Sunday, October 12, 2008

Pulp Direction

Today is the birthday of Lester Dent, creator of Doc Savage ("The Man of Bronze"). Writer's Almanac describes his formula for writing a 6,000-word pulp story:
Dent wrote more than a thousand pulp fiction stories, all with the same formula, which he detailed in an article that explained an exact formula for writing a 6,000-word pulp story.

Here is the formula for the first 1,500 words:

1. First line, or as near thereto as possible, introduce the hero and swat him with a fistful of trouble. Hint at a mystery, a menace or a problem to be solved — something the hero has to cope with.
2. The hero pitches in to cope with his fistful of trouble. (He tries to fathom the mystery, defeat the menace, or solve the problem.)
3. Introduce ALL the other characters as soon as possible. Bring them on in action.
4. Hero's endeavors land him in an actual physical conflict near the end of the first 1,500 words.
5. Near the end of first 1,500 words, there is a complete surprise twist in the plot development.
The complete formula is online at The Lester Dent Pulp Paper Master Fiction Plot. In Dent's own words: "No yarn of mine written to the formula has yet failed to sell."


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