Do You Want to Write the Perfect Novel?
October 2, 2012
We are all in search of the perfect novel.
We want to write it.
We want to read it.
Even after a lifetime of diligent, studious, and seldom scholarly research, I don’t think I’ve come up with the secret to writing the perfect novel. But I can get close. It’s all in the formula, and, as near as I can figure out, here are the ingredients:
- The hero has a shady past, and the shady past is catching up with him. He’s tall, thick, soft-spoken, ruggedly handsome in an ugly sort of way, looks great in a tuxedo but prefers to wear jeans and a torn shirt unbuttoned to the waist, with the scars of five bullet wounds in his chest and two slugs still lodged somewhere beneath his heart. One sudden move the wrong way, and he’s a dead man. But he is willing take the chance and defy the odds against him if the femme fatale agrees to come to his ten-thousand-dollar-a-night boudoir to drink wine that was hidden in a bank vault during the French Revolution and smuggled out of Paris by bandits who preferred the wine to the crates of Francs in the corner.
- A femme fatale with long blonde hair and long legs to match who has been hired to keep a watch on the hero, spends most of the time running her lithe fingers over the five scars in his chest, and wrestling with her own conscience. Should she love him or kill him, and one option seems as good as the other. She knows she won’t make up her mind until the wine’s gone, and by then it might be too late. She speaks with an odd, throaty accent, answers to the name of Kitten, and has a beauty spot that lights up and glows in the dark.
A heroine who appears to be a lonely waif with a dirty face in a torn dress and disheveled auburn hair who has been falsely imprisoned by a jealous step-sister, in love with the assassin. She has been charged with prostitution, and sentenced to die unless the hero can save her, and he knows he must save her because only she knows the code word defining the assassin’s target, and it has been tattooed in the crevice of her belly button. He can’t see it, but he can feel it, and when his hot breath raises the gooseflesh on her stomach, he can even read it. It takes a lot of hot breathing to make out one letter at a time, and when he finishes learning the code, the hero no longer cares about the femme fatale who only wanted to use him for his wanton flask of wine.. With a shower, a new pair of jeans, and a white lace blouse, the lonely waif begins to look a lot more like Jessica Alba and a lot less like Billy Bob Thornton.
- The hero’s trusty sidekick who moves in the shadows, and you never know he’s close until he appears at the last minute when the hero is outmanned and outgunned and outfought. The sidekick is preferably as wide as he is tall, preferably packed with muscles in places where most of us don’t have places, preferably is a master of karate, tae-kwon-do, and assorted other martial arts, is preferably African American or Asian, is preferably named after some bird such as Hawk or Raven or Eagle (but never Turkey), preferably carries a fold-up AK 47 in the vest pocket of his leather jacket, and preferably was once a hired gun for the Russian Mafia until he saw the light, had a mountain top experience, and became a card-carrying Liberal – but a closet Libertarian.
- An assassin chasing after the President of the United States, the Queen of England, the Director of the World Bank, or the top ten finalists in the Miss America Pageant. Take your pick. Who would you hate to lose most? That’s the one. The assassin is a refugee from World Championship Wrestling with a long scar down the right cheek of his angular face, has crew-cut hair dyed dishwater blonde, and wears a Sam Brown belt that holds two Glocks, three knives, and an Uzi submachine gun designed to look like a fountain pen in case any of the lovely, bikini-clad lassies wallowing from chapter to chapter should ask for his autograph or something better. His dialogue is four letter words in four word sentences, punctuated by dashes, dots, and gunshots.
- A rogue CIA agent, drummed out of the Company because he sold national secrets to a foreign government, which, in turn, used the secrets to make dirty bombs, then sell them back to the U.S. government in the form of computer chips for a spy plane that is so fast it lands two minutes before takeoff. He wants to kill the CIA chief who discredited him. He wants to kill the foreign agent who betrayed him. He is distracted by the femme fatale, who has been hired by the CIA to assassinate him and paid by the foreign government to keep him alive. Weary and frustrated, the rogue CIA agents commits suicide, and the lovely femme fatale has to keep dragging around a dead man and stuffing him in her bed at night to keep the foreign government from learning the truth. She definitely does not want to miss a paycheck. It’s not much of a problem for her. A lot of men have come to her bed, and several of them weren’t nearly as lively as the dead man.
- They all gather for one final showdown in the Deathly Hallows. The rogue CIA agent shows up as a Zombie. The femme fatale comes out of the closet as a vampire. The assassin is born again in the Big Brother Billy Bohemia’s Traveling Salvation Show. All ten finalists in the Miss America Pageant have a command performance for the Queen, two of them in drag. And the heroine inherits the lower half of Rhode Island where she eagerly waits for the love of her life, who has run off to Tahiti with his trusty sidekick, whose muscular busts were larger than hers.
This could well be the perfect novel if you can pass it off as literary fiction. I don’t have time to write it. But I’ll certainly read it if you do.
Caleb Pirtle III is author of Chasing Love and Other Ghosts.