeed, it is a worthy addition to any writer’s reference shelf.” —-Publishers Weekly

“A godsend...The Plot Thickens is not the type of book you want to check out from the library or borrow from a friend. It is the type of book you need to purchase so it can sit on your desk, dog-eared and underlined, worn from years of overuse.” —-Prairieden.com

Michael Korda
...full of practical common sense about how to write fiction and answers many of the difficult questions first novelists ask...
Carol Bly
Brilliant...Personable, buoyant, and very wise...
James Frey
[Lukeman] shows writers how to build stories in which the plot emerges from fresh, alive, and intense characters.
Publishers Weekly
Lukeman's second book on writing after 2000's The First Five Pages (a third volume on dialogue is still to come) discusses the craft of writing well-plotted fiction. Lukeman, a literary agent, rallies against the lazy and mundane that cross his desk in the form of 50,000 manuscripts submitted in the last five years. Initially, at least, he is less concerned with artfulness than the simple need to make the book compelling beyond the first few pages. He asserts that the foundation (and often the first casualty) of a book is character, and accordingly, Lukeman dedicates the first two chapters to an exhaustive list of questions a writer should ask about the "outer" and "inner" life of each character. He encourages a Dr. Frankenstein-like approach to creating realistic fictional characters: devising them with the intention of bending them to the writer's own will, but at the same time investing them with enough life that they are capable of making their own way in the world and ultimately surprising their creator. A third chapter called "Applied Characterization" discusses how to use this knowledge to form a plot. The remaining five chapters cover different aspects of plotting: "The Journey," "Suspense," "Conflict," "Context" and "Transcendency." Lukeman's advice is practical and often entails multiple, time-consuming steps without a hint of the flakiness that creeps into many writing guides. The closest he ever gets to sounding like a guru is when he sagely stresses, "Real life is the best teacher." Though Lukeman works with books, he wisely asserts that the observations in this volume are applicable to all types of imaginary writing, from film to poetry. Indeed, it is a worthy addition to any narrative writer's reference shelf. (July 8) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312309282
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 6/18/2003
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 305,649
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Noah Lukeman is a New York literary agent whose clients include multiple winners of the Pulitzer Prize and American Book Award, National Book Award finalists, Edgar Award finalists, New York Times bestselling authors, and the faculty of esteemed universities. He has worked as a manager in Artists Management Group, and is currently president of Lukeman Literary Management Ltd. He is also author of the bestselling The First Five Pages, now part of the curriculum in many universities.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
1 Characterization: The Outer Life 1
2 Characterization: The Inner Life 25
3 Applied Characterization 48
4 The Journey 81
5 Suspense 119
6 Conflict 145
7 Context 168
8 Transcendency 186
Epilogue 210
App. A: Suggested Reading and Viewing 213
App. B: Internet Resources 217
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 9 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 16, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Character-driven plots

    Mysteries, suspense, action/adventure genres rely heavily on plot--the idea--to move the story along. In his book, "The Plot Thickens," Noah Lukeman alerts the reader to another facet of fiction writing, the character-driven plot. The author details how to craft a dynamite story with life-like characters with whom readers can identify, or at least recognize. He shows novice and experienced writers alike how to build story using all the elements of writing. Through the use of examples, he leads the reader/writer through development of exquisite characterization, place, journey, and conflict. The book is an easy read and would have been a fast one were it not that I found myself stopping, bookmarking a page, and excitedly going back into all of my works-in-progress to incorporate his editorial insights.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 13, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Lukeman brings it.

    He makes it seem so simple and entertaining. He is one of my favorite authors on the art of writing.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2003

    If you are serious about writing, this book is a necessity

    Lukeman knows his stuff! I'd buy this book 10 times over!!! Toss any other book on the subject in the trash!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2002

    Far more than a writer's tool¿.

    How does a writer turn an idea into a plot? How many brilliant flashes of inspiration lead to books, movies, or plays? Not many because ideas wither away without great characters and events that drive the story forward. He uses many examples from film because this is the media where life is visualized for the audience, and his "chief concern is illustrating (sometimes abstract) points." (Lukeman) An example: * A young man is unhappy and feels trapped in his rural life. * He hungers for adventure. * He is inducted into thrilling adventures by chance. * He is part of a mystical adventure, for which he is unprepared. * Circumstances force him to face his inadequacies. * He gains friends and companions along the way. * Ultimately he finds the confidence he needs to succeed. * He saves the realm. The ideas belongs to many stories from Lord of the Rings to Harry Potter to Star Wars, and more. The magic of each story is wrapped into the characters and the lives they live; they are real. Each chapter and the introduction are deeper than I can show in a review. The book should be on every writer's desk. Both chapters one (Characterization: The Outer Life) and two (Characterization: The Inner Life) are 90% questions. By taking time to write the questions and answer them, they become part of a writer's arsenal. Chapter Three -- Applied Characterization discusses whether the character is major or minor, the frequency s/he appears, entrances and exits, and more. "Plot does not magically appear with the creation of a character; Frankenstein's monster might open his eyes, but until he gets up from the table and does something, there is little basis for a plot." (NL) Chapter Four -- The Journey takes us on an emotional or mental experience (not necessarily a trip) that brings about change. Simple and familiar examples are Star Wars, Saving Private Ryan, The Bourne Identity, Speed, Cujo, Carrie, etc. Chapter Five -- Suspense, "more than any other element, affects the immediate, short-term experience of the work." (NL) What is the destination, why is it significant, and what obstacles stand in the way? Chapter Six -- Conflict causes changes; they can be obvious (court, sports, or battle scenes, etc.) or subtle. No matter what the conflict is, it must exist on multiple levels because people, therefore characters, are complex. Chapter Seven -- Context "influences suspense, conflict, pacing, progression, and ultimately meaning." (NL) A writer or editor must keep the entire work in mind, and gauge the overall impression of each element in the creation of the story -- does it work? Chapter Eight -- Transcendency taps "¿ into the universal, timeless truths and facets of the human condition." (NL) The examples are clear and powerful. The book is profound and all of Noah Lukeman's books should be required reading.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2005

    Pretty bad

    I tried to take the book seriously and answer all those horrible, tedious questions about my character. I spent some boring hours that did not help my writing much. No, no. This is no way to approach writing a book. Some of the questions are good, however, and may help a writer enrich a novel.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted January 26, 2011

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    Posted March 12, 2014

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    Posted March 4, 2012

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    Posted February 2, 2013

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