Write an adventure novel in three days, the Michael Moorcock way

Michael Moorcock's tips for writing complete adventure novels in three days are the fruit of his early career, when he was writing novels (including his Elric classics) in three to ten days each. The advice comes from the opening chapter of the out-of-print Michael Moorcock: Death Is No Obstacle, which consists of interviews Moorcock conducted with Colin Greenwood. It's really good insight into how you can take mechanical plots and plot-devices and use them to make a book charge forward at a rate of knots, and still hang many different kinds of story, insight, and language off of them.

* "[The formula is] The Maltese Falcon. Or the Holy Grail. You use the quest theme, basically. In The Maltese Falcon it's a lot of people after the same thing, which is the Black Bird. In Mort D'Arthur it's also a lot of people after the same thing, which is the Holy Grail. That's the formula for Westerns too: everybody's after the gold of El Dorado or whatever." (Cf the MacGuffin.)

* "The formula depends on that sense of a human being up against superhuman forces, whether it's Big Business, or politics, or supernatural Evil, or whatever. The hero is fallible in their terms, and doesn't really want to be mixed up with them. He's always just about to walk out when something else comes along that involves him on a personal level." (An example of this is when Elric's wife gets kidnapped.)

* "There is an event every four pages, for example -- and notes. Lists of things you're going to use. Lists of coherent images; coherent to you or generically coherent. You think: 'Right, Stormbringer [a novel in the Elric series]: swords; shields; horns", and so on."

* "[I prepared] A complete structure. Not a plot, exactly, but a structure where the demands were clear. I knew what narrative problems I had to solve at every point. I then wrote them at white heat; and a lot of it was inspiration: the image I needed would come immediately [when] I needed it. Really, it's just looking around the room, looking at ordinary objects and turning them into what you need. A mirror: a mirror that absorbs the souls of the damned."

* "You need a list of images that are purely fantastic: deliberate paradoxes, say: the City of Screaming Statues, things like that. You just write a list of them so you've got them there when you need them. Again, they have to cohere, have the right resonances, one with the other."

* "The imagery comes before the action, because the action's actually unimportant. An object to be obtained -- limited time to obtain it. It's easily developed, once you work the structure out."

* "Time is the important element in any action adventure story. In fact, you get the action and adventure out of the element of time. It's a classic formula: "We've only got six days to save the world!" Immediately you've set the reader up with a structure: there are only six days, then five, then four and finally, in the classic formula anyway, there's only 26 seconds to save the world! Will they make it in time?"

Go read the whole thing, it's great stuff.

How to Write a Book in Three Days: Lessons from Michael Moorcock (via Making Light)

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