Does Your Story Have Flaming Chainsaws?

Chainsaw Chuck by The Static Cling / via Deviant Art

Chainsaw Chuck by The Static Cling / via Deviant Art

What makes a novel compulsively readable? Author and professor Benjamin Percy set to find out when The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo became a sensation several years ago. He describes a process he used to analyze the book’s structure:

I began to color code the major problems the characters faced—blue, black, red, green, yellow, pink, purple—and to track page numbers. Larson would introduce a blue problem on page 25, return to it on 78, 169, 240, 381, and so on, each time ratcheting up the tension and complicating things further. Interspliced with the blue problems were red problems, pink problems, a kaleidoscope of trouble, ever-changing.

I have come to call these flaming chainsaws. Your success as a storyteller has to do with your ability to juggle them. Every time the flaming chainsaws pass through your hands, they gain speed, become more perilous, until at last they are extinguished.

Read all of what Benjamin has to say in his essay “The Dance of the Flaming Chainsaws,” over the new Glimmer Train bulletin.

At this month’s bulletin you’ll also find:

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Posted in Creativity + Inspiration.

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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