Monday, April 7, 2008

Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell

James Scott Bell is the best-selling author of Breach of Promise, Deadlock, A Greater Glory, and several other thrillers. He is a winner of the Christy Award for Excellence in inspirational fiction, and is a columnist for Writer's Digest. A former trial lawyer, Jim now writes and speaks full time. You can visit him on-line at

At least that is what Writer's Digest says about him in the front matter of the book. What it doesn't say and what I would add is that Plot & Structure should be on the shelf of every serious fiction writer. It is without a doubt a staple among how-to books. (My goal with my portion of this blog is to recommend the best staple writing books.)

Mr. Bell begins this book with some fundamentals on plot. He then breaks down a device he has seen in hundreds of plots, called the LOCK system.

L is for lead
O is for objective
C is for confrontation
K is for knockout

He says this system can be coupled with many varieties of plot patterns. For example, the Quest is the oldest form of plot.

Rudiments of the Quest

*The Lead is someone who is incomplete in his ordinary world
*The thing searched for must be of vital importance.
*There must be huge obstacles preventing the Lead from gaining it.
*The quest should result in the Lead becoming a different (usually better) person at the end; a fruitless quest, however, may end in tragedy for the lead.

Other examples of plot patterns that he expounds on, are love, revenge, adventure, chase, one against, one apart, power, and allegory. There are different variations of these patterns and you can make them your own or combine any of them.

There were three things, which made me love this book: one, his voice is easy to understand. Mr. Bell's instructional writing doesn't have that uppity-professor-you-need-a-dictionary-to-understand-me type of writing. His book reads just as I heard him speak. Two, through out the book I got the feeling he was my champion, pushing me toward the prize of publication. Three, I love the exercises at the end of each chapter and the checklist at the end of the book. If you don't know how to construct a blurb or a page 230, the last page of the book.

On a five star system of rating, I'd give this book a solid five stars. I look forward to reading any other how-to books by this author, which I understand isn't too far off. His website shows Writer's Digest is publishing another book by him entitled, Revision & Self-Editing. I'll let you know what I think in the coming months.


  1. WTG, Deb. I like that book too. Good post.

  2. Hey Deb, I'm currently reading Plot & Structure. What a great book! James Bell was a great speaker at last year's ACFW too.

  3. Oh, Annette,

    Were you there for the last day of the conf?

    I will never forget the song about the Hairy Man. It was the only time I've ever been in a church setting and was instructed to rub my bottom. Ha!

  4. Okay, Deb. I have a copy of the book with the best intentions of reading it. After reading your review, I'll get it off the shelf and dig in. I know I'll learn something to improve my writing.

  5. I think I need to read that. I'm beginning to wonder if my plot will hold up. Thanks for sharing!

  6. I haven't read this one but it sounds good...


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