Author: Terry Richard Bazes
Terry Richard Bazes's Plot Fiction like the Masters: Ian Fleming, Jane Austen, Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Story-Building is not a step-by-step formula for writing a novel but rather, as mentioned in the Introduction, it is “an exercise in reading like a writer.” Using as examples, Ian Fleming's Dr. No, Jane Austin's Pride and Prejudice and Evelyn Waugh's A Handful of Dust, Bazes meticulously illustrates how the plots of these three novels succeed in captivating their readers. We are shown how the writing of these novels was vivid and memorable, how these authors set themselves apart from others, and how they wrote with a unique style. It should be pointed out that the book is not about how plots should be crafted but rather how they were actually shaped.
To understand how a good plot works, Bazes refers to Gustave Freytag's famous pyramid which has become a seminal work for writers of literature. Freytag was a German playwright and novelist and in his Die Technik des Dramas (Technique of the Drama-1863) states that a drama is constructed like a pyramid. Consequently, the story is divided into five component parts: 1) the introduction, 2)the rise, 3) the climax, 4) the fall and 5) the catastrophe. Freytag also gave his pyramid three steps or dramatic moments-only one of which he considered to be essential to every play. He termed this the “necessary” step or the “exciting moment” and this was placed on his pyramid in between the introduction and the rise.
Bazes uses the pyramidal pattern (“the way their plots have been designed as a consecutive series of incidents that introduce a conflict, built it to a crisis of incidents and finally bring it to closure”) as his model in dissecting the plots of the three novels. To drive home his point, he succinctly pulls apart and examines the plots of the three novels and demonstrates how all employ the same techniques although their plots widely differ. He maintains that the three novelists, Fleming, Austen and Waugh did not blindly begin on page one and fumble their way into a plot. What they did is to craft a plot where “each one of the moments of dramatic change in each one of the novels-each of the so-called 'plot points'-is a stage in the evolution of a central conflict.” In other words, as Bazes confirms and what is important is that in the three plots each incident serves either to introduce a conflict, increase a conflict, bring it to a crisis or give it closure. Without doubt, the choice of a conflict and characterization of the antagonists for all three novels comprised the first step of the building process.
If you are an author or an aspiring one, Bazes's Plot Ficton like the Masters is a must read particularly if you wish to understand how Freytag's pyramid has provided us with an excellent template that will no doubt help us in writing our novel. There is a great deal to chew on in this book, however, I must thank Terry Bazes for showing us how three outstanding novelists have attained the perfect combination of elements in their stories using as their guideline the pyramid. Keep in mind that the applicability of Freytag’s pyramid is used not only in examining novels, but also in short stories, plays, screenplays and even narrative poems.