Monday, 29 October 2012

Seven Deadly Sins or the Ten Commandments


Here are some of the ladies of the Closeburn Guild who invited me to tell them how I write my books. Since the Guild is affiliated to the church I tried to pitch my talk in that direction.
             My own novels are character driven, rather than developed from careful plotting but most writers agree that there are seven main plots with many angles and variations on each one. Some refer to the “Seven Deadly Sins” but for the Guild ladies I used the ten commandments since these provide the guidelines for most people who lead a decent life whether or not they follow any religion. As fiction writers we can have the good characters follow these “guidelines for life” but giving a character an occasional slip makes them believable and reminds the reader they are human beings with the usual failings and frailties and hopefully arouse the reader’s sympathy or tenderness. The bad characters provide a contrast and the writer can make them jealous or devious, obsessed with work or ambition, or even murderers, especially if you are a crime writer.
            There is an illustration of  every kind of plot in the bible so it was fairly easy to illustrate this for the audience. However nasty I make my characters I usually read about someone equally bad in the newspapers, but in the bible there can’t be anyone much worse for cruelty than King Herod ordering all the baby boys to be slain, or the crowd hanging a man on a cross until he died. Then there is deception which we often get in novels. Illustrating this point I used Jacob who deceived his blind father because he wanted his brother’s inheritance. There is temptation as represented in the story of Eve and Adam, or the devil tempting Jesus in the wilderness. Temptation, deception and jealousy are frequently used in fiction, or we might have the smaller or weaker person triumphing over the more powerful as in David and Goliath. As writers we often need subplots too but even these can be found with Noah and the floods. In various novels I have used floods, fire, storms as subplots, as well as road, rail and air crashes.
There are many more illustrations but this is not the place to present a lecture on bible stories, even supposing I considered myself sufficiently knowledgeable.


  1. Gwen, what a wonderful speaker you are! I wish I'd been in the audience. And you are so right....I think even the best of goody-two-shoes should have some failing. And I was also told on a writing course once that not all baddies are 100% bad - even if the only bit of goodness they do is put £1 in a charity box now and then.
    A very, very thought-provoking post. Thank you for your insights.

    1. Thank you Linda but I am a very reluctant speaker. It is true there is no person who is perfect or they wouldn't be here, and as you say there has to be a little bit of good in all of us - even if it is difficult to find sometimes.

  2. Really enjoyed the post, Gwen, as I'm sure the Closeburn ladies enjoyed your talk. And 7 and 10 are both supposed to be magical numbers, aren't they? (linking back to the spells blog here!)

  3. I don't know about 10 being magical Gill. I'm told treble 6 is a sign of the devil and someone close to me has a mobile ending in that! I came back via your road as you will see on my own blog. Looks beautiful with the autumn colours.

  4. Excellent post, Gwen. It's amazing isn't it, that there are all those millions of books out there all based around the same plotlines and yet they are all so different? I believe the differences and freshness are down to how the characters behave (or don't).
    And Gill, don't forget the number 3 in the magic numbers. It's also a special number from the trinity to fairy stories in which there are always three wishes, three brothers, etc.

  5. All this magic Mary? I wish someone would wave a magic wand over me right now. The plots may be the same but we still need to put in the hard work of crafting the stories - but then there would be no satisfaction without the effort I suppose.

  6. Great post, Gwen, and I'm sure your talk must have been enjoyable and inspiring. I think we can find every plot, emotion, good, and terrible acts of the world in the Bible!

  7. Yes, it is amazing really and never out of print through so many generations.

  8. Temptation, deception, jealousy ... now there's some great themes. I feel a novel coming on. Good post, Gwen!

  9. Good luck with the novel, Jenny but don't let it incubate too long. We're all waiting.