Two A Hero Or Heroine

The anti-hero has a place in category fiction but only if he is presented as being admirable. His moral values may be the opposite of what we think of as right, so long as he is true to the values he has set for himself and so long as we can sympathize with him as a character. There is no room, however, for the loser, the weak-kneed or spineless hero. The name of the game is Escape. Your average reader wants to pick up your novel and be carried away from nagging spouse, overdue mortgage, and...

Four A Great Deal Of Action

A strong plot consists of a story that is reinforced by the plot skeleton we mentioned earlier that simple, linear formula. But a strong plot can seem weak and bland without action movement from place to place, confrontations between characters, personal confrontations between a character and himself. The reader wants to be kept in perpetual anticipation. The hero and heroine must constantly be engaged in conquering some barrier that grows logically from their own actions in trying to solve...

Note To The Reader

This book can be valuable to the new writer. It provides insights into category fiction, offers suggestions not to be found elsewhere, and ought to save you time and rejection slips on the way to a sound, professional writing career. I will be pleased to hear from anyone who, having read the book, feels he's gained from it. However, spare me letters that say You forgot to mention theme I didn't forget. I neglected it on purpose. The theme, the meaning of a story, is not something you can sit...

Adventure Stories

At one time, the adventure story could be classified as a vital genre in its own right. Its material was the exploits of adventurers and explorers, men who lived at the edges of civilization and who fearlessly faced scorching deserts, high mountains, hostile natives, impenetrable jungles, savage seas, and frozen arctic wastelands. The adventure plot consisted, primarily, of how the characters got from Point A to Point B, and though the story people might be differently motivated and squared off...

Alien Contact Story

The second plot type in science fiction is the alien contact story. This includes invasions of the Earth like H. G. Wells' The War ofthe Worlds, though, as mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, this kind of fright story is presently out of vogue. More subtle and therefore more terrifying invasion stories, like John Christopher's The Possessors, are far more acceptable to today's readers stories, in brief, in which only a few people perhaps only a single household or individual may ever...

Altered Past Story

Sixth, we have the altered past story. These tales are based on the notion that the world would have been substantially different than it is, if some ma or historical event had not happened, or if it had been reversed. For example, Philip K. Dick wrote a masterful Hugo Award-winning novel (The Hugo is the science fiction world's equivalent of the Oscar) The Man in the High Castle, which dealt with a world in which Germany and Japan won World War II and split the United States between them. That...

Alternate Worlds Story

Akin to the sixth type is the seventh type of science fiction story the alternate worlds story. Imagine that, in the beginning, there was only one Earth but that different possible Earths branched off from ours at various points in time. Let's say that every time something could have happened two different ways, another possibility world came into being. On our world, there was a World War I which the Allies won in another world, the Allies lost in our world, we did not avoid the Second World...

Behind The Scenes In Hollywood

The author paints the inside story of moral corruption and sexual permissiveness among stars, starlets, producers, directors, screen writers, and other motion picture glamour types. Henry Sutton's The Exhibitionist and Jacqueline Susann's Valley ofthe Dolls are classics of the form. Harold Robbins' The Inheritor's is another, interesting for the strength of its language which is harsher than in most Big Sexy

By Dean R Koontz

Podkayne of Mars is copyright 1963, by Robert A. Heinlein, and is published in hardcovers by G.P. Putnams Sons. The Puppet Masters is copyright 1951, by Robert A. Heinlein, and is published in hardcovers by Doubleday and Company, Inc. The sections from these works appearing in this book are reprinted by permission of the author and his agent Lurton Blassingame. Quotations from Thorns, Nightwings, and The Masks of Time are copyright 1967, 1968, and 1969 by Robert Silver-berg, and are reprinted...

Chapter Four Mysteries

The mystery story is the oldest of the seven categories discussed in this book. Oh, certainly, some fantasy was written centuries before Edgar Allan Poe created the first fictional detective (C. August Dupin, in The Murders in the Rue Morgue, published in 1841), most notably The Iliad and The Odyssey. And erotica has been around nearly as long as the written word even the Bible contains subdued erotic passages, stories of outlandish orgies, incest, and lascivious women. The Gothic novel...

Chapter Nine Other Questions

Familiar with the five basic ingredients of category fiction a strong plot, a real hero or heroine, believable character motivation, a great deal of action, and a colorful background and having learned the fundamentals of each category, you will have other things to consider, things of a lesser magnitude than those already discussed but nevertheless also vital to the quality of the finished work. Most of these do not present problems unique to category fiction, though they are none the less...

