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And if there is, why would you try following it? What reason is there to build your novel around plot mechanisms that are tried and tested other than playing it safe and trying to win everyone's attention?

I'm not saying the alternative is polarizing experimental writing. Not at all. I think there's a kind of novel that is somewhere in between novels that conform to what's expected of them and experimental writing.

Do these novels have a name? They should because I know they exist.

Just thinking aloud on the Boards again  :)
 

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herocious said:
Do these novels have a name?
Oprah Winfrey Presents: Harry Potter and the Characters from Twilight Make a Million Dollars Working from Home and Discover the Secret to Guilt-free Eating and Sex

That should interest just about everyone.
 

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And if there is, why would you try following it? What reason is there to build your novel around plot mechanisms that are tried and tested other than playing it safe and trying to win everyone's attention?
That's the only reason I can think of. I don't have a formula, pleasing everyone was never my goal, and I don't sell a lot of books, so ignore this advice all you want, but I think that the formula to appealing to everyone is the same formula that restaurants, film, and music use:

Make sure your product is inoffensive (some might say bland), predictable, consistent, and has a marketing strategy that sets up accurate expectations. The goal would be to keep things at an acceptable level of quality that pretty much everyone enjoys equally.

What doesn't work when trying to appeal to the masses is to shoehorn in elements that certain demographics are interested in. Classic example: shoving a romance subplot into an action film. It won't be enough to make the desired audience interested in the rest (in this example, the girlfriend will be bored most of the time and still hate the movie), and it will just annoy your actual target audience. The entire package has to appeal to the entire demographic. If you try to do anything fancy, like putting orange slices on a cheeseburger, you might please a niche audience, but you won't get the mass market appeal you're aiming for with a simple cheeseburger.
 

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"What reason is there to build your novel around plot mechanisms that are tried and tested other than playing it safe and trying to win everyone's attention?"

I don't think there is a formula for writing a novel everyone wants to read. However it existed, the reason to apply it is a few billion dollars.
 

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herocious said:
And if there is, why would you try following it? What reason is there to build your novel around plot mechanisms that are tried and tested other than playing it safe and trying to win everyone's attention?

I'm not saying the alternative is polarizing experimental writing. Not at all. I think there's a kind of novel that is somewhere in between novels that conform to what's expected of them and experimental writing.

Do these novels have a name? They should because I know they exist.

Just thinking aloud on the Boards again :)
Stephenie Meyer might be able to answer your question?
 

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If I understood him right, there was a guy in Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers that read all the how to write a bestseller type books and specifically wrote a mystery that followed all the advice. His book won some awards and he was honored at RMFW back when I was a member which is why I remember him (but not his name or the name of his book :)). However, if he ever wrote a second book I didn't hear about it.

My own theory is to write books I would want to read. At least that way they make one person happy.
 

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Probably the closest system to a "universal writing forumla"

Is the Marshall Writing Theory.

Evan Marshall is well-known literary agent and editor who devised a 16-step system for writing. Most of his advice is common sense in my opinion, but he does provide some interesting insights on the structure of a good book. His writing books are for Sale on Amazon.

Some writers freak out at any mention of a 'system' to writing. For me the best advice has been, 'put **** in chair and start writing.'
 

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I.  The world's best novel
    A.  Chapter 1
          1.  Include vampires
          2.  Include sex
    B.  Chapter 2
          1.  About guns
          2.  Have some manly explosions and killing
    C.  Chapter 3
          1.  Follow up explosions with a cute wedding scene
          2.  Female protagonist should be trying to get over a guy
    D.  Chapter 4
          1.  Maybe include some elves
          2.  Quest for immortality


I'm not really seeing any kind of formula here....
 

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It's a good question. It reminds me of my favorite inspirational writing quote of all time:

"There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, nobody knows what they are. "
— Somerset Maughm
 

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There probably is a way to write something that everyone "should" love, but it would probably be so generic, so cliche, and so trite, that everyone would hate it. It wouldn't be "original". Some of the most interesting work has aspects that are unoriginal, but what makes them interesting are the things the author adds that are different from the norm. It's always a fine line artist walk in order to create something that is common enough to be comfortable, yet daring enough to capture people's hearts and imagination. Go too far in either direction and people will be bored or not understand what's being said.
 

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Jeff Tompkins said:
Oprah Winfrey Presents: Harry Potter and the Characters from Twilight Make a Million Dollars Working from Home and Discover the Secret to Guilt-free Eating and Sex
*snicker*

This entire thread is cracking me up, but that one's the best so far ;)

Seriously, there are dozens of formulas, but I believe the best thing an author can do is write what resonates with his or her emotions. I mean, if you don't get emotionally invested in your work, why would you expect readers to?
 

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Hmm. I think I may have something here:

Wish fulfillment + (recognizable setting + effective world building)*twist = $

Where wish fulfillment includes the standards, such as the protag is "special" or Jesus/Neo/otherwise Keanu Reeves in some way, laws of scarcity or common sense are only applicable when convenient, and the story follows a tried and true structure. (I am not knocking story structure, btw. That stuff works for a reason. Seriously, The Odyssey -- perfect mythic structure. I would check out some of those books.)

So, for example.

Twilight:  the twist is sparkly abstinence vampires; the protag is...special. Let's leave it at that.

Harry Potter: the twist is magic in a classic school setting. Also the protagonist you're meant to identify with is secretly Jesus.

Girl with Hornet Tattoo, or whatever: the twist is sex crimes, as far as I understand it. So...that's not overly optimistic about human nature, but there you have it. We could argue about whether it's exploitive, except I haven't actually read it. Sex crimes seem to do really well, though.

Etc. etc.

Doesn't apply to everything, 'course. The Hunger Games, for example (which also follows generic story structure!), just has a great concept -- inherently dramatic, lots of conflict, huge stakes, and requiring lots of blood. Oh: blood helps, apparently. People really like blood. So...it's only wish fulfillment in the sense that Katniss is super cool and the hero? I dunno, maybe it still fits in.

Oh, fun game! Now I'm gonna be distracted doing this.
 

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LKRigel said:
I miss that wonderful man.

And while there certainly is no formula for writing a novel that everybody wants to read, there are certain rules and forms involved in writing one that many people will want to read. If you intend to ignore basic plotting and write stream of consciousness from the point of view of a teddy bear in an orphanage*, you may need to wait for readers until you're dead, it hits the public domain, and schools get a hold of it.

*Which, I might add, could make a pretty damn good book.
 
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