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The Key Traits of Best-Selling Fiction

This list is 21 key traits of best-selling fiction excerpted from The Writer’s Little Helperby James V. Smith, Jr.  If you find them interesting, or helpful the author has several more great tips in his book. 
  1. Utility (writing about things that people will use in their lives)
  2. Information (facts people must have to place your writing in context)
  3. Substance (the relative value or weight in any piece of writing)
  4. Focus (the power to bring an issue into clear view)
  5. Logic (a coherent system for making your points)
  6. A sense of connection (the stupid power of personal involvement)
  7. A compelling style (writing in a way that engages)
  8. A sense of humor (wit or at least irony)
  9. Simplicity (clarity and focus on a single idea)
  10. Entertainment (the power to get people to enjoy what you write)
  11. A fast pace (the ability to make your writing feel like a quick read)
  12. Imagery (the power to create pictures with words)
  13. Creativity (the ability to invent)
  14. Excitement (writing with energy that infects a reader with your own enthusiasm)
  15. Comfort (writing that imparts a sense of well-being)
  16. Happiness (writing that gives joy)
  17. Truth (or at least fairness)
  18. Writing that provokes (writing to make people think or act)
  19. Active, memorable writing (the poetry in your prose)
  20. A sense of Wow! (the wonder your writing imparts on a reader)
  21. Transcendence (writing that elevates with its heroism, justice, beauty, honor)
To sell your fiction, you must pay attention to the Key Traits of Best-Selling Fiction. FYI, the twenty-one traits are arranged in a kind of rough order.
  • Appeals to the intellect. The first five: utility to logic. To you, the writer, they refer to how you research, organize, and structure your story. These are the large-scale mechanics of a novel.
  • Appeals to the emotions. From a sense of connection to excitement. These are the ways you engage a reader to create buzz. Do these things right, and people will talk about your novel, selling it to others.
  • Appeals to the soul. Comfort through transcendence. With these traits you examine whether your writing matters, whether it lasts, whether it elevates you to the next level as a novelist.

Where do the 21 key traits come from?

They come from the most prolific, most complete, most accessible, most reliable survey of book readers in the world. They come from my study of the thousands of reader reviews on

Reliable? Yes. Why? Because most reviewers visit a page to write reviews based on their emotional reactions to books. They either love a book or hate it. They were either swept away by the characters and story and language. Or they felt cheated by the author. Either way, they have to speak out.

You can duplicate my research. I analyzed reviews of bestsellers, the good reviews, the bad, and the ugly. I found patterns in the way people responded and sorted reader remarks into categories.

Go ahead. Find the best-selling book in the area where you want to write fiction. Find your own patterns in the first two hundred reviews. I’d be astonished if they were far from my list. These are readers telling writers what they want—or in the instance of a bad review, what they don’t want. You can learn a ton from this kind of market survey. Give it a go.

Then get to writing to satisfy your readers.

Buy The Writer’s Little Helper for more checklists, advice, and instruction on writing!

Schools Spend Money for Assault Rifles to go with New Tanks

The story in the Wall Street Journal shows that hundreds of schools are receiving firearms, grenades and combat vehicles from a government program. The 101st Congress in 1990 enacted the National Defense Authorization Act. Section 1208 of the NDAA allowed the Secretary of Defense to “transfer to Federal and State agencies personal property of the Department of Defense, including small arms and ammunition, that the Secretary determines is— (A) suitable for use by such agencies in counter-drug activities; and (B) excess to the needs of the Department of Defense.” It was called the 1208 Program. In 1996, Congress replaced Section 1208 with Section 1033.

Rick Perry - Neutered Koch Drone

I'm seriously appalled that a Republican candidate for President whose platform includes doing away with the Department of Education was at the top of the polls last month. Rick Perry wants to do away with Commerce, Education and Energy. Could it be possible that he is a Mouth Piece Drone for the Koch brothers? He deferentially acts like a mouth piece drone. Cracks under pressure too.
Other frightening aspects of Perry include - he is for the idea of people beating children. He sees a world where everyone is free to pray to his god in school. In fact that should be mandatory. His state (TX) has the worst school performance in the country and he cut huge amounts away from the schools. Then he turned down $700 Million in Federal aid for the schools of his state, because he didn't want to bring his schools up to the standards set by the Federal Education.. like getting the right books for kids to learn from and stuff.
This man.. this man who is a direct adversary against your child's ability to gain a basic education in public schools was at the TOP OF THE POLLS last month.
I'm not sure what TV Ads are telling you about Perry, or Obama or any candidate, but I'm very sure, they are lying to you. Find Facts! It's not that hard on the Internet. Seriously. Websites like the one I have above are very easy to locate and deal with direct quotes about the issues. I have several good research web sites listed on the side bar of this blog. Check them out. 


