by Julie Duffy


No longer simply a genre of heaving bosoms and discreetly closing doors, Romance burst into the digital age as one of the broadest, most forward-looking—and profitable—genres in the publishing business. Harlequin was the first major publisher to make all its books available as ebooks. Romance titles represented $1bn in sales last year, or 13% of the adult fiction market.  Academic conferences on Romance as a genre have been held as such august institutions as Princeton University.

There couldn’t be a better time to be writing Romance, so whether you’ve ever hidden a Harlequin between the covers of the latest Pulitzer Prize winner, or if you have no idea what all the fuss is about, prepare for a brief encounter…with Romance.

The Basics

A Romance story has two crucial elements, according to Romance Writers of America (RWA), who should know what they’re talking about:

  • A central love story
  • An optimistic ending

The Central Love Story

Romance comes in many flavors (and many sub-genres: Contemporary Romance, Historical, Paranormal, Regency, Multi-Cultural), but every story must have a central love story between two characters.

Marcy Kennedy, author of A Crash Course In Romance Sub-Genres, points out that “those two ‘people’ don’t have to be human.” This is certainly the case in the popular sub-genre of Paranormal Romance, where the love story can be between a human and a supernatural creature (think “Twilight”).

The most important thing is to show readers why these two characters belong together. “We need to know why they belong together,” says Kennedy. “Even if they don’t see it at first (and they shouldn’t)…you’d be surprised how many authors forget that they can’t just tell the reader these characters are perfect for each other—they need to show it too.”

Unless you’re writing erotica, there has to be more to the lead characters’ attraction than just lust.

Readers of Romance want to relive the rush of falling in love. More than that, Romance readers want to feel “emotion, emotion, emotion,” according to Kat de Falla, editor of Romance Flash. For a central love story to work, the writer has to combine the escapism of meeting and falling in love with the agony of all those near-misses, all those obstacles that come between the lovers, before they ultimately end up together.

The Optimistic Ending

Ah, the happily ever after…

Well, it turns out that Romance doesn’t require a Happily Ever After. In fact, in flash fiction, you’re unlikely to have time to construct a Happily Ever After (more on this later). Instead, Romance, according to RWA, merely requires an optimistic ending. The possibility of a Happily Ever After. This is good news if you’re a writer who doesn’t want to end every story with the characters getting together in the second last paragraph. Instead of consummating the relationship at the end, you can leave your characters on their way to a happy-for-now ending and still satisfy dedicated Romance readers.

Marcy Kennedy shares one more definition, though:

“If you have an ending that’s sad or bittersweet, you’re probably writing women’s fiction (think Nicholas Sparks) rather than Romance.”

Romance Sub-Genres

There are many well-defined sub-genres in Romance. While some can cross over (like Contemporary and Paranormal, or Historical and Mystery Romance) others cannot. Regency, for example, is set in a strictly defined time and place (the 1790s-1820, in Great Britain) and couldn’t be mixed with Contemporary Romance. Fans of Regency Romance are looking for Jane Austen-esque wit and banter, social scandal and innuendo, not sex scenes, whereas Contemporary Romance fans are probably looking for a more realistic kind of escape.

You can find a good definition of many of these sub-genres both at the RWA site and in Marcy Kennedy’s primer, but if you really want to know what these sub-genres’ audiences expect, there is no substitute for reading it yourself.  Luckily, hundreds of new Romance stories are published ever month, in every conceivable sub-genre. However, before you get excited about the size of the audience and decide to switch to Romance and cash in,  LaShaunda C. Hoffman, editor of Shades of Romance, has a word of caution.

“As a writer you have to find the sub-genre that you are comfortable writing in.  If you pick something you don’t care about, it will show up in your writing.

In other words, even if Paranormal Romance was still the new big thing, it would be dangerous to try to write it if you weren’t reading (and loving) the sub-genre.

How To Woo Romance Readers

“Romance readers are idealistic believers in eternal love and in the incessant search for one’s soulmate,” says Kat de Falla of Romance Flash. “If an author can elicit an emotion from a reader, they are doing their job.”

Just because there is a formula of sorts to a Romance doesn’t mean your writing can be formulaic. Characters must be rounded. They must have character traits that make them attractive and inner demons that cause problems. The settings must be well-researched and there must be tension…lots and lots of tension.