Chapter Ten Practicalities Questions and Answers

I want to be recognized as an artist, not just as a storyteller. When the category fiction writer must adhere to plot formulas, how can he create real art Plot is not the only element which makes fiction great. Characterization, motivational developments, theme, mood, background, and style are equally important in the creation of prose art. Fortunately, the basic genre plot skeleton is flexible enough to allow you artistic breathing room, while at the same time relieving you of doubts about the...

Chapter Three Suspense

Of the seven major categories of modern fiction, the mystery and suspense forms especially suspense provide the writer with the greatest opportunity for financial success. Most hardcover and paperback trade book (Trade books are the kind sold in general bookstores, department and drug stores, etc.) houses publish regular mystery and suspense lists and a substantial portion of the novels labeled as general and mainstream fiction are actually suspense novels. The leading best-seller lists often...

Crime Stories

When your protagonist is a criminal, he may be either admirable or evil. The evil protagonist is usually mentally unstable rather than rationally motivated, because his crimes can be made more horrifying and suspenseful that way than if the reader can sympathize with his reasons one of the most frightening villains is the utterly unpredictable man. Perhaps the best suspense novel using a madman as its lead character is Stephen Geller's phenomenal She Let Him Continue, also published under the...

Dark Fantasy

The foremost writer of dark fantasy in this century is H. P. Lovecraft (1890-1937), whose stories remain in print (even though some were written as much as fifty years ago) and enjoy regular, cyclic bursts of extraordinary popularity. With stories like Pickman's Model, which deals with a painter who fashions portraits of monsters that, the narrator learns, are not imaginary, as they first seemed, The Rats in the Walls. The Dunwich Horror, and dozens of others (The Dunwich Horror and The Colour...

Epic Fantasy

Epic fantasy combines dark fantasy with sword and sorcery, then works these diverse elements into a story with the scope, theme, characterization, and plot of a serious modern novel. As in dark fantasy, the element which is being contested between heroes and villains is something of great import, a fundamental clash between good and evil for the future of all mankind. The epic story takes, as its second concern, the plights of its individual characters unlike the sword and sorcery novel, the...

Five A Colorful Background

Not every suspense novel must take place in Jamaica, Istanbul, or Singapore. One of my own, Blood Risk (under the pseudonym Brian Coffey), is set in Pittsburgh and the surrounding countryside, certainly a mundane place. No matter where the story is set, the writer should create gritty background, a stage on which hotels, houses, streets, and people are uniquely painted. This is part of the escape a category novel provides and is as important to the suspension of disbelief on the part of the...

Journey Through A Strange Land Story

The last story form is best described as the journey through a strange land story, a great trek and epic quest narrative that is science fiction chiefly by virtue of its setting which is also its plot. The characters in this kind of tale must journey from Point A to Point B, through a landscape as different from our own as a Dali painting is from the reality it represents. Jack Vance's Big Planet is the classic of this form, dealing with a huge world many times larger than Earth, and a forty...

One A Strong Plot

In category fiction, there is no substitute for the age-old story formula the hero (or heroine) has a serious problem he attempts to solve it but plunges deeper into danger his stumbling blocks, growing logically from his efforts to find a solution, become increasingly monumental at last, forced by the harsh circumstances to learn something about himself or the world around him, to learn a Truth of which he was previously unaware, he solves his problem or loses magnificently. One of Donald E....

Resolution By Fate

When you have spent 200 pages piling one suspenseful incident atop another, making your hero's plight unbearably tense, do not solve his predicament by ushering in the cavalry or its present-day equivalent. If the hero is going to be saved, it must be by his own hand or by events he has initiated himself. Likewise, do not solve the plot problem by having the protagonist-antagonist clash turn out to be one big mistake. A reader who has breathlessly followed the growing terror of your hero's...

Spy Stories

Stories of secret agents, counter-espionage, international intrigue, secret formulas, political prisoners, passwords, and dagger-carrying assassins are perennially popular, though the audience for the form does peak and ebb. The heroes here are spies usually for the United States or for Great Britain and are developed in one of two ways (1) as another James Bond superhero who has access to fantastic gadgets and whose physical stamina and moral resources are without limit, or (2) as a realistic...

Sword And Sorcery

The plot of a sword and sorcery novel invariably concerns a quest at the order of the queen, king, sorcerer, or some-such for jewels, wealth, magic totems, sacred relics, magic texts, a charmed locket or mystical artifact, or for a lovely and nubile girl kidnapped by evil, barbarian people. Subsequently, the hero engages in a long journey and or chase, searching for the missing quantity, encountering beasts and magics that try to stop him. He usually finds what he wants. The form takes its name...

