So you can read my books

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


We talked about C.A.R. yesterday ...

C ..... Conflict

A ..... Action

R ..... Resolution

Using C.A.R. will get you a good story.

But you don't want a good story ... You want a GREAT story.

To get that great story, your C.A.R. needs G.A.S.

G ..... Goal

A ..... Adversary

S ..... Sex


1.) Goals in great stories are not anemic ...

A.) Primal

Any goal in a great story is primal, high stakes, CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT!

Love to a loveless man. Food for children to a mother in a world turned upside down. Revenge to a man robbed unjustly of everything that made life worth living.


The reader must see herself in that goal. We all yearn to belong. We all have been mocked and snubbed. We all feel alone in some form or fashion.

Once you have the reader looking out of the MC's eyes, you have her hooked into rooting for her to win ... because if the MC wins, a part of your reader wins, too.

In becoming the MC, the readers become more than they are, experiencing things in a way they might never experience any other way. Each of us is an on-going equation striving to answer itself. Reading is one way we do that.


You're switching channels on the TV and stumble across an announcer going crazy. You pause. The horse in the back of the race has just pulled ahead ... one horse ... three horses at a gallop ... two more. Now, there is only the lead horse.

The runt pulls ahead only to fall behind. The runt closes just a bit. The jockey on the lead horse spurs his mount ahead. The runt stumbles. Your heart goes into your mouth. Then, somehow, the runt reaches into its last strength and pulls even. The two race like that for long, agonizing moments.

Then, the runt pulls ahead by a nose, winning the race.

You had no money on the race, but you feel like cheering. Maybe you do cheer. We all root for the underdog ... remember that in your writing.


1.) "Oh," you say, "you mean antagonist."

Pardon me? Did I say antagonist? Antagonist is for ivory tower discussions of Jame Fennimore Cooper.

I'm talking Adversay, buddy!

Eric Northman, who, when you try to escape his cellar, tears out your throat with his teeth. Then, when your spurting blood ruins his highlighting dye job, repeatedly kicks your corpse for good measure.

We don't need no stinking antagonists! "You wanna mess with me? Here, let me introduce you to my little friend!"

2.) IMPOSSIBLE ODDS : (Remember the Underdog Principle)

Remember Jodie Foster going to interview Hannibal Lector for the first time? Then, he escapes. Who would you have bet cash money on in the real world?

Little Harry Potter versus Lord Voldemort :

Hagrid to Harry: "Some say he died. Codswallop, in my opinion. Dunno if he had enough human left in him to die."

"We bow to each other, Harry," said Voldemort, bending a little, but keeping his snakelike face upturned to Harry. "Come, the niceties will be observed.... Dumbledore would like you to show manners.... Bow to death, Harry...."


The best adversary directly roadblocks your MC from her/his goal in a way that is threatening and nearly unbeatable.

He/She is always one step ahead of your MC. Your heroine is swimming against the current, getting nowhere ... but at the end, the reader realizes the MC has also been getting stronger, wiser. The adversary has learned nothing because everything seems to be in her/his corner, necessitating no growth.


1.) Romance is all very well and good. But come on. Picture Eric Northman from TRUE BLOOD. Romance or sex?

For most readers, romance is just good table manners for sex. Witty talk is all fine. Flirting is fun because it delays the pleasure. But the goal is always in the backs of the minds of the readers in the exchange of words and actions.

I get around that somewhat with Samuel McCord because he is from both the era of the Revolutionary War and the Old West. And Victor Standish, for all his bluster and brass, is a 13 year old boy, struggling with his first love.

2.) Tension is the key to making music with violins and smitten hearts.

You have happy characters? Look around. You have no readers. Angst is the magnet for readers.

Tension is everything. Look at Bella and Edward ... who are the King and Queen of delayed gratification. A goal easily gotten is cheaply held.

Remember the underdog runt of a racehorse?

Victor Standish loves Alice Wentworth, the ghoul. And she loves him. She also has almost surrendered to her hunger for his flesh three times in the first novel. He knows she hungers for his flesh nearly as much as his heart.

But Victor, who in the past has so often bet his life for food and shelter, has no problem betting it for love ... something he has been without all his days.

Victor knows. Alice knows. All who care for them know : Alice will one day lose the battle to keep from eating Victor alive.

To lose his life for the love he never had? "Fair trade," Victor thinks.

And who are we to say different -- we who throw our lives away for so much less?

Whatever the tension ... it must be for most of the novel. Only at the end may it be released ... but only for a time. For in real life, there is no "happy ever after."


  1. "A goal easily gotten is cheaply held." Love it. That should be one of the Ten Commandments For Writers. Heck, it should be one of the Ten Commandments For Life.

    I guess I'm not doing so bad in the tension department. My characters are never happy...

  2. Amanda : So good hearing from you again. Angst is good. But neverending angst wears. Throw them a bone now and again. Every good movie or book has moments when things go the heroes way : those scenes turn out to be the image on the movie poster.

    I pray your New Year brings you success to all your publication dreams, Roland!

  3. I followed you back. :)

  4. *** Hello ! :o) I just wish you best of luck in a New Year ! It's my first time on your blog ! :o) *** Sorry for my bad english... I'm french ! ;o) ***

  5. Dude; I'm in the process of re-writing my query for the umphth time. Please, don't toy with me . .

    Especially with this awesome music . .

    I think Identifiable and Possible are my hardest concepts in my womens fiction. A mystery/thriller/fantasy has so many obtainable, physical goals; but that overall, literary feeling is so elusive.

    My villain is a concept; an emotional state of being to overcome. A simple life choice that everyone knows is the right choice, but the MC is blind to.

    Can you give me a post on the elusive, pure emotional conflict?

    I so get where you're coming from with the concept: the adversary isn't always the antagonist.

    Is it possible to have conflict without a distinct, physical villain?

    My novel(s) don't have a distinct good guy/bad buy relationship. Especially not the first novel in the trilogy.

    And while I think I sell the concept in the novel; the query will never pass muster . .


  6. Another post where I am saying, "Yes, yes, yes" all the way through. Don't suppose you have a book of your writing wisdom?

  7. Mary : Thanks for the compliment. I wish I could put out a book of what I've learned as a teacher and as a writer. But as an unpublished author, I would have little draw.

    Donna : Think of the movie, CASTAWAY : the act of survival itself was the daunting obstacle to be overcome. Each of us has a lifetime villain we must battle, never finding peace or complete victory -- our darker nature. Pitching concept as adversary is difficult. But your MC must contend in someway with someone who represents the wrong choice, doesn't she? Play that up in your query.

    If my work day today gives me any peace, I shall try to write a post that might help in some small way with your query.

    Nancy : Your English is just fine. And your English is much better than my French!

    Kristina : Thanks for following me back!

  8. You're brilliant at these acronyms, I love it! Every C.A.R needs G.A.S., so true! And you're right, there is a big difference between adversary and antagonist. It's good for us to remember that!

  9. More clarity, with you clever acronyms ... I have to agree with Heather. There is a difference and you nailed the explanation.

    I feel like I'm back in school and I wish i had you for my teacher.