Sunday, November 04, 2007

The areas of book-writing expertise

I've been listening to the audiobook version of The Areas of My Expertise by John Hodgman. Hodgman is best known as the "Resident Expert" on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, or as the PC in the Apple "Mac vs. PC" commercials.

Resident Expert of The Daily Show

PC vs. Mac

He is also a professional writer, and a former literary agent for the likes of actor Bruce Campbell, and in honour of National Novel Writing Month, I thought I'd share some of Hodgman's advice from The Areas of My Expertise:

What is the best kind of book to write?

I was asked this many times when I a professional literary agent, and the answer at the time was obvious: the most marketable kind of book to write, was one in which vampires fight serial killers, but the best kind of book to write, was one in which the vampires fight large weather systems and perfect storms. Of course, that answer is not correct in today's publishing environment, as neither of those old examples includes a worldwide conspiracy, overseen by a centuries-old religious secret society. While my initial response dates me hopelessly, I realize literature, blessed, ever grows and matures.

And one more:

Throughout history, all effective stories are based in some sort of conflict, and most critics agree, that in literature, there are five primal conflicts:

These are:

Man vs. Man
Man vs. Nature
Man vs. Society
Man vs. Himself
and Man vs. Cyborgs

If you think of a story, any story, I trust you will find it fits neatly into one of these rubrics.