Why shouldn’t truth be stranger than fiction? Fiction, after all, has to make sense.
Most novels are written to a formula, especially big best sellers. For example, John Baldwin, co-author of The Eleventh Plague: A Novel of Medical Terror, developed a simple formula that he used to structure his novel.
His ten-step formula is:
- 1. The hero is an expert.
- 2. The villain is an expert.
- 3. You must watch all of the villainy over the shoulder of the villain.
- 4. The hero has a team of experts in various fields behind him.
- 5. Two or more on the team must fall in love.
- 6. Two or more on the team must die.
- 7. The villain must turn his attention from his initial goal to the team.
- 8. The villain and the hero must live to do battle again in the sequel.
- 9. All deaths must proceed from the individual to the group: i.e., never say that the bomb exploded and 15,000 people were killed. Start with “Jamie and Suzy were walking in the park with their grandmother when the earth opened up.”
- 10. If you get bogged down, just kill someone.
That is one way to plot a novel. You need to analyze and learn what will work for you. Take your favorite novel (from the list you made yesterday) and look at it again as if it were a how-to manual on becoming a millionaire.
Writing Trick: When Ernest Hemingway started as a young report for the Kansas City Star, he was given a style sheet with four basic rules:
- Use short first paragraphs
- Use vigorous English
- Be positive, never negative
Asked about these rules years later, he said, “Those were the best rules I ever learned in the business of writing. I’ve never forgotten them. No one with any talent, who feels and writes truly about the things he is trying to say, can fail to write well if he abides by them.”
Your assignment: Read your favorite book again and break it down into section. Outline the action on large sheets of paper that you pin to your office wall. Find out the answers to these questions and jot them down and save them.
- What is the genre of this novel?
- What does the author do on the first page or the first chapter to gain your interest and attention?
- Is the writer telling the story from the first person or the third person?
- Who is the most important character? The character that the novel revolves around?
- What is the average length of each chapter?
- What is it about this novel that keeps you reading?
Writing Log: Words Written ____