Pulp Fiction – Feast or Foul?

Pulp Fiction - Feast or FoulPhoto license

The hero and villain are larger than life. The conflicts bloody and final. Violence waits at every turn. Unbelievable monsters and coincidences are par for the course. No problem ever blocks the story progress. This is the stuff of pulp fiction. But, is it worth writing?

Why You Shouldn’t Write Pulp Fiction

Nobody buys pulp fiction any more

Pulp fiction began in the 1890s and has been in decline since the 1950s. The few pulp magazines still in business are mainly sci-fi and mysteries. If you write any other kind of pulp fiction, you won’t be able to sell it.

It makes you look like a cheap author

Pulp fiction was built on producing cheap magazines using cheap printing on cheap paper with short stories by cheap authors. Do you really want to degrade yourself like that?

Pulp stories are cheats

The hero and villain are always super strong and highly intelligent. Nothing stands in the way of the villain’s dastardly deeds until the hero appears and brings him down. Story problems are wiped out with dynamite, natural disasters and supernatural intervention. Pulp fiction writers pound out a story fast, usually in one draft. It’s not quality literature.

Why You Should Write Pulp Fiction

You’re writing for you

With little to no market for pulp, you are free to write any kind of story you like. You can forget marketability and indulge yourself. Go ahead and write that crazy story about the homicidal washing machine or a janitor who discovers a time portal.

The cheats teach you to write faster

When you’re writing quality work, problems must be worked out rationally and you slow down. When you write pulp, problems can be destroyed. Characters can be introduced or killed off as needed. You can barrel straight ahead as both hero and villain beat all opposition to a bloody pulp. This will increase your writing speed and you will notice the difference after you go back to writing higher quality material.

A change is as good as a rest

When you’re writing the same kind of material all the time, you can lose the passion. If your writing becomes boring and routine, it will show in your work. Taking an hour or two to churn out a quick pulp fiction short story gets the creative juices flowing again.

Is There a Formula?

There are methodologies for writing pulp fiction. Instead, let’s keep it simple and look at some key points.

  • Make the hero and the villain both strong and intelligent. This will explain how they are able to overcome any situation.
  • Don’t work out story problems; destroy them. No complicated explanations are needed. You can kill off problem characters, introduce hidden escape hatches, blow up annoying environments.
  • Don’t make your hero lawful good. Morality is not an important element in pulp fiction. Your hero doesn’t need to only kill in self defense. You’re not modelling reality. You’re creating high adventure.
  • Make it epic if you like. It’s not a screenplay. You can’t kill the budget with too much travel or expensive equipment. Travel the world. Cross space and time.
  • Have fun with it. This is the most important part of writing pulp. Forget all the other points. If you’re not having fun with it, you’re doing it wrong. The more unrealistic you make it, the more fun you will have.

Article by Ivan Izo.


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