Learning Novel' Writing from Agents and Editors
by Jay Dubya
Page 2 of 4
Reader’ allegiance is the author’s greatest weapon. Yes, you
can have bad guys in your novel, but they have to be the antagonists and not
the heroes. And the bad guys should hang around until almost the end, and if
they do hang around until then, they ought to relinquish some of their devious
traits and be influenced by the good guy’s superior personality’ strengths. The
main character must have "character."
The protagonist (good guy’ main character) ought to be present
and active in every chapter, and the antagonist must appear or at least be
mentioned in every chapter.
Each character in your novel should have a separate and unique
personality. No two characters should seem alike to your readers. In my
satirical novel Ron Coyote, Man of La Mangia, Ron Coyote is the idealist, the
dreamer out to change the immoral world and his companion Pancho Sanza is
practical, naughty, and hedonistic. The two engage in many amusing
conversations, and their polarities in interests and values facilitate and
support the humorous theme of the adult-oriented novel.
No easy formulas’ are in existence that can guarantee success
to an author. One must find his (or her) writing style and voice through years
of experimenting, rejection, frustration and failure before fame and fortune
become realistic products of your labor. But most importantly, accept criticism
from knowledgeable editors, admit you’ve made mistakes and learn something from
Writing a novel is not a task; it is a labor of love
that is an ongoing project. If writing seems tedious and too much like work,
you’d be better off writing letters or newspaper’ ads than attempting to
professionally author a book. Novel writing is like a sickness that you love to
do. It is mental madness that must be completed, and while in progress, your
book is the most important thing in your life that exists on a higher plane
than even food and oxygen.
Characters alone do not make a good story. Plots and subplots
by themselves do not make a good novel. Novel writing is akin to the double
helix DNA’ model. Characters on one strand and plots and subplots on a second
strand wrap around each other in an upward spiral, forming a symbiotic
relationship. Together their chemistry should unite in a synergy that builds
and expands and reinforces itself from chapter one until the final chapter’s
last sentence. Good characters need good plots and subplots, and good plots and
subplots need good characters. One factor cannot sustain a strong novel without
the aid of the other. It all sounds quite simple, doesn’t it?
Okay, your sci-fi’ novel now has terrific characters, both
protagonists and antagonists, and an extraordinary plot and well-synchronized
subplots moving upward in a well’ organized pyramid structure. Congratulations!
You now have seventy percent of the elusive good novel’ writing’ mystery
solved. But remember that the fiction book’ industry itself is also a giant
pyramid, and only the top three percent of the "damned’ hard-working" authors
at the apex of the writing matrix make the big bucks. To enter into their
eminent 3% domain you have to be better than the 97% of "wanna’ be’s" in the
base of overcrowded writer’s pyramid. This is where diligence in pursuing
excellence must be honored and implemented.
Setting is another crucial element of novel writing that novice’ writers
take for granted. My editors at the literary agency kept reminding me,
"Everything that is said, all dialogue, must have a definite time and place
where the characters are exchanging conversation. You can’t state something
like ‘Tom Smith once told Bob Jones that Jones was incompetent’." When did Tom
say that?Next Page
Copyright© 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 Jay Dubya, sffworld.com. All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author.