To write a business novel, one first needs to learn how to write fiction. Fiction, the description of imaginary events, is conveyed by the use of dramatic writing. Dramatic writing tells a story in a particular way:
- Conflicts: a character faces one or more problems that must resolved.
- The events that occur don’t “just happen.” They happen for reasons that are created by the characters, the circumstances and the environment.
- The events must occur logically; e.g. one event follows organically from preceding events. That is, “something happens in a story because of the things that happened before, and only as a logical outgrown of those events” (Buentello, 2010).
The third requirement is essential because that is the only way a writer can insure that the reader continues to “willingly suspend his or her disbelief.” Namely, to immerse himself in a “fictive dream.”
The reader knows intellectually that what he is reading is the product of the author’s imagination; nevertheless, he is motivated to immerse himself in a compelling story and continue to read.
The author wants three things from the reader:
- To pick up the book and start to read.
- To continue to turn pages.
- To keep “dreaming.”
The author’s most important objective is to avoid writing anything in the novel that will interrupt the reader’s dream and cause him to stop suspending his disbelief. If the reader awakes from the dream he may:
- Put the book down and read no further.
- Write a one star review and post it on Amazon or Goodreads.
- Resolve never to read another novel by the author.
So, what kind of writing might cause a reader to awaken from the fictive dream?
Hear are a few:
- A character that is not suffering from extreme stress, (which could cloud his/her thinking), acts in a manner that does not reflect the character’s experience, physiology, and psychology that has been painted by the author. The character’s actions are simply not plausible!
- An event does not follow logically from a prior event.
- The author employs a Dickensonian coincidence to resolve a conflict.
- The author employs a deus ex machina device—a god-like character that suddenly appears to resolve a conflict.
- The author resolves a conflict in a manner that doesn’t make sense—it is not plausible.
Here is an example from The Boss by Stanley Pottinger, published by St. Martin’s Press:
In an otherwise well-written novel about the oil industry, the author stumbles at a critical juncture in the story. The Gatsbyesque antagonist, Spin Patterson, with the assistance of the chief scientist, (Joe) is involved in a fraud to pump up the company’s stock so that he can sell at the crest. They are alone an oil rig in the gulf, working to further their fraud, when a hurricane strikes. The wind and the flying debris are battering them, when Joe is blown overboard. But he manages to grab on to a safety cable. Spin starts to pull him back onto the platform, when he suddenly remembers a conversation he had with Joe and has an epiphany: Joe may no longer be willing to go along with the fraud—and will probably go to the cops. So, he uses a wrench to unscrew the safety cable from the platform and lets Joe tumble into the raging sea.
In the next scene, Spin’s mistress, Tacoma Reed, a beautiful well-educated lawyer who is the Chief Counsel for the company, visits Spin in the hospital. He whispers to her that she needs to check the video from the cameras on the rig that transmit to tape cassettes located in his office. He is concerned that the cameras have recorded Joe’s murder. She goes to the office, looks at the tape, observes Spin with a wrench working on the safety cable, removes the tape, goes back to the hospital, and destroys the tape as the antagonist looks on.
So, is it plausible for Tacoma, a smart, well-educated lawyer, in the employ of a public company, to destroy of evidence of a serious crime and place herself in jeopardy–all to please her lover, Spin Patterson, who may in fact be a murderer? She could be disbarred. She could be arrested, tried and convicted of obstruction of justice. She could go to prison for a long time. How could she possibly decide that her lover, a possible murderer, is worth risking her future?
This scene occurs about halfway through a 300+ page novel. After I read it, I closed the book and was about to throw it across the room when I remembered that it was a library book.
The author did not merely awaken me from the dream—he shattered it.
Buentello, L. (2010). A concise guide to writing fiction. Retrieved from http://www.lawrencebuentello.com/