Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Theme-Plot Integration Part 8 - Use of Co-incidence in Plotting

The posts with "Integration" of two skills in the title are "advanced" discussions.

Here's the index to the previous 7 parts in this series. 

Now we'll tackle the entire STEN SERIES by Chris Bunch and Allan Cole.  It is not Romance, so we can be more objective about the story and how it's constructed. 

To do the kind of study I intend to show you how to do with a Romance genre novel would be impossible.  You'd get too caught up in the particular dimensions that we resonate to and not be able to discern the structural bones behind those dimensions. 

For a while now, I've been searching for an example I could use to illustrate the techniques that create widely selling, big hits, that are not shallow.  You see the kind of book I'm talking about in Regency Romance where an entire world of technology and psychology cradles a story which is deceptively simple on the surface, unutterably profound within. 

But readers who dislike Romance don't see the profound depths.

There's something of the same effect in action-based Science Fiction.  Readers who dislike "science" often don't see the profound depths in an action galactic-war novel. 

But sometimes it is those invisible depths that produce the gigantic, explosive, (bewildering to the publisher) sales track record of a series. 

And oddly enough there are some techniques that power action/military Science Fiction sales that can easily be applied to Romance, but seldom have been, or where you have found it, it isn't done Blockbuster Style.

I love action/romance genre novels - particularly space-military-romance -- double-particularly with a human/alien romance.  When the theme and plot are integrated using the techniques that drive the Sten Series, those mixed-genre Romances sizzle! 

When you add sizzle to profound, you will get that explosive sales pattern that you see at the top of the Romance Genre lists. 

Sten, of the Sten Series, is a sizzling hot hero who can't settle into a Relationship -- well, read all 8 novels for how that ends up. 

I think you'll find the ending of the series a springboard into a human/alien romance of your own -- completely different but the same.  (Isn't that what Hollywood is famous for demanding "the same but different?"  Well we're going to study how to do that by examining what a writing team that DID THAT consistently to make a living in Hollywood, wrote in their novels.)

I've talked about Allan Cole in previous posts as someone with a career worth studying if you plan to be a successful writer in today's swiftly changing world.



We're going to examine how he and Chris Bunch achieved what they did with the STEN SERIES. 

The point here is that the The Sten Seriesis a genuine "series" (with a masterplan behind it like Babylon 5) -- a single story in 8 volumes.  Click the title to see my reviews on Amazon, on Kindle versions. 

It is not romance genre.  It's action, military SF.  We're going to reverse engineer it and apply what we learn to ROMANCE GENRE.

Remember, the point behind all these posts dating back to 2007 is to figure out why Romance genre is not held in the high esteem we think it should be, and how to change that.  Sheer sales volume won't get us that kind of respect.  But sales volume is a necessary, if not sufficient, condition for garnering that respect. 

Sales volume achieved in spite of, rather than because of, professional promotional support does gain the kind of attention that can lead to the respect we're talking about. 

THE STEN SERIES is a major clue.  Read this from Allan Cole, co-author of STEN.  Follow the link in this email letter, and read about how the series was originated and sold.

-------quote from email from Allan Cole -----------
The tale of how Sten came into being has to be one of the weirdest stories in writerly history. I told the story in one of the early Hollywood MisAdventures: "Sten - The Fast Turnaround Caper." And it goes into some detail. Here's the link:

http://www.allan-cole.com/2011/07/sten-fast-turnaround-caper.html My guess is that it'll have you on the floor. >g<

As for the publisher's sales efforts - they were sorely lacking. The books basically sold themselves. And sold so well in fact that our agent (Russ Galen) got well over six figures for each of the last two books. I don't think Del Rey ever realized what they had until the series was complete. This worked to our advantage. We had no NY literary rep at the start. After Wolf Worlds came out, Russ Galen - a young agent at Scott Meredith, then - called us and asked if he could represent us. Then he made Del Rey contract for the books one by one, upping the ante each time.

Around about Fleet Of The Damned, he sweetened our kitty by forcing them to give back the foreign rights, which they never really attempted to sell. Then the foreign sales took off like crazy. We kept telling the editors (Owen Locke and Shelly Shapiro) about how well the books were doing overseas - and all the mail we were getting from readers. (snail mail at first, then Compuserve), but they didn't pay much attention. In the Nineties, Del Rey let the books go out of print one by one. Meanwhile, foreign sales were soaring. We were making way more money abroad than at home - and also getting more respect. (In the late Nineties, my foreign editors flew Kathryn and I to Europe for a six-week Continental book tour... London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Munich, Geneva and Moscow... The crowds at the Moscow book-signing alone went around the block.)

Finally, a year or so after Chris died I talked to his widow, Karen, who agreed to let me see if I could get the U.S. rights back. Thanks to Shelly Shapiro, who had by then become a good friend, the deed was done with little effort. Wildside did the U.S. paperback and e-books. Books In Motion bought the audio rights. Immediately, the British sat up and took notice. Called my foreign agent (Danny Baror) and grabbed the UK rights. The other foreign publishers became newly enthused and there has been a flurry of new contracts, new editions and new readers.

I'm hoping that there is going to be a major Sten revival.

One of these days I'll finally get Sten on film. It's not a matter of "if," but "when."

So, as Laurel might tell Hardy, That's my story - and Sten's - and I'm stuck in it.


Allan Cole
Homepage: www.acole.com
Allan's Bookstore: http://tinyurl.com/l9mpr5
Allan's E-Books: http://tinyurl.com/684uos8
Allan's Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/allansten
My Hollywood MisAdventures: http://allan-cole.blogspot.com/
Tales Of The Blue Meanie: http://alcole.blogspot.com/
------------End Quote---------

We'll pick this topic up again very soon, so go look over the Sten Series, especially my reviews on Amazon Kindle.

Read the books with particular attention to the PLOT aspects, and the use of co-incidence in shaping Sten's military career all the way up to admiral.  Then read VORTEX (Sten #7) with particular attention to the science of tornadoes. 

In fact, from Book 1, read with attention to the behavior of tornadoes.  You'll find by Book 7 that the THEME aspect lies within the concept of tornado. 

Ask yourself what is the Romance genre equivalent of a Tornado?  When you find the TORNADO within the structure of the whole STEN SERIES, you'll have the answer to that question, and you'll know what you can do to elevate the reputation of Romance. 

Also as I read the STEN novels on Kindle (all but one, which I got in audiobook) I used the SHARE feature to share significant quotes.  If you "follow" me on Kindle, you can see the excerpts I selected to "share" as I was thinking of doing this series of posts. 

Jacqueline Lichtenberg

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