'20 Master Plots: And How to Build Them' is a well thought out idea that falls a little short in it's delivery, but in the end saves itself through originality.
The first chapter, titled 'Invisible Fiction', sets the mood for what's to come. The author expresses his opinions on plots and the many forms, how they all originate from a top three to be broken down into a 'top 20' for easier following. Chapter two, ' The Lowest Common Plot Denominators', discusses building tension through opposition, the three sections of a story (beginning, middle, and end), and other crucial things a plot requires to stay alive. Chapter 3, 'The Strong Force', is short in length, basically informing the reader what a 'character driven plot is' versus a 'plot driven' one.
Chapter four, 'Deep Structure', focuses on themes and moral arguments, while chapter five, 'Triangles', is an interesting, unique way to see characters and how they interact with each other.
After this, we finally begin the '20 plots', each divided by chapter. Each goes through all three 'acts' of the plot (again: beginning, middle, end), ending with a checklist to recap all that has been learned.
The wrap up chapter, 'Parting Shots', reminds you that the book is not a guide etched in stone and that rules are made to be broken. It's also stated that many times a plot is a mixture of two or more basic '20 Master Plots'.
At 232 pages, this book covers quite a bit. I was enthused as the sections, and recognized many of the 'patterns', but was left wanting in other areas. The information was useful, but if you read it straight through, many of the plot types repeat the same thing and it becomes redundant and dull. Also, some held examples of other novels and stories to illustrate what the author meant. I loved this; it enabled me to get a firmer grasp on things. Unfortunitely many of the plots don't have as many examples, or none at all, and I missed it when they did.
Wrapping up, this is a great resource guide for writers. If you have trouble with plotting, pick this up for a reasonable price. Heck, even if you don't, still pick it up for there are things out there you may not know about yet. On the downside it wasn't the most interesting thing to read, was a bit redundant, other times not being consistent enough.