So you can read my books

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


"Why do we go on?" I asked
as Gypsy, my ghost cat,

 lapped from my tumbler of ice tea,

I sighed, "There is no certain promise of success.  

Often we are mocked by those in our world.
Worse, sometimes we are endured or "forgiven our obsession" by those close to us."
Hemingway looked at me from across the table at Meilori's.
"Backbone," he rumbled.
He downed the remainder of his rum.

"Backbone, son. In yourself. In your work. That is the key to surviving this 'obsession' of ours."
He set his glass with a thump on the oak table. "Your backbone is between you and your self-respect. I can't help you there."
He lit a cigar. "But with the backbone of your story or novel ...
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."


  1. Those five questions really stick to the basics.

  2. You're right, the devil lives in the basics, too. Hey, we almost made it your way, got to Avery Island as hub had never been. Had samples of their pepper ice cream. Who woulda thunk it!

  3. Cool post. I love your lessons from Hemingway.

  4. Alex:
    Hemingway tried to reduce literature to basics certainly!

    I visited Avery Island when young. I'm glad you enjoyed your trip.

    M Pax:
    I enjoy the visits from his ghost, too. :-)

  5. Spiritual problem - now that is profound. That issue is strong in my writing, too.

  6. Thanks Roland. Sounds like our friend Ernest. I copied them and am applying them to my WIP right now.


  7. Hi Roland .. what a great post - and we certainly wouldn't go on, if our backbone wasn't there.

    Great basics .. excellent list and I loved the video .. cheers Hilary

  8. L. Diane:
    Even with our villains it comes down to a spiritual problem, doesn't it?

    Your comment makes me and the ghost of Ernest Hemingway feel our effort was worthwhile. Thanks!

    Wasn't that a great video. Backbone is a hard strength to develop for all of us I beleive. Well, maybe not with Ernest!! LOL.

  9. What a profound, yet simple truth in your post, Roland. Thanks for interpreting Hemingway's message. Gosh, how I needed to hear his words today. Got up enough guts to send out 9 well-researched agents yesterday and today. It took me over nine hours to perfect my query and research the perfect agents. Wish me luck. And, even though my hero is a young boy, your five questions were simply answered in my 440-word picture book. :)