The ‘it’ factor

Joe’s Post #94

Iitt. What is it?

That’s the idea the Silk put forward and I’d love to talk more about IT.

I have no idea what it is. If I did, I would be published, sitting on a beach somewhere and having elven princesses fan me with palm fronds. Silk thinks it may be a universal common ‘it’ that addicts readers and audiences. I’m not so sure. I think it may be different for everyone.

The reason this fascinates me is I’m working on a novel and I wonder, what would make it addictive? Unlike my other 5/5/5ers, I haven’t seen 12 Years A Slave. With my time so limited, I just don’t have time for something so horrific, so utterly wrong. I want my hobbits and dwarves to defeat dragons, I want the guy to get the girl, the serial killer to get justice, the world to be right and just in the end.

So what am I addicted to?

Game of Thrones for sure. But wait. That’s a pretty bleak drama isn’t it? Lots of death and nakedness and sinister yet likable eunuchs. So that’s as good an example to look at as any.

Why do I love it so?

dannyAnd here’s the thing. It’s more than one thing. Oh sure, seeing Daenerys naked is a plus, but I’m moved by the tragedy, I’m inspired by the struggle of characters to overcome overwhelming odds and I’m stuck by the vast scale of the storytelling. But that’s the big picture. Let’s call it storytelling.

You’ve heard it all before. Make good characters, then put them through hell, emotionally, physically, or spiritually, (or all of them)! Make us care about the characters. Make us laugh with them and cry with them. Make us want the heroes to succeed and the villains to fail. Make them human and not just cardboard cut outs.

kingSo what else do they do right on good old GOT? They always leave us wanting more. Each scene. Each act. Each episode. And that’s what I like to call technical writing. It’s the hooks into the scene, the stakes, the details, and the hook out, that Stephen King trick of making you give up sleep so you can read a bit more. Just a bit.

Good storytelling is vital (and has so many more things than just characters, but bear with me). Technical writing can keep us hooked. Combine the two and you have us addicted. IMHO.

But, in the end, what works for one person, doesn’t work for another. Game of Thrones is, perhaps, the best written drama on TV, yet I know the moment they toss the little boy from the tower, they’ll lose a lot of people. Ditto the fact it’s fantasy. Or that there’s nudity. Or that there’s homosexuality. Or that one of the main characters is, in fact, a dwarf.

depp pirateSo, for me, no universal ‘it’ because that would mean we all like the same stories. However, Silk could be right, each story will have the ‘it’ ingredients. Like Johnny Depp as a pirate.



New Facebook pages set up: 1. Please like it. Please tell your friends to like it. Please get your cats to like it.

Pages Written on New Novel: 0

Outline % Completed: 100% done. Boy, I tell ya, it helps to do an outline. Soooo much got sorted out ahead of time. And it got the thumbs up from a multiple Edgar Nominee.

Blogs Written This Week: Lots and lots.

Queries Out this Week: 0 (only so much time) Just no time. Blogs. Moving. Outline.

Rejections for the Last Week: 0 (has to be bad news. I may need to move the 5 out there to 5 rejections)

Queries Still Out There: 5

Hope Meter: 70/100.  so, yeah, doing good.

4 thoughts on “The ‘it’ factor

  1. Where do I start?
    After reading Silk’s post, I thought there was only one IT, an emotionally appealing protagonist whom everyone cares about. I’m querying for a novel where the protagonist is an oddball and misfit, because only he can tell my story the way I want to tell it. So I thought I was doomed, having taken the wrong direction from the inception. You’ve given me hope, or at least some relief from despair. I’ll use that cocktail to kill weeds, instead of drinking it.
    Which leads me to querying. I used some suggestions from one of your long-ago posts to compile a list of about 100 agents, and rated them according to Predators and Editors. I’ now down to sloppy thirds, those not known to have warrants out for them or mailing addresses in Afghanistan. I’ve received some rejections already, and know that many agencies won’t respond unless they’re interested, so I know there are more rejections out there that I haven’t heard about yet. Misery loves company. Maybe that’ll make us both happy.
    New Parent: My wife and I have grown twin daughters. When they were babies, we had pillows in every room. When no baby was crying, we’d hit the floor wherever we were rather than waste time going to our bedroom. When they were toddlers, we developed 270 degree peripheral vision, like a frog with eyes on each side of its head. We were tired all the time. HANG IN THERE, IT’S SOOOoooooo WORTH IT.

    • Here’s something I found, Soffer. From Stephen King… “Harry Potter is about confronting fears, finding inner strength and doing
      what is right in the face of adversity. Twilight is about how important it
      is to have a boyfriend.”
      And yet, both sold billions of copies. One has ‘it’ according to King, and one has like totally ‘it’ according to vast hordes of teenage girls.
      Great work on getting your story out there! That is 90% bravery and 10% stamps (or emails). Don’t worry about an oddball protag. Look no farther than Catch-22 for an oddball hero and that was a best seller, a major motion picture and one of my favorite all time shows. And, hey, some advice I got just recently, resubmit after a short time even with a rejection. Hey, why not? It’s not like they’ll hate you (something I always worry about.
      Lastly, thanks for the support on parenting. It’s a brand new life for me.

  2. Great insights, as always, Joe. Of course, here’s the thing about ‘it” … if we knew exactly what “it” is, we’d call it something besides “it”, which is code for the indefinable. I do think of “it” as a thing (rather than many things), although it takes many things to produce the magical chemical reaction that results in “it”. Hmm … chemistry. I sense another blog post about “it” coming up on Monday!

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