So you can read my books

Saturday, January 26, 2013



It's all about money.

I hear protests out there in the cyber-darkness. Yes, writing is literature. And literature, when done well, is art. You're right.

Crafting great prose is an art form in and of itself. You and I write because we must. We are artists. Still ...

We can only write as much as we want if we can support ourselves doing it.


Those are what we must write if we are to find fulfilment in writing for a living. But how do we write bestsellers?


We drive by wrecks all the time. I drove by one not too long ago as a limp, bleeding woman was pulled gingerly out of a bent, steel coffin of a car.

Drivers slowed almost to a crawl. Me, too. It was an irresistible force tugging my eyes to the sad scene. For the other drivers, too. We couldn't help ourselves.


We identified with that woman, who just minutes earlier had been driving down this same highway as we were doing then. We could be her. In a sense, we WERE her.


That is it. We are all vulnerable. We know it deep down though we live mostly in denial of that fact. When we see someone struck down by circumstance or cruel fate, we pause, drawn to the scene. We identify with that person.

Subconsciously, we pull for that person to overcome the challenge -- because we identify with that person. When she or he triumphs over the overwhelming crisis, in a way we do as well. When she slumps in defeat, our spirits slump with her.

It is the spectral nocturne we try to ignore : the dirge of natural selection, the arabesque of convoluted evolution, and the haunting refrain of our need for survival.

This tearing of this veil of denial is the common cord that binds the human race together.

Identification. Vulnerability. The bleeding wound. They work every time.

If your main character is not vulnerable in every chapter, you have a problem. Your MC must face loss himself or face the loss of someone for whom he cares deeply. He must be worried and afraid in some sense.

If he doesn't care deeply in each chapter, the reader won't either. And the first reader you will lose will be the agent. And you will lose your sale.

Ouch! That's a loss all of us writers can identify with.

To write a bestseller, write what you know, what all of us know : life is fragile, unpredictable, and shorter than we would have it.

Write each scene, each chapter ending worse for your hero or heroine until the ringing climax. Make it hard for the reader to put down the book.

Write danger, threat, vulnerability ... write hard-won, almost lost victory, and you will have your bestseller.
A movie that ignores all the above advice, promising to be a cult classic anyway :


  1. Loss does clear the vision, even near-loss shakes us awake. It can be one of those life markers,like losing a parent, or a bad accident where everyone survives.

    Doesn't giving a character a flaw make them vulnerable (like an Achilles heel)?

    Thanks for the tips.

  2. D.G.:
    Every hero needs a flaw. Frodo needs the Ring. The Fisher King of the Grail Legends needs his unhealing wound. And Superman his kryptonite.

    We cannot relate to perfection. I'm happy that my little tips are helpful to you. :-)

  3. Even if the character himself doesn't realize his own vulnerability.