Why the Muse Can't Keep a Secret
January 11, 2013
I stagger out to my machine about five o’clock while the sun is touching the coast of Florida but nowhere near Texas.
The Muse is waiting.
He’s watching the clock.
He never stays long.
He’s more like a fleeting thought.
Doesn’t want to waste the whole day in one place, he says.
I don’t blame him.
Over the years, we’ve discussed plots a lot, and he knows my opinions. He should. The opinions were his long before they were mine.
We believe that there are only seven basic plots in the world, and at least one of them forms the lynchpin for every novel ever written, good or bad.
That’s all the Bible needed. That’s all Shakespeare needed. That’s all Mickey Spillane, Ray Bradbury, and William Faulkner needed. And I have no reason to argue or quarrel with any one of them.
But this morning, I asked him: “What creates the motivation for what takes place within a novel?”
“There’s only one,” he said.
I looked perplexed.
“Let me give you some scenarios,” he said.
And he began.
The man has a girl friend, and his wife doesn’t know it.
His wife is planning to kill him, and he doesn’t know it.
The murderer hides the murder weapon in plain sight, and the police can’t find it.
The man made a second will and didn’t tell his wife.
The preacher had gone to prison as a young man, but changed his name.
The company is going bankrupt, and the accountant is going abroad.
The plane crashed, and a widow buried her husband. He wasn’t on the plane.
He was righteous and godly but the most dangerous man on the planet.
He knew he would never be elected if the Press learned about his first wife.
“What do they all have?” The Muse asked.
“A secret,” I said.
“I rest my case,” he said. “Want to write a novel? You don’t have to waste your time worrying about plot, subplots, characters, denouements, or which participle you may want to dangle in public.
“Just find the secret.
“Everybody has one.
“And as soon as you find the secret, everything else will fall in place.”
“Do you have one?” I asked.
The Muse grinned. “I just told you mine,” he said.
“One question?” I asked.
“What happens when the wrong man learns the secret he shouldn’t know?”
“That’s where you come in,” the Muse said.
“What do I do?”
“Put a gun in somebody’s hand and shoot the bastard, he said.”
One last cup of coffee, and he was gone.
Caleb Pirtle is author of the suspense thriller, Secrets of the Dead. Click the book cover to read more about the novel on Amazon.