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John Tucker John Tucker
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Three Things Every Novel Needs

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If you're wondering, I'm the same John Tucker who was here previously. I changed my email so I can't access my old profile. I'm looking forward to catching up with my old friends here!!


If you're writing/written/thinking about/ a novel, there are certain things you know you have to avoid. Cliched scenarios, stereotypical characters, and tired outlooks on life, love, and the pursuit of wealth or happiness. Guess what – You Can't. Everything you've thought of while you're typing away has been done before. In different novels, various corners of the world, and in assorted bedrooms, study's, and offices. What YOU need to do is adapt a few to your own novel, twist them around, and make it enjoyable to read. Push the envelope at times. Surprise the reader. Here are my choices for the three things every novel needs:

The First Rule Of Write Club – Don't Be Boring.

Nothing can kill a book's chances of being read more than a yawn inducing plot, the dreaded info-dump of a first chapter, and staid characters that make your octogenarian Aunt Betsy look like a tweaking party girl. (And if you happen to have one, call yourself a lucky relative and give me her digits. :-P )

For Divisive, I broke a cardinal rule by killing off a main character ---- in the first sentence.

For my Young Adult novel, The Little Girl You Kiss Goodnight, I had a wholesome teenager who aspired to be a modern day Nancy Drew. She was also involved in a sex ring at her school and intimidated by a lecherous uncle during the novel.

For Romancing the Fox, my good-guy protagonist is an alcoholic, woman-worshipper who has a psycho-jealous love interest and gets the bright idea to hire a porn star for his latest movie.

Bottom Line – It doesn't matter if your main character is Amish, mentally challenged, unattractive, or a chiseled muscular god – if they're not three dimensional, prone to do stupid/heroic/ things, get into bad situations, or have something very, very wrong with them ---rewrite. Characters that closely resemble Tom Hanks in a book or movie went out of style ten years ago.

The Second Rule of Write Club – Embrace the Villain or Anti-Hero.

Despite what you think, a reader doesn't like a goody-goody, milk-drinking, by-the-book character – they only suffer them. Readers want someone who can make their blood boil. A person who makes the hero/heroine's life utter hell by any means necessary. A foul overbearing creature who makes any real-life adversary in a real person's all too real life seem like a Tom Hanks.

In Divisive, my main villian, Dennis Rask, is a charming, affectionate, self-degrading/aggrandizing sociopath who manipulates families into killing each other. He's also funny, loyal to a point, and kills puppies.

In the Little Girl You Kiss Goodnight, Thad Linder is a lecherous, sweet-tempered, guy-next-door who alternates being a caring relative and a grabby pervert. The kind of guy most families ignore – until it's too late.

In Romancing the Fox, (which has bad people coming out the ying-yang) the worst is a young man who finds out he has AIDS and makes it his life's mission to infect as many people he can before he goes out in a painful glory.

Bottom Line – These are the characters a reader gets off on. A character who makes them clench their teeth, shake a fist or their head and say 'I want their sorry ass DEAD!!!!!!! That's what you want in a novel. Not a wimpy, unselfish straight arrow guy who watches 60 Minutes, drinks Diet Pepsi, and kisses his wife on the forehead before they go to sleep every night.

The Third Rule of Write Club – Avoid the Happy Ending

Now calm down. :-) It's not what it seems. Avoid a happy ending when everything comes out okay, the bad guy loses, and everyone is morally enriched by the experience. REAL LIFE ISN'T THAT WAY, SO WHY SHOULD YOUR NOVEL BE ANY DIFFERENT????

You need an ending where the protagonist barely survives, either physically, mentally, or ethically. You need an ending where a real loss is achieved, someone close to the protag dies (or even the protag), or an ending that makes the reader gasp out in horror, clench their jaw, and say to themselves ' I never saw that coming.'

Bottom Line – Loss makes a character or novel stronger – even if they don't want it. Problems, even the ones that don't get worked out to the benefit of the protag, are sorely needed to keep a readers interest. Make the villain come out on top, while the hero comes away with being morally enriched by their experience. Make the hero/heroine triumph at the end, but not without losses that break them down and make them wonder if the endgame was worth the price of victory.

Disagree / Agree --- I look forward to your comments. Thanks for reading.

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