Lester Dent’s Master Plot Formula

Every so often I sit up, look around my office, and wish that there was a formula for success in whatever I’m doing (building software, investing, mini-golf…). A formula that never fails, in fact, that when followed makes it impossible to fail.

Luckily, Lester Dent (“…one of the grandest purveyors of ripping, tearing, he-man action-fiction who’s loomed over the magazine horizon in many a long year…” — his editor) created such a formula for 6000 word pulp stories (like Lester’s Doc Savage). I’ll let you know when I find one for the stock market.

Here’s how to write the first 1500 words:-


1–First line, or as near thereto as possible, introduce the hero and swat him with a fistful of trouble. Hint at a mystery, a menace or a problem to be solved–something the hero has to cope with.

2–The hero pitches in to cope with his fistful of trouble. (He tries to fathom the mystery, defeat the menace, or solve the problem.)

3–Introduce ALL the other characters as soon as possible. Bring them on in action.

4–Hero’s endeavors land him in an actual physical conflict near the end of the first 1500 words.

5–Near the end of first 1500 words, there is a complete surprise twist in the plot development.

SO FAR: Does it have SUSPENSE?
Is there a MENACE to the hero?
Does everything happen logically?

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