So you can read my books

Monday, March 24, 2014


{Image courtesy of the genius of Leonora Roy} 
Some novels idle rough.

Some jerk, sputter, then stall.

Others run smooth and fast.

The difference? What's under the hood.

Some time back, I 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.
DAWN OF WOES will come out next year.

To see the introduction of Higgins, the werewolf cursed with human consciousness in her wolf form see END OF DAYS:


  1. I really enjoyed your outline for a good story, Roland. Katrina will always be a horror, and it's true we don't want to read depressing novels, which for me means NOT to reread Russian literature! Parts of Dostoevsky depressed me so much I understood why some Russians drink too much.

  2. Sadly not all stories have all the components to make it an enjoyable , or in some cases coherent, read.

  3. Helena:
    Yes, Dostoevsky always managed to depress me. His skill as a writer is to be admired but I can get depressed all on my own, thank you very much! :-)

    Sadly, some of those novels are bestsellers. Maddening! :-)

  4. All the components can be right, but without that magic essence, it still won't fly. We have to breathe life into it, and that's where the skills or lack of them will show.

    Seems like the term of 'author' is still under dispute, by those more lofty trad published authors who want to label the majority of 'those who write books and self pub' as writers. Another class system. (I'm referring to a Jessica Bell post)

    It's the results that count. And that argument has been simmering for four or more years.

  5. I'm sure I've read this post before. Have I just lost my mind or is this a re-post?

    Excellent advice per usual nevertheless, Roland!

  6. D.G.:
    The magic essence is heart -- life. We must care about life, about the people in it and around us. If we do not, we can crank out a harsh novel like Hemingway did -- but it will not be one that people are warmed by.

    Glad I could continue the argument to keep things lively.

    Thanks to the surgeries and my job, I often fly on vapors and sometimes re-work previous posts, knowing that some of my visitors are new and haven't seen all of my posts -- but I try to add something new for my old friends. :-)

  7. Well, thank goodness for that. Delighted to learn that some of my grey matter is still in tact :)