So how is your novel coming?
We’ve covered the opening of your story or novel, the importance of description and sensory elements, what to write about, and even had a stupendous contest (results still being tabulated). Now it’s time to enter the inner sanctum. Time to learn the lost and hidden secrets to creating reader interest.
These secrets were taught to me in the context of movies, so that’s how I’m going to explain them. It’ll also be easier to understand them this way as more people will be familiar with the examples. Basically, there are nine reasons, and only nine reasons, why mass audiences buy a ticket to see a movie (or buy a book), and they are all story-telling elements.
The rule of thumb is having two or three of these elements, correctly applied, in your movie guarantees a modest hit. Four or five elements equals a decent-sized hit. Six or seven elements turns your movie into a major hit. And if your movie (or novel) contains eight or nine of these elements you have a blockbuster on your hands.
What’s great about these elements is they work regardless of who the actors are. In fact, stars are made entirely because they play roles which contain these elements. Every major star was made this way, no exceptions. If you want to create a star, all you have to do is cast an unknown in a part that contains these elements. Harry Cohn used to say, “Gimme your aunt, gimme your dog, gimme a bum off the street, and I’ll give you a star.” And he was right. He knew all he had to do was cast someone in a role that correctly used these elements and the audience would be magnetically attracted to that person. Using these elements, you can write “actor proof” scenes and scripts. Scenes and scripts that no actor, no matter how bad or untalented they are, can ruin. For directors, that’s a dream.
For our purposes, we can use these elements to create bestselling novels that honor God, elevate men and women, or add beauty to the world.
These elements are powerful. In my estimation, there are less than ten people currently alive in the world who know how to consciously apply them. You are about to join that very select group, so use these elements wisely. Don’t waste them on trash.
Secret Element #1: Undeserved Misfortune
Undeserved Misfortune is the most powerful of all the elements. It occurs when a character in your story experiences something bad and threatening that they don’t deserve. This creates fear and pity in the reader or audience and causes them to identify with that character. In movies and plays, where a live actor portrays the character, it creates an identification with both the character and the actor. This is one of the three ways in which a star is created.
The movie Titanic contains multiple levels of Undeserved Misfortune. First, there’s Undeserved Misfortune for everyone on the ship. Through no fault of their own the ship is going to sink and most of them are going to die. Second, Kate Winslett is being forced by her mother into an arranged marriage with a man she does not want to marry. Third, Leonardo DiCaprio is framed for a theft he didn’t commit, then handcuffed and left to die when the ship starts to sink.
The movie Ghost offers double levels of Undeserved Misfortune. First, Patrick Swayze is murdered while in the prime of life, so the audience experiences fear and pity for him. Second, his fiancé, Demi Moore, loses the man she loves so the audience also feels fear and pity for her.
High Noon has multiple levels of Undeserved Misfortune. First, the killer that Gary Cooper put away is being released from prison and is on his way back to town with his gang to get revenge. Second, the townspeople and even his own deputy desert him. Third, his wife is threatened with losing her husband, only minutes after being married.
You can find Undeserved Misfortune in Bambi (Bambi’s mother gets shot), Cinderella (Cinderella is forced into servitude by her evil stepsisters and not allowed to go to the ball), Love Story (Ali McGraw gets cancer), Forest Gump (he’s not only crippled and forced to wear a leg brace, he’s picked on by kids at school), westerns (settlers attacked by marauding Indians and bandits), war movies (soldiers losing their friends in battle or being taken prisoner and tortured), thrillers like The Fugitive (innocent man framed for a crime), and every genre of movie you can name.
Every blockbuster movie and every bestselling novel contains some form of Undeserved Misfortune.
Undeserved Misfortune is so powerful it transcends fiction and is cunningly used in advertising (the housewife who’s shamed because she doesn’t use Pledge or has “ring around the collar”) and politics. That’s why the Left is constantly framing themselves as victims. They know it will evoke fear and pity (and votes) from the public. Look at anti-bullying campaign. In reality it’s a thinly disguised attempt to corrupt children and society by promoting homosexuality, but it’s sold to the public in a way to make them feel pity for young people who are picked on for being “different.”
Creating Undeserved Misfortune in your novel is a surefire way to guarantee its success.
So how is your novel coming?