Pulp fiction: a blast from the past
As another building block for wannabe authors (including yours truly, because we never stop learning until we die!), I’ve been looking at older advice on how to write – plot, setting, characters, etc.
We tend to think of “how-to” advice for authors as being something relatively recent, and in one sense it is – because many of those giving the advice are not authors, or are not particularly popular authors, judging by their sales numbers. I don’t know what qualifies them to offer such advice . . . all I know is that I won’t take it. I’ll look to successful authors, past and present, and try to learn from them.
One resource that caught my eye was “The Lester Dent Pulp Paper Master Fiction Plot“. It dates from 1939.
Having written 159 novels in 16 years (published under a pen name), plus countless short stories, I reckon Lester Dent knew what he was talking about.
This is a formula, a master plot, for any 6000 word pulp story. It has worked on adventure, detective, western and war-air. It tells exactly where to put everything. It shows definitely just what must happen in each successive thousand words.
No yarn of mine written to the formula has yet failed to sell.
The business of building stories seems not much different from the business of building anything else.
Here’s how it starts:
1. A DIFFERENT MURDER METHOD FOR VILLAIN TO USE
2. A DIFFERENT THING FOR VILLAIN TO BE SEEKING
3. A DIFFERENT LOCALE
4. A MENACE WHICH IS TO HANG LIKE A CLOUD OVER HERO
One of these DIFFERENT things would be nice, two better, three swell. It may help if they are fully in mind before tackling the rest.
There’s more at the link. I find it a useful technique for not just short stories, but for chapter construction as well. If my WIP is feeling a bit flat, or not getting anywhere, I can analyze recent work through the lens of this approach, and often find a way to improve it almost immediately.
What resources have you found useful to inform and influence your writing approach and style? Let us know in Comments. Anyone know where to find Will Shakespeare’s Ye Olde Scribbler’s Suggestions?