^zhurnaly   -   Random   -   Recent   -   Running   -   Mantra   -   Tarot   -   Help

Pulp Fiction Rules

The Writer's Almanac recently mentioned Lester Dent, an author who "... 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." Son Robin found a copy of Dent's essay [1], from which, for list-lovers like me, the rules follow:

Concept

  1. A different murder method for villain to use
  2. A different thing for villain to be seeking
  3. A different locale
  4. A menace which is to hang like a cloud over hero

First 1500 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 1500 words.
  5. Near the end of first 1500 words, there is a complete surprise twist in the plot development.

Second 1500 Words

  1. Shovel more grief onto the hero.
  2. Hero, being heroic, struggles, and his struggles lead up to:
    1. Another physical conflict.
    2. A surprising plot twist to end the 1500 words.

Third 1500 Words

  1. Shovel the grief onto the hero.
  2. Hero makes some headway, and corners the villain or somebody in:
    1. A physical conflict.
    2. A surprising plot twist, in which the hero preferably gets it in the neck bad, to end the 1500 words.

Fourth 1500 Words

  1. Shovel the difficulties more thickly upon the hero.
  2. Get the hero almost buried in his troubles. (Figuratively, the villain has him prisoner and has him framed for a murder rap; the girl is presumably dead, everything is lost, and the DIFFERENT murder method is about to dispose of the suffering protagonist.)
  3. The hero extricates himself using HIS OWN SKILL, training or brawn.
  4. The mysteries remaining--one big one held over to this point will help grip interest--are cleared up in course of final conflict as hero takes the situation in hand.
  5. Final twist, a big surprise, (This can be the villain turning out to be the unexpected person, having the "Treasure" be a dud, etc.)
  6. The snapper, the punch line to end it.

^z - 2008-10-20


(correlates: TheoreticallyKnown, The Mysterious Island, TwoFluidModel, ...)