Manly Story Formula: Your Guaranteed Guide to Writing a Best Selling Book

Luke posed some interesting questions yesterday. It got me to thinking about what makes a story interesting and engaging? Without any writing style at all, can you create a story base that would make people excited for the tale about to be told.

And with that, I present you with the quick and easy Manly Story Formula. Simply choose A-D in each section, and I believe you will have the makings of a great story. From there, it is up to you to fill in the details, and use your own writing talents to make it engaging. I can’t do everything for you!

The Setting

A. Ancient Kingdom
B. Modern Day
C. Wild West
D. Space

The Hero – The Origins

A. Wandering hero
B. High powered hero
C. Low powered hero
D. Epic, well known hero

Paired Heroes (Optional)

A. Brothers or Sisters, Brother/Sister
B. Opposites brought together by fate/need
C. Old friends come together again
D. Old enemies forced together

The Hero – Personality

A. Strong hero, cut off from emotions
B. Lost hero, searching for meaning in life
C. Happy hero, unaware of danger lurking
D. Sad hero, no joy found in the world
E. Anti-hero, originally a villain, or at least does not care to be a hero

The Sidekick

A. A funny sidekick
B. A lost sidekick
C. An unwanted sidekick
D. A comically klutzy sidekick

The Journey

A. Hero sent on a journey
B. Hero decides to go on a journey
C. Hero becomes aware of injustice, decides to stop it
D. Love of Hero’s life is taken, Hero moves to gain love back

The Love

A. Hero meets unpleasant person – then falls in love with said person
B. Hero has always loved person – person is unattainable
C. Hero and love have always been together, pulled apart
D. Hero has lost love to tragedy, no longer believes in love

The Adventure

A.  Hero must complete a set of tasks along the journey
B. Hero must face greatest fear
C. Hero is forced to fight when hero does not wish to
D. Hero fights, and is transformed through the fighting

The Moral Choice

A. Hero promised riches to leave behind journey
B. Hero must choose between love and greater good
C. Hero must sacrifice life or limb
D. Hero must choose to let glory and reputation suffer in order to succeed

The Final Battle

A. Hero faces direct enemy, epic battle ensues
B. Hero is defeated, yet rises at last moment to win
C. Hero receives aid at last minute, from sidekick or others
D. Hero wins, but perishes in doing so

The Wrap Up

A. Happily Ever After
B. Hero rides into the sunset
C. All looks well, but evil still lurks
D. Tragic end, no one is happy

So, with a simple random grabbing of: A,A,C,D,B,C,A,D,B,B* (I left out the paired heroes), you have:

A wandering hero who is happily traveling along in an ancient European kingdom, with no knowledge of the dangers of the land he’s entering. Following along with him is a sidekick who appears to be strong and dashing, but manages to trip over his own feet at every turn. He once accidentally started a battle by bumping into a catapult, causing it to go off. When the hero learns of the danger in the land, he decides to head on a journey to save the town, because if he does, he will be made a knight. And if he is made a knight, he will be able to marry the love of his life, whom he has been kept from because of his low birth.

Upon arriving at the scene of the evil, he finds that his enemy is his brother, and no longer wants to fight, but must, in the name of love. It soon becomes clear that in order to win, the hero will have to sacrifice himself, distracting his brother long enough to free the people from evil. He is defeated in the ensuing fight, and falls from a mighty blow. As his brother prepares to destroy the town, the hero’s love, and the sidekick, the hero looks to his love.  Just the site of her gives him the power to rise again and strike down his brother. However, he is double crossed by the town and does not receive his knighthood. Defeated, yet victorious, the hero and sidekick ride into the sunset….until the next book.

Boom. Bestseller.

*Confession, originally I randomly chose D for the “Wrap Up”, but I hate tragic endings, so I chose for the wanderer to keep wandering. That is the joy of the formula, you can always mix it up.

About john

After an unfortunate run in with a narwhal forced early retirement from his life as a pirate on the Seven Seas, John turned his attention to his second love, Mountain Watching. He is currently fighting to prove that Mount Huascaran has moved 3 feet to the left in the past year, and that one night he saw it crying. When he is not watching mountains, John can be found practicing for the National Caber Toss competition, having staring contests with jaguars, or helping little old ladies cross busy streets.

Currently Reading:
"River of Doubt" by Candace Miller
"The Buried Giant" by Kazuo Ishiguro
"Station Eleven" by Emily St. John Mandel
"S." by Doug Dorst and J.J. Abrams
"Hamilton" by Ron Chernow
"Storm Front" by Jim Butcher
"Lisrael" by Garth Nix


  1. I laughed. I cried. I yelped in surprise. I shivered with suspense. That from a 2 paragraph sample story. Well done.

  2. it’s actually amazing how effective that is. nice work john.


  1. […] after they land and goes on the run in a strange, new land.It checks all of the boxes from our Manly Story Formula.  Reluctant hero, space, adventure, and a perilous journey.  All while giving us a beautifully […]

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