This past summer I went to Taos Toolbox, a two-week writing workshop in Taos, New Mexico. Among the many great exercises we did, the inimitable Walter Jon Williams introduced us to Lester Dent’s master plot formula for writing pulp fiction short stories. (Lester Dent is the classic pulp fiction writer who created Doc Savage.)
There are so many things I love about this formula. First of all, the confidence: “No yarn of mine written to the formula has yet failed to sell.” The quirky and at times bossy tone of the formula gives me the same pleasure I get from reading Strunk’s Elements of Style (“Omit needless words!”) or from my grandmother’s arroz con gandules recipe (“DO NOT stir the rice too early, or everything will be RUINED.”).