Write Compelling Fiction – Article Seventeen

Remember as you read this, it’s written looking at the western and historicals as examples, however the rules, unless otherwise specified, apply to all genres….

MOTIVATION: It’s critical you give your characters proper motivation. The fact that Ethan and the cackler had a run in on the Lazy Z ranch gave credibility to the gunfight in the saloon .นิยายอีโรติก

Most people aren’t devil-mean or angel-good but rather something in between. Editors like the worst villains to have redeeming qualities and the best heroes to have flaws.

But whatever good qualities or flaws they have, make sure they have motivation to act as they do.

If Ethan had merely slapped the cackler and disarmed him, would he ride out of town at a gallop and would the posse come after him? Have proper motivation for what happens in the plot.

DRIVING LINE: The single most important thing you have in plot is the driving line through the novel. The driving line is very close to theme, but not quite the same. The driving line is usually the protagonist’s goal, and that is not necessarily the same as the theme. His desperate attempt to cross Death Valley in order to reach the California gold fields can be the driving line to the theme, persevere and you will succeed.

Ethan escapes town and runs for his life-his survival is his driving line.

The Union soldier on a quest to find his kidnapped sister-driving line.

Shane has made a vow never to pick up his guns again-driving line.

Edward Fitzgerald Beale wants to open up the West, and a wagon road will do it-driving line.

Find the driving line, stay with it, and your novel will be compelling.

STYLE: Style is simply the way you write. As a beginning writer, don’t worry about style. You develop style. Style is what identifies our writing, even without our name attached to it. Great writers like Hemmingway have a distinctive style.

Don’t worry about style, it will come. Don’t try to copy some great writer’s style-then you’ll never develop your own.

And I didn’t say don’t study it, just don’t copy it.

MAKE ‘EM LAUGH?: Sure. As long as its part of the plot and not an overwhelming part. Like humor, sorrow should work into the plot. A genre western reader picks a western off the rack because he likes adventure and the old West. If he wanted a good cry, he’d reach for Love Story. In a historical, you can do what you want. And again, the above rules were made to be broken.

In a romance it’s make ’em laugh, make ’em cry, make ’em wait, and turn ’em on. Those same ingredients, with ‘turn ’em on meaning with action as opposed to sex, make a good western, but like romance readers, western readers expect you to be faithful to the genre. Don’t make humor or sorrow your primary plot device.

MAKE ‘EM CRY?: You bet. Like making them laugh, making them cry takes a special talent. Much of it, I believe, is pacing. Kat, my wife, has a special talent for writing emotion into her novels, and romance lends itself to emotional reads. Study other writers pacing to determine how they made you cry, then try it in your own writing. Making the reader cry is the ultimate in reader involvement and a physical manifestation of their being in the reader’s trance-even more so than laughing. And believe me, they remember it, and you, if you involve them to that degree.

WORD COUNT: I promised to tell you how to count words. Count every space (character and space) in a maximum line on the page (I use sixty) times the number of lines on the page (I use twenty-five) and divide by six. In the format I use for novels, this results in two hundred fifty words to the page. Even though (due to white space and half pages at beginning and end of chapters) the words aren’t there, count them. The aforementioned is the old style of counting. Now most editors merely use whatever the computer says. As far as I know, no computer program counts “white space” so it’s not very accurate, but whatever….