Saturday, February 4, 2017

Writing for the Pulp Houses: Popular Publications

While writing advice is a dime-a-dozen, advice from the pulp editors on their house styles may prove more useful for a writer seeking to incorporate elements of the pulps into their stories.  These editors molded the styles with an eye for what sold their magazines - and what did not.

Today's writing advice comes from Popular Publications' Editorial Director, Rogers Terrill, who discusses the emotional urgency he wanted in the Westerns and detective stories for his magazines:
“Primarily there must be real emotion in our stories; in addition to the physical conflict, they should have emotional drama. A story, for example, on which conflicting forces are at work, in which the hero has strongly conflicting desires, where he must make a choice that will reflect his true character, his most vital interests and desires require one course of action, but a debt of honor demands sacrifice of his own free will. And while he is sorely tempted to protect his own interests, his better nature triumphs.”
To sell to Detective Tales, writers were expected to meet these requirements:
Heart interest and human emotion are the special requirements. Stories should be strongly melodramatic, the characters should be very real and appealing, and situations should deal with the poignant phases of crime. Of course there must be an important important detective character, but in the shorts he does not need to be the lead. An O. Henry twist will help you make a sale. But keep away from the hardboiled gangster stuff; the editor is looking for the glamour and the old Jimmy Valentine spirit of crime-detection and punishment, when crime was not merely a racket and a detective could be clever and daring; and the criminal might even have a bit of the Robin Hood in his makeup. The time should be the present, of course. It is merely the spirit of the scene that the editor suggests you give a romantic touch to.
Rogers Terrill explains further:
“The menace must be strong. The crime must be murder. And it should be of a bizarre type—or something weird, eerie, out of the ordinary. A series of unexplained crimes makes for a strong menace-buildup. (These would, of course, be explained in the end.) The detection must of the action type—never the deductive type, with the following of clues leading the detective into danger, narrow escapes, and any sort of thrilling action complication.”
In these editorial requests, one finds strong parallels to Lester Dent's Master Formula.  And, since Detective Tales was often described as detectives vs. devils, fans of Weird Tales might find these pulps of interest.


All quotes taken from:

Page, Norvell W.. When the Death-Bat Flies: The Detective Stories of Norvell Page . Altus Press. Kindle Edition.

No comments:

Post a Comment