INSIDE THE ART, CRAFT AND BUSINESS OF WRITING for Film, TV, Books, Stage, Print or Digital Media (with Particular Attention to Comedy)
Stieg Larsson, Stephanie Meyer, J K Rowling, James Patterson and Dan Brown…
What `Top 10 Things’ do their best-selling fiction novels all have in common?
1) ALL ARE IN THE SAME GENRE…
All are in the Suspense-Mystery-Thriller Genre.
2) ALL ARE A `TEXTBOOK’ CAMPBELL / VOGLER’S HERO’S JOURNEY.
All of them have the “Hero’s Journey” story structure, and have all of the classic Joseph Campbell / Christopher Vogler`monomyth’ Hero’s Journey myth Character Archetypes. (Take a look at The Feature ScreenWriter’s Workbook (free) if you aren’t familiar with The Hero’s Journey…)
3) ALL HAVE SIMPLE/`INVISIBLE’ PROSE STYLE
– All of them are, in general written in simple, `unmemorable’/non-literary prose. i.e. So that, a general audience (possibly even, a `young adult’ reader) could likely read these books, without necessarily `going to the dictionary’ every second page. So…
– In other words: Write like Hemingway. (Small words. And often: short sentences.)
4) THE SAME THEME
All have the same Theme: i.e. – Revenge.
(Or: ALL HAVE THE SAME “SCENE-ERY” TO THEM)
All these novels are constructed dramatically, with `Scenes’ – much like a feature film. i.e. – The Pacing and the Timing, the Scene Structure and Scene Length (and typically, the Dialog) – is all constructed much like a film screenplay. (And, notably – they have all therefore been Optioned, Adapted, and Filmed and – Marketed back to the mainstream, and – fans of the books. Which is, `the mainstream’ at any rate.)
Importantly – by contrast – such heartbreaking works of staggering literary genius as `The Catcher In The Rye’ or say `On The Road’ and `The Great Gatsby’ tend to be filled with internal narration, and slow (or even haphazard/”meandering”) plots, and – thus don’t necessarily make for popular movies (or even `films’, which are more `arty/literary’ than movies.)… They just make for: awesome literary novels.
(Note also that – those 3 (latter) novels aren’t mystery-thrillers, as such; certainly not in the Sherlock Holmes/Agatha Christie-style suspense-mystery-thriller style/tone/genre)
6) CLIFFHANGERS, AT THE END OF EVERY CHAPTER.
Self-explanatory; this is also partly why they are viewed as “page-turners” (Or perhaps: “Chapter-turners”?). The Millennium trilogy books are especially good at this (leaving a suspenseful question `hanging’ at the end of almost every chapter).
This also feeds back into Point #5, i.e. – Movies in general kind of have to do this – or else, often there can be a lack of suspense – which, the Audience may find boring.
7) All feature `VILLAIN TRIUMPHANT’ stories in their first book of the franchise.
Also, take a look at the StoryAlity Blog (http://storyality.wordpress.com/) if you aren’t familiar with this story trope…
8) ALL ARE AMATEUR-DETECTIVE / PSEUDO-`SHERLOCK HOLMES’ STORIES…
Again, the Millennium trilogy is the most obvious example of this. This also ties back into point #1, that all of them are in the Suspense-Mystery-Thriller Genre. The hero is always a `Detective’ of some sort (sometimes an `amateur’ detective, e.g. Potter, or Bella) and – has to `solve the mystery / catch the killer’ – or else they (or someone close to them) will die. In other words: high stakes, life & death suspense.
9) ALL OF THEM FEATURE A “NON-EVERYMAN”, `ELITE’ HERO…
i.e. – These protagonists are NOT ordinary/Everyman/Everywoman people. – They are all `super-special’ or outstanding in some, or even many ways. So – make your novel’s protagonist super-special; an expert, or highly-talented (or genetically-gifted… which, is the same thing as highly-talented anyway)…
And now – the last, most politically-contentious point:
10) 80% OF PROTAGONISTS IN THESE BEST-SELLING HEROES ARE PRIVILEGED WHITE MALES.
Bella isn’t a male, Alex Cross isn’t white – but all the other protagonists are white males.
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That’s my own view, on Common Story Elements in those best-selling novel series. Another interesting book on this topic is:
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Originally published at http://on-writering.blogspot.com.au/2011/04/top-10-common-elements-in-all-best.html
by JT Velikovsky
High ROI Film/Story/Screenplay Guru
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Great Book-Related Art: http://bibliolectors.tumblr.com/