*NOTE : This was written before I realized that TEKS was already in place, and the State Board of Education had already fallen into the hands of extremist. My reaction to Perry at the time of this writing was Deep Concern and Caution. Now that I've learned more about his actions, goals and about the current status of his State, my reaction has leveled out at Horrified. 

Subtext, Subtlety, and Clarity in Description

Most of the time we don't want to be overt with our descriptions of the inner world of our characters. Character flaws are always better when they are demonstrated a few times before we name them, or discuss them in dialog. We don't want to stop the story, for example, to point out:
"Bob was tormented by nightmares, caused by sleep apnea, both of which keep sleep from being rejuvenating. His denial of the importance of either condition causes him to suffer from memory lapses, lack of attention and depression."

Time for the Television to Die

Money can now buy the political marketing strength of TV. If this is the case, then TV ads must be discredited. All of them. The truth is TV political campaign ads are under no obligation to use facts anyway. I can simply say, "Look at the mess that Obama has brought us to." then look sad, and pet a puppy while shedding a single tear in my eye. "When will we make America great again?"

No matter what my party, I'm under no obligation to present any justification for any of these implied claims. I don't have to be factual about America's condition. Great or not. I don't have to state the condition I'm referring to . I do not have to define 'mess'. I don't even have to confirm that it is President Obama I am referring to with any of these implied claims.

All of it, from the coloring, to the tonality, the hesitant breath, the voice modulation of 'fear being brave', and every word is a lie. All of it. It is created by someone much like myself. It is crafted using proven manipulation techniques of the highest form. No propaganda engine in the history of our species comes close to the empathy inducing cult messaging we are capable of today. We are already trained from birth (those raised during and after Nixon at least) to hate the current president, no matter what the problem, or economic condition. It is practically unAmerican to not to believe the current president is always wrong and doing wrong things. 

It's kind of a running joke, right? Except it takes the simplest of efforts to take this inclination and twists it into serious hate.

So, with that in mind, TV ads, all of them, have to be discredited. They have to be seen as fraudulent. People need to turn to the Internet for their views. To websites with citations and references. They have to be able to turn to each other and say, "Is this really happening in Detroit, where you live?"

Verify what you believe. Find real sources of information. Don't allow Koch brothers to buy your vote.

The US Government is not founded on Christianity

This level of fabrication is more common than you might believe. There is a set of subjects which demonstrate several levels of fabrication and intended design. A major place of fabrication right now is quotations from the Founding Fathers, specifically, what they wrote or were quoted as saying about the Constitution -- and if the Constitution was based on Christian ideals and principles. 

I'm not going to get into an argument with anyone about this. A primary document says, with no ambiguity at all, written and signed by John Adams, 
As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen [Muslims],—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan [Mohammedan] nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."
[Adams submitted and signed the Treaty of Tripoli, 1797]”
― John Adams, Thoughts On Government Applicable To The Present State Of The American Colonies.: Philadelphia, Printed By John Dunlap, M,Dcc,Lxxxvi

That document, written as a Treaty, which was then approved by congress, and signed by John Adams, still exists. We have the original, never been altered, document. That should be enough. Right? In case it is not let me point out this part of the Constitution of the United States as well:
"This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding."
(Article VI, Section II, United States Constitution)
The combination of these two primary documents create, as it says, the Law of the Land. So, legally, the United States, in word, and intent, is a secular government. That should be enough, yes? 

No. No it is not and the battle out there demanding that we are a Christian government, that we were founded by Christians, that the intent was Always Christian, that it was so Obvious that it was Christian that it simply didn't occur to them to explicitly say it was Christian -- as they didn't bother pointing out that the ocean was wet or the trees were green either -- so it is Christian. "One Nation, Under God!"

So, aside from the fact that the Pledge was altered in the 1950s by paranoid people afraid of Communists and Soviet Russia to say "Under God", and I really wish they would change it back -- that's just not true. There are mountains of primary documents from each of the founding fathers clearly stating they are not, and have not been Christian, or that religion was of little or no importance to them, or in the case of one, that he was Christian but fully understood what happens when Religion, any religion governs. 

It is going to get Fakey this Year

This is a quote I found, I want to do some verification:  " On 7/31/2019 Trump has private meeting with Putin. On 8/3/2019, just three ...