So you can read my books

Monday, August 3, 2015


One Rule to Writing Fiction is that --
Bad Decisions make for good novels.

I think instead that Good Decisions make for Great Novels.

I don't know about you, 

but often in the past I came to a point in my life when all the road signs seemed written in a foreign language ...

   and the way ahead was obscured in fog, no sure way to be seen.

Most times in life, we simply do not possess sufficient data to make the definitive "right" decision.

We do not know if the salesman is lying about points of the home we are about to buy.  

We do not know if our priest is off diddling little boys in his spare time.

We do not know if new discoveries will make the profession we are about to train for obsolete.

Most of us just make the best decision we can based on the information we possess at the moment.

That is why when we read a story in which the MC makes a decision  

that is obviously contrary to the information she or he has we groan, 

get lifted out of the moment, and realize this is just a fabricated tale.

A great novel is one in which the MC makes what seems to us to be a good decision but it unravels into something horrible.

We can buy that since that is what has happened to us so often in the past.

I mean you go to the hospital to get better. 

But too often, the opposite happens.

 Recent estimates show that every year 648,000 people develop infections while in the hospital. 

Nasty ones, too, that may not be treatable with antibiotics and that prove fatal for 75,000 hospital patients.

Just one of those infections

 — caused by the bacterium Clostridium difficile, or C. diff — 

sickens about 290,000 hospital patients per year and kills at least 27,000, 

according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

 And many hospitals don’t do a good job of controlling the infections: 

3 out of 10 hospitals in CR’s ratings system got low marks for not keeping C. diff in check.

 But you and I do not know the names of those offending hospitals. 

That fact could lead us to make what appears to be a good decision that turns out to be a very, very bad one.

Sometimes whether a decision is good or bad is only known in retrospect. 

 A novel composed of those kind of decisions seem real and absorbs our readers into the consequences.

We all have been in car accidents where the other party is to blame so not every character in your novel must be savvy.

How many of us have been tripped up in high school by a well-meaning dunce of a friend or by a really vicious dysfunctional who wore a charming face? 

Readers need to feel an affinity, not superiority, to the central characters to be drawn into the flow of the story.

What do you think?


  1. True that we only know if we've made the right decision after the fact. And often the best decision goes horribly wrong.
    That many hospitals? Crap, I hope I die at home.

    1. I hate hospitals: the workers take the patients for backdrop in the drama of their lives. It is scary that hospitals can kill us by their ineptitude. Me? I hope I get raptured!

  2. Ha! I'm with Alex on dying at home!
    Feeling an affinity is indeed a must for any discerning reader. I have to be comfortable with any companion I take along my journey. :-)
    Imagine how boring life would be if everything remained the same...

    1. I want to go in my sleep! Thanks to the multitude of flawed people all around us (many of them in positions of power), boredom is seldom in the cards for us, right?

  3. I can't stand it when characters make ridiculous decisions that make no sense. You're so right Roland!

    1. It throws me right out of the flow of the story, reminding me it IS a story. Sigh.

  4. You're right about affinity and how people don't always make the right decision -- how can we? This is a big reason why I never got into the Nancy Drew novels as a young girl: she was so freaking PERFECT all the time. Drove me nuts.

    As for the scary medical statistics about infection: did you read about the "historical" experiment in England just a few months ago when a historian convinced some medical lab people to test a medieval recipe for an "eye balm" to see if it was any good. The result shocked everyone: they used it on powerful bacteria in a petri dish, and the balm wiped out most of the little buggers, even more than could a modern day antibiotic.

    Sounds like the beginning of an interesting novel...

    1. Yes, it does sound like the germ of a fascinating novel as in Michael Crichton type of thriller.

      Nancy Drew was a Mary Sue before the concept came into being, wasn't she? :-)

  5. Hi Roland - we need to treat the information we 'receive' as true and what we expect to hear ... so often in real life we don't have sufficient information in the first place to make that sensible decision ... so often we've been fed wrong information.

    Sadly the thing lacking now-a-days is common sense - and that gets wiped out as we tick boxes ...

    I'm interested in Helena's medieval comment ... thankfully we do have people who think ...

    Take care and let's hope we all make the most sensible decisions we can through our lives ... cheers Hilary

    1. I always take what I read or hear from the news with a ton of salt. History is replete with leaders lying to the detriment of the "common man!"

      Helena really should run with that medieval ointment saga shouldn't she?

      You take care, too. You make me smile each time I see your name here in my comments section -- a friend has visited. :-)

  6. I agree with you. There's space to play, though, such as letting the reader know more than the character, and making sure the reader understands this, as well as the fact that without knowing it, the character chose poorly.

    It can be a great way to ramp up the tension in a book, but it's a method that must be used wisely.

    1. Hitchcock was a genius at that I think, He was the master of suspense and tension. I still think twice about taking a shower over a bath!! And no attic investigations for me!!! :-)

  7. Blogging is the new poetry. I find it wonderful and amazing in many ways.