So you can read my books

Saturday, April 6, 2013

U is for UNDER the hood

What moves your story along is what gets your car going, too.
The engine under the hood.
Some novels idle rough.

Some jerk, sputter, then stall.

Others run smooth and fast.

The difference?
What's under the hood.

I have always likened your novel
to the concept C.A.R. :

C ..... Conflict

A ..... Action

R ..... Resolution


I. You can put a bow tie on a penguin, but that won't make him
James Bond.
(And I wouldn't bet any money on him in SKYFALL either.)

* Calling an emotional moment conflict doesn't make it so.
A.) You and I deal in conflict every day

B.) But authors won't be writing books about us.

1.) Our spouse calls us fat, and our snapping back ...

2.) Conflict ..... yes.

3.) Dramatic Conflict? Usually no ...

unless magic revenge spells fly in the next chapter!
C.) My life on the streets of Post-Katrina New Orleans ...

1.) Conflict? Yes.

2.) Dramatic Conflict? No.

3.) Katrina is old news ... which has a shorter shelf life than dead fish.

a.) Its horrors are only fresh to my nightmares.

b.) There were only losers, no winners. All the villains I saw got away with their crimes.

c.) There was no correcting action I could take,

therefore no satisfying resolution. Only comforting the grieving over losses, that in many cases should have never happened.

d.) Your novel should not be depressing. The reader can be depressed for free.

You're asking her/him to part with hard cash money.

II.) Then, what is Dramatic Conflict?


A.) Let Robert Frost explain :

Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For Heaven and the future's sakes.


1.) At least in the mind of your Main Character.

2.) The want must be primal ... the roadblock to it must be overwhelming.

3.) Think Zombie Movies :

a.) You're either Fast Feet or
b.) You're Fast Food.
c.) Life gets cut back to the basics :
the quick or the dead
or the undead.


I.) Hemingway was right --

A.) "Never confuse movement with action."

B.) What then is Dramatic Action according to Hemingway?

1.) He insisted that the action and its form be solely placed on one individual.

2.) The character needs to dominate that action.

Focusing on a single matador against a single bull distills the larger human drama of all of Mankind against those dark forces that threaten us.

C.) Your hero shapes the kind of action :

1.) Robert Jordan of FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS:

2.) While Jordan is the epitome of the hero in his actions,

he is also in command of himself and his circumstances to a far greater extent
than Hemingway's previous heroes.

He is driven to face reality by deep emotional needs.

C.) For action to be dramatic, it must be either ...

1.) A direct attack upon the problem or

2.) A direct defense against it.

D.) Harry Potter writing his Congressman about nasty old Mr. Voldemort just doesn't qualify.


I.) Satisfying.

A.) Simple?
B.) Not hardly.
Have you ever thrilled to a great suspenseful mystery, only to gasp out loud at the resolution,
"That's it?"

C.) Look at those books that you put down in your lap with a smile.
They all had one thing in common:

1.) They lived up to the promise of the build-up.

2.) They lived up to the mood of the prior chapters.

a.) One book I read with gusto.
It was about a young painter
living above a strip club.

b.) Delightful, picaresque characters, snappy dialog, some truly funny moments, and a pace that never leaves you flat-footed:

c.) "Duncan Delaney and the Cadillac of Doom" is a comic circus of strippers and bikers, cowboys and Indians, and fine art.
How could you go wrong?

d.) An ending that put a sour taste in my mouth and drained all the fun out of the entire read.

Think Christopher Moore's funniest book, ending like THE GREAT GASTBY.

e.) You can buy a hardcover for a dime from Amazon and see for yourself:

D.) Be true to the mood, promise, and premise of your book.
If it takes you a month to write that solution that has your reader gasping in laughter or wonder, take that month.
What do you think is the most important thing to remember when writing? 



  1. HI, Roland,

    Funny, I was just thinking about you and your comment came up at my blog!

    LOVE this post. SO true. A writer DEFINITELY needs to live up to the promise. There is NOTHING worse than reading a great book only to be disappointed with the ending. It's NOT all about the buildup.... but the finish.

    Thanks again for the great advice. I hope all is well.... I am still in wifi hell, but at least Mcdonand's isn't blasting the AC on this very chilly Florida day.

  2. Michael:
    I am still in job/jobless limbo, but there are worse fates. No one is shooting at me at least! :-)

    I hate that you are WiFi hell, but chilly this time of year is rare. Enjoy is while you can!!

  3. Great post. Love the included picture and video. Under the hood is a great concept- but then I've always liked how you viewed CAR in relation to writing anyways. LOL
    Have a great day Roland!

  4. Summer:
    I'm very happy you liked my post today. That moment in GLADIATOR has to be my favorite. May this weekend be filled with happy surprises for you, Roland

  5. you are always on the money with your thinking and post... sometimes i cannot think of something to respond... other man that was good!

  6. Primal. Thank primal. Got it. And no bow ties on penguins.

  7. I completely agree with Jeremy, in that I too can't think of anything to say ... other than, man that was good!

  8. Spectacular post, Roland! I write primarily internal conflict, opposing wants and needs vs. expectations and personal ethics, but CAR still applies. Just as with external conflict, internal conflict must be acted upon and a resolution reached, otherwise there is no story.

    ~VR Barkowski

  9. Jeremy:
    Yes, but just writing a small HI makes me feel as if I am not playing to an empty house. And your comment is helping to save Survivor Duck (he was washed up against the back door of the blood center when I returned to check the damage from Katrina!)

    Primal certainly rivets the interest. And some penguins have angrily emailed me, assuring me they have James Bond beat! :-)

    Thank you, Wendy:
    Survivor Duck thanks you, too! Just writing a word or two makes me feel "heard". :-)

    Internal conflict usually spills over into external conflict as poor Hamlet found out!

    William Faulkner would approve of your style since he felt all good literature stemmed from the human heart in conflict with itself. Don't be surprised if his ghost pays you a visit -- he was always a ladies' man. :-)

    Thanks for the kind words about my post! Roland