Pulp Master Fiction Plot

This essay on how to write the perfect 6000 word pulp story was written in the 30s by Lester Dent. Dent created Doc Savage which was the best selling pulp magazine of its day. He wrote quickly, a novel a week, and rarely rewrote. Reading this is like reading the pitch for Law and Order or CSI. The only difference is that current pulp shows ignore the warnings about getting to strange or grotesque. Strange and grotesque are the two main characters on CSI.

Why are we attracted to this structure? Is the difference between good pulp and bad pulp how closely it sticks to this structure? Is it the originality of the details?


  • First line, or as near thereto as possible, introduce the hero and swat him with a fistful of trouble. Hint at a mystery, a menace or a problem to be solved–something the hero has to cope with.
  • The hero pitches in to cope with his fistful of trouble. (He tries to fathom the mystery, defeat the menace, or solve the problem.)
  • Introduce ALL the other characters as soon as possible. Bring them on in action.
  • Hero’s endevours land him in an actual physical conflict near the end of the first 1500 words.
  • Near the end of first 1500 words, there is a complete surprise twist in the plot development.

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