How to Write a Novel for the Masses

Surefire advice for creating a runaway bestseller

Now bring on your second adventure. People have a dim idea that wolves once overran France. You can speak of the great she-wolf that in 1343 ate up an entire village in the department of the Loire or the Soir; never mind how you spell it,—the public won't know the difference. Have that she-wolf, grown old and hungry, come out of a copse (by all means, a copse) and spring upon poor Blanche, who is on her way to a nunnery.

"While the terrible wolf was yet in midair, Guy pushed his horse to a mad gallop, and raising his arms above his head, he caught the famished beast in his Herculean grasp, diverting her for a moment from her purpose'

Now you can give 'em a pretty good fight. Have the wolf and Guy and the horse go down together in a grand mixup. Let Blanche pinch the wolf's tail, and have that so anger the "vulpine beast" that she tears a hole in Guy's doublet. It is a little early in the game to spoil his face, but if you give the reader a hint that it will heal up before they are married, I think you are safe to scratch him pretty hard. Of course, as soon as Blanche sees the scratches she will fall in love with him, and then faint

Make the combat long, and have Guy pretty nearly done for, when, by an opportune stab he punctures the heart of the monster.

He can come in for the big bounty that is on the wolf, if you want; but as he is rich already, that won't amount to much, except as it gives him a chance to bestow it on a group of poor villagers who have been attracted to the scene of the fight. Be sure to call it "largess" if he scatters it among them.

Now you see why you have provided a stout horse. It is so that Blanche may sit behind Guy, and continue on her way to the nunnery, he having gallantly offered to set her down at her corner.

Now it is time for the real villain to appear. The seneschal Guy tried on the second page was only for early seasoning. The real villain is, of course, Prince Henri Milledieudetonnefleurs de Joinville, and you would do well to place him on a stallion, and have him ride for two days and two nights in pursuit of Blanche.

It's really necessary to bring in a little more scenery. A novel would seem bare without it. You might set out a double row of Lombardy poplars that were planted in honor of the victory of Magna Charta over Count de Blois in 1010. Never mind the public; they won't know. It'll look all right in type. Mention a dense flock of Marseillaise blackbirds that obscured the light of the sun, and let it be as a portent against the success of the wicked Henri. Mention other flights, casually, and speak of the Children's Crusade in search of the Northwest Passage, that was near to having been discontinued owing to a flight of sea gulls from John o' Groat's to Land's End. This last will establish you as a master of curious knowledge.

Let Guy go to sleep, weak from loss of blood, and while the horse crops at the grass and Blanche plucks ox-heart daisies, bring on the villain at an easy gallop, and have  him pick up Blanche and ride off with her. Keep Guy asleep for a half hour, so that he will deserve the more credit when he, on his fat old horse, chases and overtakes the fleet stallion. For of course he overtakes the villain. The stallion has peculiarly shaped hoofs, having lost a portion of each one in the battle of Cressy or Sedan,—either one will do,—and Guy is able to track Henri in this way. Otherwise, the hero not being a woodsman, Henri would have escaped with his prey, and it would have caused a bad break in the story.

Let Guy come on Henri in a narrow defile,—a characteristically French one. If you don't happen to know any French defile, describe an American one, and it will go all right.

Of course this won't be the final fight, because you've got to fill at least three hundred pages, and Guy will have adventures with the pickpockets of Paris, and in the Bay of Biscay and the Swiss Alps; but I can't write the whole book for you, so we'll suppose it is the final fight

Let Henri have the advantage at the start, but give Guy great staying powers. Make hint fatigué Henri, and make Henri say, "Je suis fatigué." That's real French, and you can find a lot more like it where that came from. Make Henri in need of rest and refreshment, and then let Guy come some celebrated thrust on him. You can name the thrust, if you wish; invent it and describe it in detail out of your own head. No one will ever show you up; and if anyone does, it will advertise the book.

Make Guy smile at Blanche, who by this time is loving him tremendously, and then, "with a sudden turn of the wrist,—that wrist that ten years later was to save the life of the great Mirabeau,—Guy gave Henri the congé, and the wicked prince turned and reeled in his tracks."

Now make Guy say "Honi soit qui mal y pense," or "Dum vivimus, vivamus"; and then, to conclude the book, make the old seneschal of page 2 crawl up, filled with remorse. He had dropped out of the plane tree, and the fall had brought him to. Make him ask forgiveness of Guy; and then, "while little French birds were singing rondels, and as peasants bent over their hoes in clod-like attitudes, or leaned upon their spades to listen to the Angelus, the monk pronounced the words that made Blanche and Guy husband and wife,—or rather, wife and husband."

There you are. It's a seller.

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