Category Archives: social commentary

Ingredients for a hit novel

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Recently I’ve been considering ‘what makes a hit novel’? And here are my thoughts:

1) Characters we care about

A hit novel contains a handful of great characters that you grow to love and want to follow. And there are many examples we can all call to mind: Darcy, Harry Potter, James Bond, Hannibal etc. If we care about the characters, we’ll want to know what happens next to them.  And if we don’t, we may well put the book back down.

2) Plenty of incident & twists

To keep us awake and stop us from skipping ahead or worse switching off. A hit novel contains plenty of action, regardless of the genre. Things happen, challenges are faced and our hero has to overcome stuff. Otherwise it can become ‘interesting’, but basically dull and uneventful. Spicing things up with events we can’t predict also helps a lot.

3) A quirk or three

People become bored with formula pretty quickly. Most hit novels contain at least a few grains of ‘uniqueness’. Whether it be: dark threats and scandal in Scandinavia; allegorical animals in a boat; an orphaned wunderkind wizard; dystopian gladiators on TV; or rich man, innocent girl and a heap of sexual experiments (or smut).

4) Ease of reading

You notice I did not highlight ‘elegant writing’. That may win prizes and be a worthy aim in itself, but readers want to be able to read easily. They want to be able to enjoy the story without reaching for a dictionary.

5) A place you want to visit in your head

In my view novels are escapism. Along the way we learn things about the world of our characters and ultimately ourselves. A hit book asks questions of the reader in a subtle way, such as ‘what would you do in this situation?’ It also takes the reader to a place they want to learn about and experience from the safety of their reading location.

6) Visibility

Of course none of the above would matter unless readers were talking about a book and recommending it to their friends. As with the Fifty Shades series, that recommendation may be more a viral ‘you need to read it to believe it’ kind of thing or a ‘but is it actually any good?’  In my view that particular series is written in an okay manner and is highly effective as titillation and for provoking interest. And clearly it is a massive hit.

That’s all for now

Happy reading

D.M. Jarrett

Sean Yeager and the DNA Thief Cover, available now at Amazon, Kobo

Sean Yeager and the DNA Thief Cover, available now at Amazon, Kobo

Hunters Hunted Text 2l

Farewell Star Wars,………. the end of an era

So Disney is paying hard cash and shares to acquire George Lucas’ empire Lucasfilm?

Wow! That’s a big decision.

Apparently the deal is worth £4bn for two film franchises (Star Wars and Indiana Jones) and technical experts (Industrial Light and Magic and Skywalker Sound) plus related rights and merchandising.

Double wow!

So why would Disney pay such a  huge amount for an already mature and seemingly complete set of films? I mean it’s not just George Lucas who is effectively retiring, what about Harrison Ford? Does he still need to work?

Sure, the Lucas empire will continue to generate wealth and new spin-offs; no doubt the accountants have done their sums and possibly see it as an annuity cash cow. But even so….. $4bn?

Next we hear there will be more Star Wars films. Oh really, about what? It will be fascinating to see how they try and make the audience care about another tranche of characters. It’s not as if the prequel trilogy stands up to much scrutiny compared to the original first three films (episodes IV to VI).

There also seems to be some bitterness in the air, or at least it is highlighted in some press reports. I struggle to see how George Lucas can be that ‘upset’ about criticisms of selling out or sullying the brand. Surely he is a film maker and business man extraordinaire and somewhat above what some oik thinks? (myself included) I mean, with that kind of ability and success you could choose almost anything you like as your next project couldn’t you? Plus he has milked it for billions – fact. So it’s a bit obvious to say it’s sold out. Yes that’s the whole point of selling stuff so widely and so voraciously surely? We are not talking some minor cult series are we? It is not Sean Yeager Adventures now is it?

For what it’s worth I don’t dislike the prequels, I simply find them contrived, overdone and not entirely convincing compared to the classic episodes. And it’s not because of the years that have passed – I’ve re-watched every episode. It’s more that I believe the original characters in IV were better, their struggles were more believable and I felt like I cared more about them. Yes of course the series is for kids and you do have to make allowances, however adults did enjoy IV and V. There are good scenes in each of I to III but the love interest was dreadfully badly written; the politics were dull and unconvincing and the action sequences were often completely over the top.

So what of the future? Well I hope they go back to brass tacks and find a story or two from the extensive canon (fan, prequel, expanded universe, pro-books, Lucas stories) to make the viewers want to care again. It would also be good if they addressed some of the short-comings of Star Wars as a ‘universe’. Short-comings? I hear you gasp well yes – here are a few and I’m barely even trying…..

Baddies can shoot straight; planets could be glassed; even clones need food and toilet breaks; anyone with a brain cell can see through a simple disguise especially a ‘Jedi knight’ surely?; superior numbers mean you will win battles; even in WW1 there were bombers and missiles; space does not amplify sound; people do not understand alien speak instantly without any form of interpreter; being good at the last second having slaughtered hundreds of kids does not make you instantly popular in heaven; a plama laser sword against hundreds of blasters – do me a favour, you’d die – see last of the Samurai; and no you can not fly or jump through millions of obstacles and survive without a scratch. And last but not least – the clones – when did they become useless as storm troopers? Early on they can save everyone and after decades of evolution they can’t hit a barn door at two paces or see a floating car driving over their feet.

In other words – Star Wars as a franchise has made the fortunes and now is the time to raise the bar back to where it ought to be for the fans – the people who made the franchise worth the mega-bucks in the first place.

Or – Disney could turn it into a romantic, drippy pile of techno-goo and watch that $4bn investment really take-off…….

As someone great once said – just because you pay the big bucks doesn’t mean it’s worth the big bucks.

Happy reading

D.M. Jarrett

Sean Yeager Adventures