Posted by: Kathy Temean | October 8, 2013

Does Your Story Have the Right Stuff?

JohnDMacDonaldI bought Scott Bell’s Revision and Self-Editing for Publication this past week and in it he pointed out an introduction written by the late John D. MacDonald’s for a short story titled, The Good Old Stuff part of his Travis McGee series of short stories. He talks about what he wants when he reads a book and what he strives for in his writing. I thought I would share it with you.

The Good Old Stuff:

First, there has to be a strong sense of story. I want to be intrigued by wondering what happen next. I want the people that I read about to be in difficulties’ emotional, moral, spiritual, whatever, and I want to live with them while they’re finding their way out of these difficulties.

Second, I want the writer to make me suspend my disbelief. … I want to be in some other place and scene of the writer’s devising.

Next, I want him to have a bit of magic in his prose style, a bit of unobtrusive poetry. I want to have words and phrases really sing. And I like an attitude of wryness, realism, the sense of inevitability. I think that writing’ good writing’ should be like listening to music, where you identify the themes, you see what the composer is doing with those themes, and then, just when you think you have him properly identified, and his methods identified, then he will put in a little quirk, a little twist, that will be so unexpected that you read it with a sense of flee, a sense of joy, because of it aptness, even though it may be a very dire and bloody part of the book.

So I want story, wit, music, wryness, color, and a sense of reality in what I read, and I try to get in what I write.

Go thou and do likewise.

John Dann MacDonald (July 24, 1916 – December 28, 1986) was an American writer of novels and short stories, known for his thrillers.

MacDonald was a prolific author of crime and suspense novels, many of them set in his adopted home of Florida. His best-known works include the popular and critically acclaimed Travis McGee series, and his novel The Executioners, which was adapted into the film Cape Fear. In 1972, MacDonald was named a grandmaster of the Mystery Writers of America, and he won a 1980 U.S. National Book Award in the one-year category Mystery. Stephen King praised MacDonald as “the great entertainer of our age, and a mesmerizing storyteller.”

So perhaps print this out and keep by your writing desk to remind you to ask, “Does my story have all the Good Old Stuff MacDonald talks about it this intro.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. Sounds like a good book, Kathy! 🙂

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  2. Wow…wow. That is so helpful and makes a lot of sense. I’m having printing difficulties so I’m heading to the library to print this out. I will be keeping this one on my worktable! Good advice.

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  3. Short, succinct, sensible. I love it. Thanks for sharing.

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    • Belina,

      Thanks for letting me know that you like it as much as I did. I just went over to your blog and see you have a new book coming out. The cover looks great! When will it be out? Where can I buy it? Will it be released in an ebook format, too? Who is the publisher?

      Kathy

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      • Thank you for your interest. Silvana- the Greening is out next Friday, the 25th. Print and ebook (all being well!). The publisher is CP Books in New Zealand, a small but very talented indi company, who are just branching out from self-publishing.

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      • Belinda,

        How can people buy it? I don’t see it on Amazon. I’ll put you and your book in my next Kudos, but I want to be able to point them to where they can purchase it.

        Kathy

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      • I’ll come back to you on Monday – I should have all the details then. I really appreciate your interest as I need all the help I can get. Writing stories I can do. It’s all the other stuff that I have problems with! You’re a star.

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      • Belinda,

        Would you like to do a give-a-way of your book on my blog? Don’t have to, but it would get you more buzz. I am planning to post about your book on Thursday.

        Kathy

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      • Belinda,

        Forgot to ask: Would you send me a .jpg of the book cover? The one you have you your blog is too small.

        Kathy

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      • Yes and yes (thank you). But how do I send a .jpeg to you?

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      • Just attach it from your file on your computer and send it to Kathy(dot)temean(at)gmail.com

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