So you can read my books

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Do you need a good story? Of course you do. All authors do.

Well, get a car ...

C ..... conflict

A ..... action

R ..... resolution.

Duh! Right. All novels need those three ingredients.

1.) But sometimes the simple principles are the most profound. And C.A.R. is one of those.

You see, it's just not your novel as a whole that needs Conflict, Action, and Resolution. Each of your chapters needs them as well.

And to carry the locomotion analogy a bit further, each chapter must end with a hook, leading the reader anxiously to the next.

Think of the teeth in the sprocket wheel of a bicycle : each tooth must seamlessly fit into the next link in the bicycle chain to propel the bike forward. So, too, must each chapter in your novel do the same.

Example :


in my WIP of the next Victor Standish novel :

Victor, his ghoul friend, Alice, and the ghost of President John Adams have escaped the ice palace of the revenant Theodora. They did so by entering her cursed Black Mirror which led them to an endless, lifeless cemetery world ...

one with seemingly no exit.

Just as they discover that, Alice's stomach starts to growl badly and her voice becomes the gravel it does only when she is ravenous.

And Victor is the only human flesh in that entire dimension. End of chapter. Makes you want to jump to the next one, doesn't it?

2.) Your novel is much like a onion, too.

Each layer of your novel must bring tears and spice to your reader's mind.

Conflict. Action. Resolution. All three must be contained, as much as you can arrange it, on each page. Impossible?

It better not be ... because one page is sometimes all you are going to have to entice your prospective reader in a bookstore.

3.) You must think of your novel as a microscope :

The throbbing life of conflict, action, and resolution must resonate in each sentence as much as you can craft it to be ... especially the first sentence of your novel and each following chapter.

{Hurricane Katrina lashed the French Quarter as the sobbing mother sat on the curb, cradling her dying baby.

In that one sentence, you have painted locale, time, conflict, action, and a hope within the reader for a rescuing resolution.}

All in the first sentence.

{General Eisenhower walked angrily to the prison cell of Adolp Hitler.

In that one short sentence, you have painted locale, time, genre (alternate history obviously) with conflict, action, and a question of what kind of resolution could there possibly be to this scenario.}

4.) Your first sentence is all the introduction to your agent you're probably going to get.

Conflict, action, and resolution must resonate like a tuning fork in that one important paragraph. In the thirty seconds it takes to read the first sentence, first paragraph is the length of time most agents take to make up their mind.

5.) C.A.R. not only lets you know what to include but ...

what to exclude :

everything that does not pertain to the conflict, the action, and the resolution in each paragraph, page, chapter, and final whole of the novel.

No matter how beautiful the prose or how insightful the character study, if it does not propel the story forward using C.A.R. --

then it has to go. Ouch.

Have a great Tuesday, Roland


  1. So many hints and tips here, thank you. CAR is a good one to remember!

    Happy New Year to you.

  2. Glynis : Thanks, and a prosperous, successful New Year to you, too! Roland

  3. Happy New Year,The Dude Abides

  4. Ian : You have a great blog. I love your selection of poetry and the photos that go with the selections. I didn't think anyone had caught my tip of the hat to THE BIG LEBOWSKI in my Christmas Eve In Meilori's post. Thanks for reading and appreciating it. Have a great New Year, Roland.

    And may we all abide, right?

  5. It looks like I need to jump in the CAR as I do my final edit on my first novel.

    This was so great, Roland. My last crit partner tried to beat these points into me, but you explained it far clearer than he did... Thanks.

    What a first day back at work. I hope today in more tranquil.


  6. Thanks for sharing C.A.R. with us.

    Have a happy New Year.

  7. Hey, if Vin is driving it, I want to read about it! LOL! Great post and not just because Vin's driving the car. I love the acronym!

  8. Hi Roland. I'm glad I read your post today, not that I haven't heard this advice a hundred times before, expressed in a hundred different ways, but because CAR is something writers must keep in mind ALWAYS. We can never get lazy, as I often do as the chapters mount. I'm revising chapters 39-41 today, the all important ending to my novel--and I will keep Conflict, Action, and Resolution branded in my mind and hopefully in every paragraph on every page. Thanks for the reminder. CAR, easy to remember. I like that.

  9. CAR is good acronym and it's easy to remember. Thanks.

    I find that some of my editing clients either forget to capture the reader in the opening sentence or the first chapter. It used to be that you could develop the tension slowly, but not so anymore.

  10. My goodness! I love the way you explain things. The C.A.R. analogy works for me too. And what about that teaser with Victor...what happens?!

    I always feel I learn things from your blog, Roland. Thanks!

    Also: Thank you for your kind words and encouraging comments on my story excerpts...made me smile.
    Edge of Your Seat Romance

  11. Good points all, but especially that these elements are necessary ALL through the novel--on each page. Hard to sustain that, but a GREAT goal!

  12. So concise and understandable. I've bookmarked this page. Thanks Roland.

  13. That was awesome. CAR, what a fabulous concept.


  14. Great post--and it's an easy acronym to remember, at least! It's just a matter of applying it . . .

  15. Amanda : As a former teacher, I like to make things easy to keep in mind. Thanks.

    Golden Eagle : Yes, I have trouble applying it, too!

    Donna : I'm glad you liked my twist of a rule of writing!

    Mary : It means a lot to me that you've bookmarked this post. Thanks.

    Carol : You're right. C.A.R. is so hard to carry from page to page. But we never what page will be the one that a strolling reader will choose to decide whether or not to buy our book. Writing certainly isn't easy, is it?

    Raquel : Your first chapter was simply stunning. I just had to say it.

    As for Victor's fate in my new WIP : it turns into a race against evolved raptors (Jurassic Park predators become manlike) from building to building in the French Quarter -- all to save Alice from torture. It involves Parkour :

    If you are not familiar with free running as it called, here is a link of some of the stunts Victor pulls to escape flesh eating raptors hot on his heels :

    Helen : Boy, are you right. No tension these days, is there? Hook at the start and keep dragging the reader with suspense and surprise and surprise after that. Thanks for reading and commenting!

    Margaret : I wish you luck with chapters 39-41. Those are hard chapters, for you are weary as an author ... but you sure don't want to lose the reader right at the end!

    Heather : for me it was Maria! LOL. Glad you liked C.A.R. May your publication dreams come true this New Year!

    Mediea : Thanks so much for visiting and commenting. It means a lot to me. Have a great New Year! Roland