Ok aspiring fiction writers, if you’ve ever wondered how to write a successful novel, the secret is here: kill off your characters. Of the handful of books that won the prestigious Man Booker Prize in 2011, all 13 novels had the common theme of putting to death main characters… it’s a lot like the plot of Will Ferrell’s Stranger Than Fiction… everyone knows the story won’t be as good without a solid death.
This beautiful graphic designed by the literary heavy “slow journalism magazine” Delayed Gratification, traces the dominant themes from last years winners, showing that not just a few, but ALL the winners featured overriding themes of death. What followed that? In distant second we have themes about love and then betrayal… both subjects that can get the blood boiling, but obviously don’t guarantee a win. Oh, and don’t forget some of the less popular plots about escaped tigers, nanny trust issues and homicidal cowboy brothers.
If you want a reference on this point from a classic and well respected author, look no further than the recent post over at Brain Pickings about Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Rules On How To Write a Great Story. Beyond the other insightful examples he gives — from giving readers characters they can root for, to starting as close to the end of the story as possible — he says you should also “be a sadist” when it comes to your characters. Now you know the secret… time to start writing!
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