“The best advice for a budding writer is to ignore all advice.”
“A book, if it’s going to have any chance of succeeding…it’s got to be vibrant, and alive, it’s got to have a beating heart, it’s got to be organic. The only way you can get that is to have one mind working on it, which is yours.”
Carl, one of my Write Group buddies, is a major fan of thriller writer Lee Child and his hero, Jack Reacher. After dipping in to a few of Jack’s adventures, I can see why: the stories are propulsive and almost hypnotic.
With some 20 novels and 60 million copies available in 60 languages and 96 countries, Lee knows how to spin a yarn — and how to create a hero with enduring appeal. Here’s how he describes Jack Reacher in an interview: “He’s also the descendant of a very ancient tradition: the noble loner, the knight errant, the mysterious stranger, who has shown up in stories forever… He is a truly universal character. I think I lucked into a very fortunate position, where I’m writing the modern iteration of a character who has existed for thousands of years.”
At a ThrillerFest talk called “Tell, Don’t Show: Why Writing Rules are Mostly Wrong,” Child offered his views on how to keep readers reading:
Forget ‘Show, Don’t Tell’: Writers are storytellers — and that’s what readers depend on us to do; they don’t care about telling or showing, they just want to be carried through a book. “There is nothing wrong with just telling the story,” “So liberate yourself from that rule.”
Ask a question: According to Child, as human beings, we are hardwired to want the answers to questions. “The way to write a thriller is to ask a question a the beginning, and answer it at the end….For me the end of a book is just as exciting as it is for a reader.” When he writes a thriller, Child doesn’t know the answer to the question it poses. He just takes it scene by scene, throwing in different obstacles as he figures out the answer along with his readers.
Just write: Ultimately, Child says, writing rules make crafting a book more complicated than it needs to be — and they can get in the way of reaching your readers: “My method is just to start on page one and keep going…” Write on, Lee!