Lester Dent's Checklist
Doc Savage and adventure pulp writer Lester Dent is known for his fiction formulas. Whether waving those character identification tags or the much beloved Master Formula for plots, Dent's advice has helped many writers in the seventy years since he shared it with the writing world.
But these formulas are not the whole of Dent's advice. For, hidden inside the "Introduction to Fortress of Solititude," penned by Will Murray for Anthony Tollin's recent Doc Savage reprint, is another of Dent's formulas, paraphrased in an interview.
But not an interview of Lester Dent. This one was with Mort Weisinger, a friend of Dent's who helped him plot at least one Doc Savage story. Weisinger would later help create the science fiction pulp hero Captain Future and go on to edit Superman for DC. Of Dent, Weisinger would say:
"[He] had a formula he used for every one of his novels. He claimed you should always have an exotic locale, and the mystery should be: who did it? And the motivation: why did he do it? And a unique murder method: how did he do it? And in every book, a unique treasure."
As Dent would put it in his Master Formula, "The idea is to avoid monotony."
Those familiar with the Master Formula may recognize this as a succinct summation of the introduction, a section often passed over in the rush to get to the structure outlined within the formula. But Weisinger presents it a checklist form.
Here is Lester Dent's Checklist.
Every pulp story should have:
An exotic locale
A mystery (who did it?)
A motivation (why did he do it?)
A unique method (how did he do it?)
A unique treasure.
May this advice serve writers as well as Dent's Master Formula.