The Air at the Top of the Bottle

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101 Plots Used and Abused

July 1st, 2015 · 4 Comments


101 Plots Used and Abused, a 1946 writer’s manual by James N. Young, is one of my favorite books. Young, an editor at Collier’s, collected all of the tritest plots he knew, so that short story writers could avoid them. In this revised edition, there are actually 126 of them. They’re all here: the prisoner who tunnels out of his cell, only to emerge back in prison; the gullible sucker who turns out to be a swindler himself; the ransom check in invisible ink; the husband who has a fling with his wife in disguise; the woman who becomes disfigured, only to learn that her fiance has become blind; the driver who suspects a hitchhiker has stolen his watch, and takes it back, only to discover that he left it on the dresser. Although the short story market has largely evaporated, many of these plots can still be found in urban folklore. Forteans and folklorists should find it a useful resource. Unfortunately, used copies seem to be expensive; maybe somebody will reprint it. Here’s a sample page:


(Posted by Doug Skinner)

Tags: Books

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Norman Conquest // Jul 8, 2015 at 12:23 pm

    A Black Scat Book, perchance?

  • 2 Doug // Jul 8, 2015 at 4:06 pm

    I don’t know who has the rights. It’s a good one.

  • 3 Norman Conquest // Jul 10, 2015 at 1:56 pm

    Is it copyrighted in Young’s name?

  • 4 Doug // Jul 11, 2015 at 12:09 pm


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