Posts Tagged ‘Writing Popular Fiction’

“I can’t go on to page two until I can get page one as perfect as I can make it. That might mean I will rewrite and rewrite page one 20, 30, 50, 100 times.”
Dean Koontz

Writer Dean Koontz was born in Everett, Pennsylvania and raised in Bedford, PA. He was raised poor in a small four room house with a violent alcoholic father. That no doubt shaped his dramatic sensibilities. He told CNN, “There are so many demons in me I could write for another 100 years.”

After graduating from what is now known as Shippensburg University he began, like fellow best-selling author Stephen King, teaching high school English. (He happened to teach at Mechanicsburg High School which is where Se7en screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker graduated from school in 1982.)

I’m not sure how long Koontz was a school teacher but in 1968 he had his first book published and since then has written enough books to be named by Forbes as one of the top ten best-paid authors. More than ten of his stories have been made into films or TV movies.

It’s three for one day here at Screenwriting from Iowa as I’ve pulled three quotes by Koontz from his book Writing Popular Fiction.

“The theme, the ‘meaning’ of a story, is not something you can sit down and plan out ahead of time. Or, anyhow, it shouldn’t be. Theme should grow from your characters and your plot, naturally, almost subconsciously. If you sit down to deliver a Great Message to the reader, above all else, then you are an essayist, not a novelist.”

“Duty. In Shakespeare’s day, duty was a valid motive for a writer’s characters but is now dated. The masses no longer blindly give their loyalty to king and state. It is not sufficient, for example, to establish that your detective or secret agent is investigating the case because it is his job. The reader finds little empathy or escape in the exploits of a man just doing his job. Your protagonist must have a reason for his actions aside from the fact he’s paid for them. Why is he a spy or detective? What is there about him that makes him want to do these things, what need is satisfied? Therein lies your real motivation.”

“Of the seven major categories of modern fiction, the mystery and suspense forms—especially suspense—provide the writer with the greatest opportunity for financial success.”

Koontz has written thirty plus New York Times best sellers and more than 200 million books so if you’re looking for advice he’s a solid source.

FYI—Koontz has an excellent website including podcasts.

Scott W. Smith

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