Want to be a writer? Watch and read The Hunt for October

By Greg Turnquist

Greg L. Turnquist worked on the Spring team for over thirteen years and is a senior staff technical content engineer at Cockroach Labs. He was the lead for Spring Data JPA and Spring Web Services. He wrote Packt's best-selling title, Learning Spring Boot 2.0 2nd Edition, and its 3rd Edition follow-up along many others.

June 9, 2015

image Want to be a writer? At last week’s writers conference, one speaker used movie clips to demonstrate various key structures found in books. I also heard another speaker mention how, in chatting with Lee Child, that the man did all his military research by reading Tom Clancy.

I just finished watching The Hunt for Red October for the nth time, only this time, I was watching it as a writer. I also plan to go and re-read the novel. That story carries all the perfect elements of a story. Want to write a gripping tale? Look at what happened there and you will understand things like pinch points and other constructs.

Disasters and Pinch points

There is a story structure that dates back to Aristotle. It has names including the Three Act Story. Some say this recipe is so successful because it really reflects us.

One way of describing this story is that it contains a series of disasters followed by pinch points. First, a disaster ensues and then a pinch point is when the enemy makes a move.  Then show a way forward

Somebody gets into trouble, then gets out of it again. People love that story. They never get tired of it.” –Kurt Vonnegut

Go and watch The Hunt for October. Can you spot the disasters?  What about the pinch points?  Another good sign is when you connect to the characters and start to cheer for them. Or hate it when they are hurt or killed. And every author shoots to move the story along in a way such that you don’t need the next disaster that’s about to strike.

Read debut novels of famous authors

You don’t really have to pick the book I just said. But go and find the debut novel for any author you recognize. Read the first chapter. Does it hook you? Want to read more? A debut novel is what that author had to submit, wade through the tough process of convincing agents, editors, and publishers to bet on. These authors had no coat tails to ride.

I don’t know about you, but the next novel on my list is The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton. I love that movie. I must read the book and digest it as a hopeful author.

Happy writing!

1 Comment

  1. Matthew Closson

    Its interesting to see this technique called out like that. After reading about it I can see it present in a lot of shows I enjoy watching where a new disaster is introduced every X number of episodes in and then later resolved only to escalate to a new and larger scoped disaster usually soon thereafter always keeping the viewer engaged. I’ll have to do some reading and see if there is any advice out there on how to pace evolving stories that follow this pattern. Thanks for a great article!


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