The Cavalry And Indian Story

The new writer is often tempted to do this as Ouster's Last Stand, using Indians as immoral savages who harass and torture the good cavalry men. At one time, indeed until quite recently, this was permissible. Today, the average reader has read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown (by far the best research work on the horrible war against the American Indian) or its equivalent and is aware of the true relationship between the cavalry and the Indian. More often than not, the cavalry was the...

The Far Future

When the story is set centuries from today, on this or another world, you have a greater imaginative freedom and correspondingly less research to do. No one can know what life will be like in 4000 A.D., nor how it might be structured on an alien world. No amount of research into the sciences can prepare the writer for accurate prediction when such spans of time are involved. The only rule, for far future stories, is this your future must be consistent in its detail (not such a different rule...

The Near Future

Structuring a story background of the near future twenty, thirty, or forty years from now is in some ways more difficult than creating an entire alien planet in some impossibly distant future, because it cannot be made up wholly of the imagination. You must research to discover what engineers and scientists project for each area of living. From this data, you must then extrapolate a possible future, one which might logically rise out of the basis for the future which we are building today. This...

The Openingthewildwest Story

This kind of story includes those plots dealing with the journey of a wagon train across the continent, the construction of the railroad, telegraph line, toll road, stagecoach line, pony express route, or similar endeavour. Your hero may be the boss of the wagon train or of the construction company opposed by reactionaries, ranchers who want more money for the use of their land, Indians, and outlaws in equal numbers. Or he may be a local rancher, a small businessman whose property is being...

The Outlaw Story

Here, your hero is an outlaw, and he must be treated with as much sympathy as you would accord the lawman. His crimes rarely include murder, and never include unprovoked murder. He is most often either a highwayman or a bank robber, forced into a life of crime by the social conditions of his day (which we have discussed above) or by the Civil War and the changes it brought to his life. (The Civil War is the factor which influenced the hero of Lee Hoffman's Wild Riders to become an outlaw.) You...

The Race Against Time

Setting a time limit for the events of the story creates an urgency that adds to the suspense page by page. For example Unless he located Hawfield in twenty-four hours, the girl would be killed, or He had six hours to reach the rendezvous point, and if he did not make it, he would be left alone behind enemy lines without resources of any kind. As the minutes tick by, each obstacle to the hero's progress is magnified and made more (pleasantly) frustrating for the reader. Two novels which make...

Third Person Limited Viewpoint

The third person limited viewpoint differs from the omniscient viewpoints, because the writer stays with the hero, showing the reader only what transpires around the hero, describing other characters mostly through the hero's perceptions of them. The advantages here lie in the ease with which the lead can be made sympathetic. If the author does not have to jump from character to character, he has time to make the hero vivid, and he will more likely snare the reader than if he treats all the...

Time Travel Story

The third plot type in science fiction is the time travel story. Ever since H. G. Wells created the form with The Time Machine, readers have evidenced a continuing interest in the subject. One reason for this popularity is that the science of time-space is so esoteric, so intangible, that a writer can formulate a wonderful new discovery to justify the existence of the time machine and place his story at any point in history today, tomorrow, next week, a hundred years from now, or a hundred...

Tough Guy Characterization

The Mickey Spillane hero, one who has few scruples and kills indiscriminately, is no longer terribly popular with the average reader. If a hero kills, he must have ample justification, must feel some remorse, or as in the case of Parker, in Donald E. Westlake's novels must kill only when his own life is threatened and with an unspoken but moodily evident distaste for the necessity. The tough guy is always making moral judgments and justifying his own murderous impulses through those judgments,...

War Stories

Here, the heroes are soldiers, and the values portrayed are nearly always pure black and white, good and evil. The Second World War is the most popular background for novels of this nature, perhaps because the Nazis were so inexcusably evil that the reader can easily draw lines between the protagonists and antagonists. This simplicity of moral judgment is necessary, because a war story requires so much killing if the reader is not comfortable with the clear-cut assignments of guilt and virtue,...

Behind The Scenes In Anytown

The author dissects life in a small town, giving the reader a scorchingly honest view of hidden moral corruption and sexual permissiveness. Grace Metalious' Peyton Place was the first major novel of this type. In the first four BigSN plot types, you must also attempt to carry off a roman a clef French for novel with a key , a story in which the characters all seem to be allusions to real people preferably quite famous people and to real events the reader may have read of in newspapers and...

