Robert E. Howard, ghost writing ...
Yes, though I am a ghost I keep up with the evolution of words and phrases.
After all, during the Great Depression
my stories earned me an income that surpassed the local banker's in my small Texas town of Cross Plains.
So again I ask you ... is your novel sexually active?
Or does it just lay there on the page?
Homer, Shakespeare, Poe, Twain -- the immortals of fiction knew it was the key to fiction :
The heart draws the eyes --
if you want your novel read, it must have love and action.
Characterization is great,
but Edgar Rice Burroughs (the father of all cardboard heroes) was the most translated author of the 1900's. He took exotic locales, a man of action, and love in jeopardy, mixing them in a stew millions and millions bought.
Those of you who know only my characters but have never read my stories, you may think of cold steel, hot blood, and sensual women. Yes, they were in my stories. And no, they weren't. The heart was there and mystery.
J K Rowling? Where's the love there? What heart doesn't go out to a mistreated boy? Oliver Twist. Wart, young Arthur. Harry Potter is a meld of those two icons.
The heart draws the eyes. The action, tension, and danger keeps the pages turning.
Your dream is to be a professional.
Yet, only the big name authors can keep to their genre of choice.
The rest of us must be adaptable enough to go from genre to genre, depending upon the demands of the market.
To sell as many stories as I did, I had to go from one genre to another : Westerns, Sea Stories, science fiction, horror, fantasy, even war stories.
If we are professionals, we can cross genres because we know the core skeleton of a good story :
The heart draws the eyes. Action and dread turns the pages.
We all know the core plot :
The underdog hero/heroine is pulled into a problem beyond his/her capacity to handle.
He attempts to solve it to only to find himself plunged into deeper dangers that grow logically out of his actions and the actions of his adversaries.
All appears lost : the dream is crushed, his friends are gone, and hope has died.
In this midnight of the soul, he learns a Truth about himself, about Life that re-shapes his thinking. He struggles, renewed and reborn.
He triumphs or loses magnificently ... or a little bit of both.
Some turn up their lips at the thought of formula --
but from HAMLET to THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA if you look closely enough, you will see the core skeleton of every good story.
Love in jeopardy draws the reader in. The tension of what waits around the corner keeps the reader turning the pages. And flashes of action, like lightning bolts, spur the reader on.
Like cooking a stew, you must sift the proper balance of ingredients. A likeable hero. A dream/love just out of reach. Danger. Tension. A hope of success. Series of cruel failures. And the last triumphant struggle.
The reader wants to be kept in perpetual anticipation,
to not be able to put the book down,
to laugh, to cringe with sympathy at cruel blows, and to cheer at the end.
Last thought : sizzle sells the steak.
Suspense is better than action. (And you can stretch it over more pages.)
The fear of the unknown is always stronger than the grabbling with the monster unmasked. Action taken against a barely seen adversary is always to be preferred.
Happy NEW Year writing.***
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