So you can read my books

Monday, November 1, 2010


Does your story languish like a becalmed ship upon a lifeless ocean of prose?

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.

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. And Harry's adventures certainly don't lack for action.

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. 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 close 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.

Remember :

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 November writing.


  1. Hey Roland, happy November writing to you too. Loved the apparent randomness of this..:)

  2. I'm beginning to feel like I don't know what to write anymore. I don't want to write something I don't love, but nobody wants what I write. Sometimes I think it would less stressful just to pretend I've never written anything.

  3. I loved how you synthesized your thoughts about writing in this post. Happy November writing!:-)

  4. Fantastic advise, Roland. I shall be keeping this post handy for future reference.

  5. You are always so helpful Roland. Thanks for all the great advice.

    I have an award for you at my blog. Please stop by to claim it. It is my pleasure to share it with you.


  6. L-Aussie : I know many of you are involved with NaNoWriMo this month. The creative writing teacher in me thought it might be helpful if I staked out a few signposts for you along the way. I'm glad you like the breezy feel to my post.

    Flying High In The Sky : and :) to you as well.

    Wendy : Write what you love. Trying to discern the market demands in the future is beyond our control. When we find an agent, he or she may suggest we write a novel in a specific genre from what he/she knows is a sure sell for us. That is when being able to take the skeleton of all stories and insert it into a specific genre will come in handy.

    I personally have decided I will never find an agent. I keep on trying, of course. And I do it to the best of my ability. But I do it with the same sense of certainty of success as I buy lotto tickets.

    I spin my tales, polish them, submit them, get rejected, then set them on the shelf like hand carvings. I'm proud of them for themselves alone.

    Sashindoubtsu : It makes my day when you tell me you enjoyed my posts. Thanks.

    Alan : You're such a good writer that it makes me feel better knowing you find something useful in my posts.

    Michael : Thanks for the award. The teacher in me wants to help if I can. That you found something in my post means a lot to me.

  7. Great points, Roland. I especially like the one that a story is a story, no matter the genre, horror or romance - the structure of suspense and love is the same.
    Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

  8. Roland, always impressed with your beautiful posts.

  9. I needed some inspiration right now, and this was IT! Thanks, Roland! You're a great teacher. You know how to engage and hold our interest.

    Especially liked your idea that suspense is better than action and stretching it. Good point. I try to get more suspense into my work. Studying Hitch, natch:)

  10. Great advice! I'll have to keep these points in mind.

  11. Sizzle sells the steak ... love it!

  12. Gosh darn I just love your inspiring posts. I come here for a nice fresh dollop of motivation. :)

  13. Good reminders, and wonderful examples to prove your point!

  14. Ooooo, Skyline looks good!

    I think my nano novel is suspense, mystery, thriller. I know what's gonna happen, but the reader doesn't so I'm putting in little hints, some real, some to throw them a curve....great advice!