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Go for the Big Idea!

by Durant Imboden

You've made the decision: You're going to write a bestselling novel.

Granted, becoming the next Stephen King or Danielle Steel is easier said than done. Still, if you're going for broke, the best way to avoid going broke is to start with a Big Idea.

    "Hands up, or I'll slap you."

Sounds pathetic, doesn't it?

    "Gimme the money or I'll mess your kid's hair."

    "If you don't stop playing around with other women, you'll have to do your own laundry."

    "Better batten down the henhouse. The Weather Service is forecasting sprinkles and a 20-mile-an-hour breeze."

    "Nurse, I need a Band-Aid--stat!"

    "There's an eight-inch shark loose in those waters, and it could bite a man's toe off."

Fact is, big ideas are the stuff of which big fiction is made. Wars. Passionate love affairs. Murders. Deadly illnesses. Natural disasters. Political scandals--not in Dubuque, but in Washington, D.C.

    "Scared to kiss a real girl on the cheek, big boy?"

Big books call for big heroes and heroines, too. Your lead characters don't have to be perfect--in fact, they shouldn't be--but it's important that they be strong enough to win the reader's respect.

They also need to be strong enough to overcome the obstacles you throw in their path, whether those obstacles are human villains (killers, evil CEOs), manifestations of nature (dinosaurs, tornadoes), rivals for love (the beautiful, brilliant, bitchy other woman), or a character's own weaknesses (lust, ambition, repressed childhood fears).

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