Monday, July 2, 2012

What Kills Sales?

According to Joe Bunting by way of Donald Miller, what kills sales is not writing about death. Or, if the double-negative was too obscure, try it this way: write about death to get published.

Of the thir­teen books nom­i­nated to the 2011 Booker Prize longlist, every sin­gle one involved the theme of death.
Update: You can navigate to a much larger view of this starting here.
H/T: Mac

How many of your favorite novels involve a death? How many of your own stories? We've heard it said that we authors need to kill our darlings. The gist of that expression is that we develop an emotional attachment to our very clever work, which then colors our judgment. But maybe we need to be a little more literal and actual whack a character or two. It may be that a little authorial murder is just what you need to publish your work!

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  1. Is there a larger version of the image? The resolution is so low that I can't read the text on it even when zoomed in.

  2. It's kind of hard to write about death in romantic comedy, but in Give the Lady a Ride, many of the backstory characters had died. Must've worked well enough--it got published. :D

  3. can find it by Googling 'plot lines johannna'

    I pinned it:

    18 novels...and I've only killed one darling. Now I know what my problem is.

    - Mac

  4. That's a fascinating infographic. I pinned it for future reference. Thanks!

  5. Wow, that is so interesting! Also how many linked back to the winning book. Now I know where to go for ideas when I feel like my book is missing something :)

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

  6. Found it. Thanks.

    I always seem to end up killing people. In my as-yet unfinished and unpublished fantasy saga, I think more characters would die than survive (certainly if you include the various background characters who get slaughtered in the massacre that starts a war).

  7. Oh I have plenty of death in my WIP. There's a civil war going on. :D

    On some level, you're right; writing about death generally tends to get people's attention, as long as it's meaningful in some way.

    However, writing about something solely to gain attention is not good advice in and of itself. It should be coupled with writing about something the writer is invested in first and foremost. Which hopefully isn't other people's deaths. ;)

  8. True. Sigh. But writers need to be a little more delicate when discussing such outside the realm. At a recent check up, my doc commented on all the scratches I was sporting from cutting brush and wild roses. She wondered if I'd been in a cat fight and was concerned. I told no, but that I'd once killed someone with cat scratch fever. She knows what I do for a living, but her new nurse got a bit wide-eyed. I kill someone in all of my books. But I occasionally bring them back to life. ;) Too fun.

  9. On the flip side, authors (Doyle and Christie for example) get so tired of their characters that they want to kill them off but can't (or do and they revive them). The only author I can think of who frequently kills off main characters is George R. R. Martin, but I'm sure there are others.

  10. Oh, good, then I've got nothing to worry about. My body counts are always high!

  11. I can see it now: Katie (The Butcher) Weiland. ;)

  12. So far all of my books have at least one character who dies. My book that just released, High Desert Haven, has "Yea, though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil..." as its theme verse. :)

  13. I guess my title out earlier this year is in this mode. The title is DEAD HEROES. Has death and afterlife and two of the main characters pass on. I also have killed off a key character in another book.
    @ Jessica: This site will give you a closeup of the diagram