Historically, playwrights are too often judged by the complexity of their characters, not the excellence of their plays. But this is a literary judgment, not a dramatic one.
Psychologist Abraham Maslow once defined a hierarchy of human needs I personally think that a hierarchy is probably the wrong structure; a star within a circle is probably a better representation, or something like the Enneagram (for representation, not content).
As writers, we tend to think a lot about selling books, and we probably buy a lot of books too. But today I am thinking about why people buy books. Based on my own habits, I think that there is rough series of decision points in the process of buying a book.
The standard presentation of the stages of a consumer purchase includes (interpreted by me):
Again, a straightforward hierarchy or process is probably oversimplified. There is likely a lot of overlap and mixing and matching. Maybe a Venn diagram would work. But for purposes of understanding, we’ll let that slide.
Here is my guess at the stages of the (or my) book buying process:
It sounds like the stages of grief, doesn’t it? Here is what I mean
Learning: The reader discovers that the book exists.
Wanting: The book deals with something the reader cares about.
Accepting: The book passes some quality barrier: design, reviews, word of mouth.
Needing: The books satisfies a need.
Valuing: The book is worth the cost in money and time.
So the book buying process boils down to LWANV.
I think I need to work on my acronyms…
Most books on writing novels (or any kind of narrative) tell you that you need to have conflict to drive the story and keep the reader's interest. Screenwriting texts make an imperative out of escalating the stakes for the protagonist.
Conflict is important to a story. But stories have an inherent, and inherently sufficient, conflict built into them, the conflict between the story and the reader. This dramatic conflict is otherwise referred to as 'what happens next?'.
And that's all I have to say about that.
Today would have been my father's 90th birthday, so I'm reposting this in his honor:
My Father The Writer
When I moved to Minneapolis (years ago), my father drove up with me. I spent three enthralled days on the road listening to him tell wonderful tales of growing up in Iowa: how he got his nickname Trapper (he was one); every job he ever held; how he met my mother; his time in the Navy during WWII. And how he wanted to be a writer.
After WWII, he enrolled at George Washington University to study journalism, though he had to drop out eventually to support his young family. Somewhere packed away, I have the draft of a novel he started. I don't know if there is a genetic component to writing, but his style reminds me a little of mine - quirky, fast, funny. But I could never match his storytelling bravado.
By the time The Marriage of True Minds was published, he had stopped reading. This was a great loss to him I know. For most of his life, he was a constant and intrepid reader of anything from English history to Louis L'Amour to Jean Auel's Earth's Children series (he would have been delighted to know that the last book in the series was coming out). We shared a special passion for adventure stories from the Forties by authors like Frank Yerby and Edison Marshall, Rafeal Sabatini and Harold Lamb. I would comb used bookstores and bring them to him like lost treasures out of the tales themselves.
We talked about writing a book together, about his boyhood days in Iowa. He even started making notes. The handwriting reflects the slow decline in his condition. I can't make out the last few words. The letters are too shaky.
I would have enjoyed writing that book. And I would have enjoyed reading it. He infused every tale with humor and joy in the telling. I imagine he could have been quite a writer. Instead he gave me the chance to be one. I guess that's what being a father is all about.
Writing For Life
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