LTN005 – Does Your Novel Have Bestseller Potential?

LTN005 – Does Your Novel Have Bestseller Potential?

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In this episode I reveal the 8 essential elements – hallmarks, really – of bestselling fiction so that you can incorporate them into your novel.


The eight characteristics of bestselling fiction:

1. A strong plot.

A challenging story that toys with and fulfills readers. Readers want a puzzle in novel form.
A strong storyline that can be summed up in one sentence, often called a premise.

“A pampered Southern belle fights to save her home from the devastation of the Civil War.” — Gone With the Wind

“A worldly young Englishman seeking fame and fortune finds love and a faith worth dying for among the very people he’s been sent to destroy.” — The Puritans

Qualities of a Strong Premise:

a. Plausibility. Could it really happen? Is your story believable?
b. Inherent conflict. Does the world of the story have conflict built into it?
c. Originality. Does the story have a fresh angle?
d. Gut emotional appeal. Does the concept hit the reader in the gut?

2. A great deal of action.

Samuel Goldwyn, Hollywood film producer said:

Open with an earthquake and build from there.

3. A hero or heroine, or both.

Readers live vicariously through the lead characters, they want characters they can identify with and root for.
While readers may not always remember the title of a novel or the name of the author, they can tell you the name of the characters:

Jason Bourne
James Bond
Harry Potter
Stephanie Plum
Rizzoli and Isles
Detective Harry Bosch
Katniss Everdeen
Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler

4. A colorful and convincing cast of characters.

People you love or hate. Paint your characters with heart.
Know their role in your story, why they are there, and how each of them interacts with the others.

5. Clear, believable character motivations.

Your characters should be motivated by strong emotions. Drama is emotion; emotion is drama.
John Irving in his book of short stories, Trying to Save Piggy Sneed comments about Charles Dickens:

Dickens’s greatest risk taking, as a writer, has little to do with his social morality. What he is most unafraid of is sentimentality of anger, of passion, of emotionally and psychologically revealing himself.

6. Well-drawn backgrounds.

Your settings should be interesting and factual. Create a bond between your characters and settings.

7. A craftsman who knows his craft.

A writer’s tools are words and grammar. Know your tools.

I’m convinced that poor writing is not so much a poor idea or story, but the inability of the writer to tell his story powerfully. – Dean Koontz

It is writer hell to have a fantastic story in your mind and not have the necessary skills to breathe life into it.

8. A style with striking images and powerful emotions.

How a writer tells his story is a reflection of the writer’s personality. Style is what creates your unique brand as a writer.



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