Monday, August 01, 2022

Secrets & Scents - Day 5

Something has to go wrong.

            Stories need tension. In the course of the MC’s life, something has to go south and the main character then has to deal with it. It’s an obstacle, a point of ‘rising action’ (for those familiar with the traditional plot diagram). Mostly, these are small hurdles, but over the course of the story, the crises get worse.

            The general idea is to follow Lester Dent’s ‘Master Plot Formula.’ Dent was the author of most of those early pulp adventures featuring Doc Savage. His pen name was Kenneth Robeson (actually, Robeson was a ‘house name’ that a half dozen or so authors wrote under, but Dent was the go-to writer for many years).

            What is his Master Plot Formula? It’s basically a crisis every 1500 words. A pulp story back in the day (say, 1930s and 40s) was about 6,000 words in length. So right from the get-go there is conflict – the hero gets hit with a menace, a mystery, or a heap of trouble. At the end of that first scene, he (or she) gets smacked upside the face with something more sinister than the opening crisis. You, the writer, must ramp up the volume.

            Next 1500 words, same thing. More grief for the hero, more struggle, more physical conflict, then another twist at the end of the scene with an increase of danger. Next 1500 words, same thing. Turn it up to 11. But in this third act, it looks like the hero will win – the ending could be near…but the hero doesn’t win! He (or she) gets it in the solar plexus! (Metaphorically speaking.)

            Finally, the last section, when all seems lost, the hero – with his or her own skill (not relying on a deus ex machina saving event) – extricates him/herself from the danger, the villain is overcome, the mystery is solved, and in one final twist or surprise, the opening problem or conflict or mystery is solved.

            Sounds great, right? I mean, I’d read something like that. But, truth is, it’s hard to pull off. Yes, it’s formulaic, but the power of rising tension and overcoming the odds is compelling. This kind of story telling is in our DNA, I believe. Not being mystical here. It’s how we’re wired up as humans. (No time to tease this out, maybe one day, lol.)

            All that to say, I only wrote one chapter today, Chapter 9. And the scene could have been pretty boring – Jo gets her inventory delivered. Remember, she’s handling the book part of the store, Kelli is doing the candles. It’s a book and candle shop mystery, right? (I don’t think there are many cozy mysteries using this combination, but I could be wrong. Anyway.)

            Getting 10,000 paperbacks delivered could have been mundane – but what if the majority of those paperbacks are duds? What if Donovan Huckly, Sugar Pine Station’s ‘Inspector General’ won’t allow Jo to sell most of her stock?

Or, what if there’s a special and very valuable book in the mix? All ideas I’m exploring in Chapter 9. You’ll have to read the novel to find out what crisis Jo faces while stocking the shelves in anticipation for their Grand Opening. I’m not going to spoil it for you! (grin)

            So that’s what I wrote today. Not sure why it was more of a struggle to get two chapters in, but I only wrote one. But, I’m happy with the progress. More thoughts next time.

Add more tension! Rising action is where it's at. (grin)

Writing Tip…

You don’t have to follow Lester Dent’s formula exactly, but it’s worth reading, and the ideas of increased tension and struggle for the main character are worth incorporating into your story. Here’s a link that outlines his Master Plot formula

Progress: Writing Secrets & Scents... 

Introduction – Part 1: Launching a New Series 
Introduction – Part 2: The Missing Novel 
Day 1 - 3100 (Chps 1 & 2) - Total: 3,100 words 
Day 2 - 3300 (Chps 3 & 4) - Total: 6,400 words
Day 3 - 3150 (Chps 5 & 6) - Total: 9,550 words
Day 4 - 3100 (Chps 7 & 8) - Total: 12,650 words
Day 5 - 1550 (Chpt 9) - Total: 14,200 words


Here's a placeholder image for Secrets & Scents - A Kelli & Jo Candle Shop Mystery by yours truly. I'll be launching a Kickstarter Campaign in September, 2022, for cozy mystery fans to acquire their exclusive pre-release edition of my latest novel with a brand new, professionally designed cover. Watch for details. 

In the meantime, if you become a Patreon Subscriber, you'll be able to read Secrets & Scents as I write it! New chapters of my WIP every week, plus a backlist novel a month and bonus short stories exclusive to patrons.

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