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Plotto: The Master Book of All Plots (Paperback)

Plotto: The Master Book of All Plots By William Cook, Paul Collins (Foreword by) Cover Image
By William Cook, Paul Collins (Foreword by)
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A classic how-to manual, William Wallace Cook's Plotto is one writer's personal theory--"Purpose, opposed by Obstacle, yields Conflict"--painstakingly diagrammed through hundreds of situations and scenarios

In the 1920s, dime store novelist William Wallace Cook painstakingly diagramed and cataloged his personal writing method—“Purpose, opposed by Obstacle, yields Conflict”—for the instruction and illumination of his fellow authors. His effort resulted in an astonishing 1,462 plot scenarios, and Plotto: The Master Book of All Plots was born. A how-to manual for plot, hailed by the Boston Globe as “First aid to troubled riters,” Plotto influenced Erle Stanley Gardner, author of the Perry Mason books, and a young Alfred Hitchcock.

At first glance, Plotto operates with a machinelike logic, but from its endless amalgamations writers will find inspiration for narratives with limitless possibility. Open the book to any page to find plots you may never have known existed--from morose cannibals to gun-wielding preachers to phantom automobiles.

Equal parts reference guide and historical oddity, Plotto is sure to amaze and delight writers for another hundred years.

About the Author

William Wallace Cook was born in Marshall, Michigan, in 1867. He was the author of a memoir, The Fiction Factory, as well as dozens of Westerns and science-fiction novels, many of which were adapted into films. He was nicknamed “the man who deforested Canada” for the volume of stories he fed into the pulp-magazine mill. He spent five years composing Plotto before finally publishing it in 1928. Cook died in his hometown of Marshall in 1933.

Paul Collins is a writer specializing in history, memoir, and unusual antiquarian literature. His nine books have been translated into eleven languages, and include Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books (2003) and The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime That Scandalized a City & Sparked the Tabloid Wars (2011). Collins lives in Oregon, where he is chair and professor of English at Portland State University.

Praise For…

Plotto has just been reissued for the edification of novelists everywhere.


Plotto is a reference guide that is at once dense, artful, and hilarious.

— Brainpickings

"A freaky plot museum containing every twist under the sun."
— Chris Baty, Founder of NanoWriMo and author of NO PLOT? NO PROBLEM

Product Details
ISBN: 9781941040553
ISBN-10: 1941040551
Publisher: Tin House Books
Publication Date: November 1st, 2016
Pages: 480
Language: English