First Person Limited Viewpoint

When you employ the first person narrative voice, in which the hero tells his own story, you strengthen further the advantages of concentrating on a single lead character. If your lead is fresh, untyped, and individual, he can best be presented by letting him color the story events with his own judgments. The serious drawback to first person narration is the awkwardness with which the hero must speak of himself. Writing in third person, you can be objective but if he is telling about himself,...

Chapter One Hammer Nails and Wood

Basically, there are two general kinds of modern fiction category and mainstream. The first includes those stories we can easily apply labels to science fiction, fantasy, mystery, suspense, Gothic, Western, erotica and is called category fiction chiefly for the convenience of publishers, editors, reviewers, and booksellers, who must categorize novels to differentiate areas of interest for potential readers. The second, mainstream fiction, is anything which does not comfortably fit into one of...

Chapter Five Gothic Romance

In my third year as a freelance writer, the science fiction market temporarily dried up, due to editorial overstocking at several of the houses with the largest monthly science fiction lists. Since I was selling far more science fiction than anything else, I was caught in the pinch. I was learning the suspense form, but had not yet had great success with it, and I was several years away from writing the big, serious novels I'm now concentrating on. I needed new markets, fast. The previous year,...

Method Two Playing With The Narrative Hook

This game is similar to the first, though you begin with a narrative hook (a sentence that will grab the reader's attention), not a title You sit at the typewriter and, without a great deal of cerebral exercise, type an intriguing opening sentence or paragraph. It is not necessary to know where the story will go. The idea is to present yourself with interesting and challenging beginnings out of which, when your free associations begin to jell, you will be able to construct a completed work....

Three Clear Believable Motivation

The hero and the villain must have obvious objectives and goals the winning of love or wealth, the preservation of life, etc. Of course, motivation is also essential in mainstream fiction, but it is often deep psychological motivation which the reader only sees through a distorted lens and must fathom for himself. Category fiction must never leave the reader in doubt about a character's motivations. Good characterization is a requirement, but the story is not to be sacrificed for the sake of a...

Scientific Crisis Stories

These tales revolve around an impending disaster which can only be solved by, or is a direct result of, modern scientific methods. The crisis is often generated by mishandled or stolen bacteria cultures which are being developed in the United States germ warfare program, as in Henry Sutton's Vector. Or the crisis may be a biological attack on the U.S., as in James Henderson's fast-moving Copperhead. Or the threat may come from some bizarre source, such as outer space, as in Michael Crichton's...

Chapter Seven Erotica

Generally speaking, there are two kinds of erotic novels the Big Sexy Novel and the Rough Sexy Novel. You can make a fortune on the first and little more than pocket money on the last. Big Sexy Novels are written by Harold Robbins, Jacqueline Susann, Henry Sutton, Morton Cooper, Rona Jaffe, and many others. Six figure incomes are a starting place in the Big Sexy Novel field, with million dollar rewards if you achieve the position of a Robbins or a Susann. Rough Sexy Novels are written by, among...

Method One Playing With Exotic Titles

A story title is not always dictated by the finished work. Indeed, by spending an hour playing with odd title possibilities, you may gradually generate an entire story idea. Begin by choosing a dramatic or colorful word that will catch a potential reader's interest and which will be the central word of the title you finally arrive at. Man, horse, winter, rain, coat, and similar words would be bad choices, for they are too common and undramatic. Words like death, blood, fear, witch, killer,...

The Chase Scene

The antagonists will pursue the hero for only one reason he has something which they want. This something may be vital information, or a commodity of more immediate value such as jewels or money, or it may be knowledge which would incriminate them if he were to release it to the proper authorities. If the last is the case, their only reason for giving chase is to catch and kill him. Even though the hero's death is not implicit in the first two circumstances, the threat of death is desirable,...

Chapter Six Westerns

As long as the American public looks upon the history of the Old West as a romantic and nostalgic era, there will be a market for the Western novel, and this means the marketplace should be open for a good many decades to come. Few hardback houses besides Doubleday publish a large yearly list of Westerns, because there simply is not a large high-price audience for the form. On the other hand, Dell, Bantam, Fawcett, Avon, Lancer, Signet, Ballantine, and most other paperback houses release...

Omniscient And Modified Omniscient Viewpoints

An omniscient viewpoint is one from which the author may look in on any of his characters, switching from hero to heroine to villain to any of the minor characters and back to the hero again. Free to view the unfolding events from many vantage points, the writer can develop several plot threads, building suspense by letting the reader see how all the pieces will come together while the characters are kept ignorant of the true situation when the reader knows something the characters don't, this...