Jude Hardin

Author, Drummer, Turtle Whisperer

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Location: United States

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Splitting The Scene, Part Six: What Sells Better Than Sex?

The short answer: Nothing.

Let’s take a look at the long answer though.

Why is there no such thing as a friendly game of tennis? Tennis (singles tennis, the nitty gritty as far as I’m concerned) is a sport where one individual is matched against another. Skill, physical ability, and mental fortitude all play a part. You can talk about football, basketball, baseball etc., all you want; but, to me, one man or woman battling against an equal opponent is far more compelling than when a team does the same thing.


It’s one on one. There is one winner, one loser. On any given day, exactly 50% of the people playing tennis lose. No such thing as a tie in tennis. If you put two players on the court, they will battle until one is victorious.

Why is winning so important?

I think it’s part of human nature to want to be a champion, or want to root for one.

What does any of this have to do with writing fiction?


Conflict is the essence of drama. I’ve read some ensemble pieces that I like but, for the most part, the stories I think are most compelling are the ones that pit a single hero against a single antagonist. The hero might be part of a group (say, a police agency), as might the bad guy, but when it comes to the final showdown these two are isolated, one against the other, like ill-fated locomotives on a collision course. Like Borg and McKenroe in the finals at Wimbledon (yeah, I’m old).

Someone has to lose.

If you’re writing commercial fiction, that “someone” is most likely the antagonist. Readers know this. They know that the hero is going to win eventually.

So how does a modern writer do it? How do we keep readers turning the page when the outcome is surely inevitable?

With conflict, my friends. Not a little, a lot. We can plant a seed of doubt in the reader’s mind, stack the odds so overwhelmingly against our hero that the reader thinks hey, maybe this is it. There’s no way Nicholas Colt can make it out of this one alive. Of course, deep inside they know that he will. But they have to find out how. They have to turn another page.

What sells better than sex?


Read the front page of any reputable newspaper.

Get some conflict on every page of your manuscript, and you’ll be on the right track.


Blogger Erica Orloff said...

Hi Jude:
Great post. Because even sex gets old after 350 pages. I once was staying at a guest house and looking for something to read and picked up a book published in hardcover by St. Martin's. It was erotic fiction, on the darker side dealing with S&M. Anyway, for a chapter I was . . . mildly interested. By page 10, I was ho-hum bored. And it went on and on and on, once scenario more degrading than the next. I wasn't offended . . . just "where the hell is the plot? where is the conflict? where is the character development? how did this get published?"
And I'd add, too, that conflict can be present internally in your main character. I've blogged about my new protagonist being a recovering addict. He's newly off the Viocdin, and each page is really a struggle for him and when things get really dark, that's how he would PREFER to deal with problems, but the action of the book is going to require him to be more proactive.

4:10 PM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...

Hi Erica:

Thank you.

I agree 100% about internal conflicts. Very good point. A charcter with more on his/her mind than getting laid, or catching the bad guy, or whatever external conflicts that arise, is a character I can get close to. If a reader CARES about the character, then the external conflicts become all the more meaningful.

8:13 PM  
Blogger Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Excellent post, Jude. I'm thoroughly enjoying your pieces and lovin' your style, too. Great writing about writing. Keep it up!

10:09 PM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...

Thanks, Aaron!

3:06 AM  
Blogger LA Burton said...

Hey Jude. I use to read a series, which was my favorite by the way. The had great action. But after book 9 all she writes now is sex. I think its crap now. Great post.

6:58 PM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...

Thanks, LA!

You're right. Some authors stay on a series longer than they should. I hope I have the good sense to kill mine when it has run its course. That should be about 20 books from now, I hope. :)

7:28 PM  

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