So you can read my books

Saturday, April 2, 2011

C is for C.A.R.

C is for C.A.R.

If ...

If you need a good story for your novel. 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's is the only human flesh in that entire dimension.

Alice turns towards Victor, a growl deep in her throat and her fingers outstretched.

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.

Suffering not only builds character, but it builds a good story, too.


  1. Oh my gosh...that is so simple yet so perfect. Love the acronym, Roland!Edge of Your Seat Romance

  2. C already Roland. You're supposed to have Sunday off! Now you'll be all outta sync. Have Monday off instead. You'll probably need it! Naturally Victor made an appearance. Well done on the CAR.


    L'Aussie Travel A - Z Challenge Posts

  3. Thanks, Raquel. I find that if I make mental prods short and cute, they stick with me.

    Charmaine : I try to make it simple and funny to stick with you when you're in the midst of writing.

    Thanks Raquel and Charmaine for visiting and commenting, Roland

  4. Denise :
    I work so many days straight in a row that I stay out of sync! Some days I feel like a badly dubbed Japanese movie with my mouth moving and the sounds coming out a fraction of a second later!!

    Thanks for visiting and caring enough to tell me to rest. Sigh. I do need to rest, Roland

  5. Okay, I wasn't sitting in the dark when I watched that, but it scared the bejesus out of me anyway. Oh that darn Guillermo!

  6. Wendy :
    Even being a manly man, and all, I jumped at the end, too. It looks to be scary. Thanks for visiting and commenting, Roland

  7. Roland, thankyou for the lovely compliment about my blog, I'm tremendously flattered. Remember to take your own advice from yesterday and just BE...a day of rest is good!

  8. I love the CAR Acronym!!!! Thanks! Take care

  9. ...well written, Roland. And yes, without C.A.R., we are writers without a S.T.O.R.Y. ;)

    Put your feet up and have a great weekend, my friend.


  10. I love this acronym....

    I remember it from an earlier post you did.

  11. Great advice. I hope Alice never accidentally takes a bite!

    I also hope that you're getting some rest, take it easy!

  12. Great advice! I remember someone once told me ever chapter needs to be a complete scene. That little bit of advice changed my writing overnight.

  13. Alleged Author : That was great advice you were given. It hit me as I was browsing a bookstore one day that any page we write could be the only page a person considering our book will ever read.

    Any page.

    Scary. Any page. So there can be no filler pages, no pages which act as pauses before the storm.

    Each page must have a riveting moment. A funny line. A heart-wrenching glimpse of life. One of those. Or optimumly, all three.

    WordsCrafter : When Alice first started her relationship with Victor, she was considering a finger sandwich in the throes of her great hunger. Guess whose finger!

    Michael : Yes, C.A.R. is something I have been trying to impress on our friends for awhile. Bruce Lee became an expert, not by doing a move once, but many times. Have a great weekend.

    Thanks, Elliot. But I work so many days in a row that when I get a day off, I have a ton of undone duties to do. You have a restful Sunday.

    Kitty, thanks, and you rest today, too.

    Sue : I slept 12 hours straight today. Just got up in fact. So, of course, a long row of things to do face me!

  14. Another thankful commenter who hadn't heard this awesome acronym, here. Thanks for sharing, Roland, especially on what should have been your day off!
    - Sophia.

  15. Thanks, Sophia. I read your fascinating post today and left a comment. As a weary rare blood courier, if I don't post when I can, I might not be able to post when I want to!

  16. Michael : I love Michelle Rodriguez, too. Sadly, she prefers Vin Diesel. Go figure. LOL. Roland

  17. I may actually remember C.A.R.! Nice.

    I use the R.K.R. method, usually: Ramble. Keep. Rambling.

    I have to maintain careful focus on longer pieces lest I get distracted. It's like that in real-life, too.

    - Eric

  18. Eric : focus can be hard, especially after sleep deprivation from little babies crying in the wee hours of the night.

    That you have the focus you have is admirable. R.K.R. -- My supervisor is an expert at that! Roland

  19. Good tips! Very helpful. Thanks!