Review: The Book of Plots by Loren Niemi

January 25, 2019

I picked up this book at the library and read it to the end, which is unusual for me for a nonfiction book I borrow from the library. I decided to write a review because it seems I’m the first person to crack the book since it was purchased by the library ten years ago. And it’s a useful book for people interested in storytelling.

The Book of Plots identifies nine plot forms which the author argues encompass all stories. Some of these plot forms are unique to oral storytelling; others can be used in writing or cinema. I identified one form that has the potential to be exploited through the Internet; I may write a story for the net someday using this form.

Plot forms are illustrated through stories of the author’s life and through a re-telling of the fable “Jack and the Beanstalk.” Each form structure is conveyed clearly and I had no trouble understanding the author’s logic. The pitfalls of the various forms are laid out, as well as the benefits of consciously choosing the best form for a particular story.

The book could have done with a better copy editor. Typos, word omissions, and grammar errors of the type missed by editing programs detract from the text.

I would recommend this book to anyone, not just professional storytellers, because we all tell stories, and stories are integral to our lives. We all can benefit from learning to tell a better story.