What are your least favorite literary tropes? Is there anything you've sworn you'd never do in a story, and does this show in The Samaritan's Pistol?
I was told in writing my novel that any romantic relationship had to persevere for at least half a book before the characters actually got busy. Some call romantic tension “writer’s gold,” a scarce commodity that you’d never squander.
Judging from book sales (more on Bella and Edward in a few paragraphs) the goldmine is real. Just watch The Bachelor (let’s call it fiction for the sake of argument.) By the end of the first few episodes, the bachelor or bachelorette’s selection is pretty much over. The show then uses smoke and mirrors in the form of rose ceremonies and drummed up drama to prolong the tension until a final moment that usually confirms what everyone knew months earlier.
Change the channel and it’s embedded in almost every series. Who hasn’t watched repetitive episodes, waiting for the couple to finally hold hands? It’s everywhere from Twilight to Richard Castle and Kate Beckett.
Prolonged romantic tension works, but if the best thing I can come up with to hold the readers’ attention is to torment them with the inevitable, I need to take an imagination pill.
In an alternate literary universe, Bella could have been pregnant with a vampire baby by the end of the first chapter. How many scary places could this storyline have gone? Worries about the blood sucker eating its way out, Charlie finds out and shotguns Edward, Edward doesn’t die, Charlie now knows he’s to be the granddad of something he wants to shoot but can’t, and the baby won’t die anyway. How do vampire babies nurse in the first place? And how do you integrate a vampire child into kindergarten in the third book? Talk about special needs.
Some of the best tension I’ve read happens after two people get together.
My favorite example of a riveting story after a quick romance is when Cormac McCarthy sent John Grady Cole to Mexico in All the Pretty Horses. John Grady met Alejandra. They couldn’t resist each other; and John Grady consequently got thrown in a Mexican prison along with his best friend. I couldn’t put the book down.
I’ll never be as good as McCarthy, but I’ll follow his lead and find tension elsewhere. No way will I ever make the reader agonize endlessly over two indecisive characters.
In my novel, The Samaritan’s Pistol, the protagonist, Jim Cooper, is the typical loner. Raised as a non-Mormon in a predominantly Mormon community, Jim watched as all his friends, including his high school sweetheart, got married in their early twenties.
Jim finds romance in the form of Sheila Jensen midway through, and I refused to prolong the hookup because it wasn’t in character. Both Jim and Sheila were mature. They were attracted to each other and had the nudge of impending middle age as a catalyst.
It’s what people do in real life. We don’t want to be lonely.
I can offer lots of reasons to read The Samaritan’s Pistol. The action, adventure and literary overtones of the novel are things I talk about all the time.
Now I have one more. If you’ve ever been frustrated by two clueless characters who can’t make it work, you might enjoy the romantic story line in my novel. If your tension matches how much Jim and Sheila like each other, I will have struck writer’s gold. Thanks for reading.
About Eric Bishop
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About The Samaritan's Pistol
That is, until he runs into an ongoing mob-hit while riding in the mountains. Now, his most beloved horse is bleeding to death, three mobsters are dead from his smoking gun, and a wounded criminal is begging for his help. Jim has to make a decision. He can either high-tail it out of there, or accept a tempting offer made by the criminal—a promise of millions in stolen mafia cash for any help he gives.
Of course, only an idiot would turn down such an appealing offer when they’re marked for death anyway. Besides, Jim’s good nature cannot allow him to leave someone for dead, even a criminal.
Soon, Jim finds himself on a trip to retrieve a truckload of stolen money near the Las Vegas strip, right under the Mafia’s nose. But even if they escape with the cash, will Jim’s conservative neighbors provide sanctuary for their local Samaritan, and how far will the mafia go for revenge?