Thursday, February 3, 2011

Creating a Fictional World

“So unleash your creative power, let it flow in all its beauty.
Yes, Novelist, you are in charge of your own bright world.”
~Don Pendleton, The Metaphysics of the Novel

A few years ago, my husband, Don Pendleton, wrote in his nonfiction book, The Metaphysics of the Novel, The Inner Workings of a Novel and a Novelist:

“One thing that every novel needs is credibility, and as a novelist you must never forget that. Your story must be plausible, meaningful, and entertaining.

“Before the final draft of any story is set to paper, you must have resolved all your story problems and structure problems. Then, and only then, can your characters have the freedom they need to carry the story, to handle their conflicts, and to finally reach resolution.

“As you review your manuscript, begin by studying your opening paragraph. Read it and re-read. If it sounds weak as you read it silently, and then out loud, rewrite it. Study it again. Polish it until it shines.

“If you discover you have "padded" your story with unnecessary dribble, or if you come upon a place where you wonder where the hell it is going, it is because you did not know where you were going. So get out the scalpel and start carving away. Do it delicately but deftly until you feel you are in command as god of your novel.

“Watch for the spots where you come across even a page or two of nothing. If nothing was happening, change it, make something happen.

“Make sure your dialogue is sharp, and real. If it is not, beef it up until you hear the voices singing. Be sure those characters talk like real people.

“Are you satisfied that you have properly dimensioned each character? If you have villains in your story make sure you have made them powerful and resourceful, not reduced to the idiot level. In real life, the bad guys are highly formidable and dangerous individuals. Real life is full of grim games played by grim people. So should your fictional world be, if that is the type of story you are presenting. Do not indulge in some juvenile misunderstanding of the forces that move and shake this world. Some people are dangerous, not because a gun is in their hand, but because something cold and deadly is in their hearts. So make sure you are presenting a credible world with the world of your novel.

“The paradox of good fiction is that the fictional world must seem more understandable and coherent to the reader than the world in which he lives daily. So to connect with the readers, the writer had better be in complete charge of the world he creates at the keyboard. Pointless defiance of real world logic is available all the time on television. Don't expose your readers to anything but a setting of characters in a logical cause and effect world.

“When you have edited your manuscript to a high polish, when you love every word you have placed there, set it aside for a few days. When you pick it up again, and you find you still love every word there, you are then ready, novelist, to present it to the world.
“But brace yourself. Your presentation may not be received with the open arms you expect and hope for. The days ahead can be filled with frustration and rejection. In those times, though, the important thing to remember is, you have fulfilled your dream of becoming a novelist, and you have taken your vision from that place inside, to that place where books really are–outside.”

Don went on to write about marketing your book and hopefully selling it. At the time he wrote the book, the only way to publish was via a traditional publisher, or with original vanity publishing which could cost you a small fortune, or self publish and sell your books out of the back of your car, as a few well-known authors have done. James Redfield and The Celestine Prophecy comes to mind, as does Richard Paul Evans who also wrote another best-seller, The Christmas Box; and a more recent book, The Shack.

Today we consider the Internet and the incredible technology to be so much a part of our lives, and I believe if Don were still alive he would be in favor of what many authors are now doing with self-publishing and e-books.

He wrote: “Play the game and give it all the artful attention you possess. I shudder to think of all the talented writers I have known who are still unpublished because they never learned to play the game to their best advantage. In a card game, you know, there is a time to sit tight and a time to fold. Play your publishing moment to its best advantage.

“If you have not yet found that moment then you need to get actively involved in your own destiny. Even a moment that may be pre-ordained needs a willing and active interest in those whispers from the muses, a driving force that propels you into that fateful encounter. It will not come looking for you unless you have already "prepared the soil" for a fertile encounter.

“Develop an understanding of the publishing world. “

Get actively involved in your own destiny. Yes, Don would be in favor of self-publishing especially when you know you have produced a credible and quality work. You have a choice and you don’t have to waste time and seek permission to share your book with the world.

The time can be now! Go for it!

Kindle, Smashwords, Createspace, not only give us darn good royalties that are not found in traditional publishing, but give us opportunity to share our works worldwide.

The Metaphysics of the Novel is available at Kindle, Smashwords, and other ebook online stores and in print at


Anonymous said...

I've never heard of this man before. Great tips. Its important to polish that opening paragraph. That's what I'm doing for my next two books. Easier said than done as we all want that WOW! paragraph that is classic and reaches out and grabs the reader by the lapels and pulls them in.

Linda Pendleton said...

My husband, Don Pendleton is considered the "father of action/adventure." His best selling The Executioner: Mack Bolan series began in 1969 with the first book in the series, War Against the Mafia. He published more than 100 books in his long career. His other series are the Joe Copp Private Eye Series, and the Ashton Ford Psychic Detective Series. He also wrote nonfiction. His Mack Bolan books are still being written and published by Harlequin, now close to 800 novels. .

More about him here:

Anonymous said...

Great post, Linda. Thanks! This book (as you already know) sits near by desk along with all of my writing references. It's one of those few writing books I love to re-read when I need to prime the pump.

Linda Pendleton said...

Thanks, Jon. :-)