So you can read my books

Monday, August 2, 2010


{“A man can be destroyed but not defeated.”
- Ernest Hemingway.}

Hemingway here. Or to be more precise, the ghost of Hemingway here.

Yes, I’m supposed to be dead. I was poisoned. No, not by myself. Once is enough even for me.

It was by the last person you would suspect. But I survived. Still, all but one believes me dead.

If I’m lucky, that illusion will be the death of Roland. And if it leads to the death of the Valkyrie? It will teach her not to ignore an old flame for a momentary fling.

So in preparation for his imminent death and my usurping the reins of his blog, here is my first post on how to write well.

Unlike Roland’s posts, mine will be short – and its title?


The backbone of your story.

The spine of your novel is what you follow on your character’s evolution from what he was to what he becomes. And the change must be big. Why would we follow a bump on a bumpkin’s life?

All good books have one thing in common. They are truer than real life. Why? In good books, anything that doesn’t contribute to the hero’s transformation is edited away.

So find your backbone. What big picture are you painting? Any brushstroke that doesn’t add to that picture, remove.

Ask 5 questions to find your backbone.

1) Who is your hero?
You’d be surprised how many bad novels wobble about in that department, not giving the reader a sure idea of who to root for.

2) What is the problem?
It has to be clear. It has to be primal. And it has to appear insurmountable.

3) How does the story begin and end?
There has to be a “before” and “after” feel to them. The end must be a ringing bell within the heart of the reader.

4) What is the spiritual problem of the hero?
The physical problem must symbolize the spiritual struggle within your hero.

5) What is your novel about?
What is your story’s theme? A young boy learns that true magic lies within. A man discovers lies only make problems; they do not solve them. You get the picture.

What are you waiting for? You want me to lead you to the computer and type the story for you? Writers write. Dreamers dream and die with their dreams.

As Roland will die. Watch with me. I’ll be the one applauding.

De Guello – the tune ordered played by Santa Anna at the Alamo. It was the order for “No Mercy.” It literally means “slit throat.” I can’t wait to see whose hand will slit Roland’s.


  1. You and Ernest make an excellent point. At SU my prof would call it the peg: Find your peg and wrap your story around it. Also there is no story without conflict.

  2. I like the backbone idear, the spine.

    - Eric

  3. I keep thinking how I want to re-read Hemingway.

    The backbone image is excellent. Wrap your story around it. Thank you "Ernest."

  4. I would like to invite you to visit my blog. I would love to get your thoughts on some of my recent posts.

    God Bless!

  5. Hey Ernie, we need to hang out, go fishing, a sip some rum together down in teh keys.

  6. Oh God, Ernest, you will NOT get away with it. We love you but you can't kill Roland. Even you must know that!!!

    Thanks for the lesson, though, please come around any time. But let our buddy live. K?

    ~that rebel, Olivia

  7. The backbone! Brilliant. That really says it all, and distills the essence of a story down (unless there is no essence. In which it will need to grow a backbone)
    Great post!

  8. I particularly like the "before" and "after" feel. Thank you, Ernest.

    But you can't kill Roland. And over a woman. It's not as if you ever had a shortage of women.

  9. Great post--very clever--lots to think about. Thanks!

  10. I am really new at this, so this is a great help. I will try it right now... Thanks.

  11. Funny, though I don't like Hemingway much (in spite of sharing a home state-Idaho) this was GREAT advice. you have me replotting some things I think I missed in my first MS, which I've been debating how to rewrite for a while now.

  12. Well, well, well. Am I right? Did Marlene actually try to kill Hemingway? That would be a trip. Or did he actually take something, like the zombie drug, to make it look that way, hoping to get Roland killed? That would be a pretty good set up....

    Mr Hemingway-I gotta tell you, that backbone idea is pretty darn good. However, Roland has more friends than you can shake a stick watch out. And don't make be bring up your history with women! Give it up and be the hero you always write about....

  13. Amusing post
    Getting backbone is a must for writers. Great advice.
    W.I.P. It: A Writer's Journey

  14. And the plot thickens . .

    But Ernie; I like all my scenes that run around and give my characters something frivolous to do.

    Oh, pooh; I suppose I shall have to pretend I agree. That number 2 - what is the problem - is the hardest for me. Well, maybe #3 also; since I made one book into a trilogy and still can't write a decent beginning.

    I see a poison pen in my future writing adventures too. Perhaps I'll allow Roland to borrow it; though he certainly has enough creativity to foil you without MY help.



  15. Oh my goodness Mr H!! Thank you so much for your great advice but please leave Roland alone!! He did rescue Rafferty and mum with POETRY.

    Thank you.

    Take care

  16. Boy, Papa is being a jelouse ass. But he's made some great points about hero's and stories.

    I will be in my chair, hands on the keys this weekend. Alright old man!?!

    ...NOT you Roland.