This past week I finished writing An Uncommon Day at the Lake
, a Hamlin Becker tale that I hope to sell to StoryHack.
StoryHack is, as it calls itself, a magazine of "Action & Adventure." This means no tales of navel-gazing and nihilism and ponderous puffery. It also means tales generally free of current-year correctness, a thing that hates fun and other natural human ways of being and is hardly interested in action and adventure.
Obviously, if I want to get into StoryHack, I need to write stories a certain way — the way of the pulps, as it turns out. The editor of StoryHack has himself invoked the Lester Dent Formula
, which anyone seeking the Way of the Pulps will eventually discover.
Dent's formula has indeed guided me through my three Becker tales. However, it is truly a formula
and, to be frank, it is hard for me to obey. I am not a hack; and I don't say that snobbishly. I sometimes wish I were. I'd love to be able to crank out formulaic tales that make readers happy.
What has happened instead is that I obey a less-rigid recipe
. Dent's ideas are at the center, but I have added a few other ideas about successful pulp.David Skinner's Pulp-Action Recipe
Begin with a mystery (or a menace). Proceed through several twists (ideally three, no less than two). Reach a revelation. End with an epilogue that winds down to a warm, though not necessarily happy, feeling.
The twists should deepen the primary mystery (or menace) or introduce relevant
sub-mysteries (or sub-menaces). A mix of mysteries and menaces is usually best.
The action should be continuous (events are not separated by too much time) and physical (actual fights and danger punctuate the twists). Things must worsen as the tale progresses. Obstacles should arise.
Focus throughout on a hero. Whatever his misfortunes, he is not a billiard ball but an agent. Most importantly, though luck and nature can play a role, the hero prevails through his own efforts, leadership, or both.
Remember that men are men and women are women. Don't neglect the romance!
Finally, the tale need not be white hats versus black, but remember that good and evil are real
and not merely different points of view. Good may not be spotless but evil cannot win in the end.
And that's it. As I said, very Dentish but not a formula. It has shaped my tales of Hamlin Becker. It's gotten me into StoryHack twice — and soon, I'm hoping, thrice.P.S.
By the way, StoryHack #5
is out. I don't have anything in that issue. Becker #2 will be coming in StoryHack #6
, probably in March. Becker #1 is in StoryHack #1