“We know,” says Marcy Kennedy, “the couple in a Romance will end up together. It’s a Romance after all. But as we’re reading, we should feel like there’s no possible way for this to work out for them. Part of the fun in reading a Romance is in the agony that comes from worrying they won’t end up together after all and the emotional release when they finally do.

She adds that one of the ways to add tension is, “..whether you’re building toward a kiss or much more, drag it out. Give them a couple of “almosts” before the actual act. Torture them and your readers.”

But just throwing obstacles in their paths (or removing them) isn’t enough. Remember that every development should further the plot by developing the characters. Kennedy explains,

“Every time your characters are physically intimate—regardless of whether that’s holding hands, hugging, kissing, or sleeping together—it needs to forward the plot. It should mean something more than simply the physical act. The ripples from that touch should be felt across their relationship, across their relationship with others, and across the external circumstances in the story. A touch is never just a touch in a truly great Romance.”

Romance In A Flash

In Flash Fiction the challenge is in the constraints: what to include and what to leave out. Now that you know the two essential ingredients for Romance (the central love story and the optimistic ending) it’s a little easier to make those choices.

The challenge now becomes how to, as Kat de Falla says, “make us believe these two people belong together” without “rushing a story just to keep your word count,” a pitfall highlighted by LaShaunda Hoffman. “Readers can tell when a story is rushed.”

One suggestion on how to handle the shorter length comes from Marcy Kennedy who suggests that you write a story about a “meet cute”: the moment a possible romantic duo first meet. This moment should be unusual in some way—awkward, embarrassing, funny, oppositional—and then, “The tension in the story should come from whether or not these two characters will come through that moment with a desire to see more of each other.”

Follow this advice and readers will fall for your writing, in a heartbeat.


Further Reading


Julie Duffy is a writer of short fiction and host of the annual creativity challenge StoryADay May.

by Earl Staggs

 This article first appeared in the March 2011 issue of Apollo’s Lyre (currently not publishing).

You don’t always have to write as tightly as we discuss here, but when you do, these tips may help.

If we want a fast-paced scene with tension and suspense, we need to eliminate anything that slows the action.  After you read the scene below, we’ll take it apart and see if we can do some tightening to make the action flow faster.

 Mike looked up to see everyone else in the office already staring at the door where a pair of police officers stood whispering with the supervisor. He turned to look at Maggie just in time to see her stand up.

The supervisor called out, “Is Maggie Carpenter here?”

But she was already gone. She leapt straight up in the air landing neatly on the counter under the window. As the police officers shouted for her to stop, she pulled back her fist and smashed it through the glass. She pushed through the spiderweb cracks in the remains of the window and disappeared outside. Mike didn’t see where she went.  By that time all the other students were on their feet and trying to get to the window. Mike alone remained seated.

Mike rose slowly and watched the officers push their way through the crowd. One of them finally made it to the window and crawled out of it, shouting to his partner, “Parking lot!” The second officer turned and ran out the door, leaving the room in a chaotic maelstrom.

Okay, lets start with the first sentence.

 “Mike looked up to see everyone else in the office already staring”

The word “already” is simply superfluous. Let’s cut it.

  “at the door where a pair of police officers”

“A pair of” means there were two of them.  Let’s say “where two police officers.” One word instead of three.

The third paragraph begins with, “But she was already gone” and then describes her leaving. That’s putting the cart before the horse, isn’t it?  Let’s cut that first sentence and get right into the action.

 “Maggie leapt straight up in the air landing neatly on the counter under the window.”

Think about that. If she leapt straight up in the air, wouldn’t she come straight back down and land in the same spot?  Let’s whittle that down to:

 “Maggie leapt onto the counter under the window.”

Also, under the circumstances of the moment, I don’t think anyone would take time to judge if she landed “neatly” or otherwise.

In the next sentence, we have:

 “As the police officers shouted for her to stop,”

We’ve already identified them as “police officers.”  Here we can just say “officers.”

Then, “she pulled back her fist and smashed it through the glass.”

In order to smash the window glass, we can assume she first had to pull back her fist. Let’s shorten that to, “she smashed her fist through the glass.”

Next comes, “She pushed through the spiderweb cracks in the remains of the window”

I doubt she could push her way through spiderweb cracks, so let’s tighten that to:

 “She pushed through the remains of the window and disappeared outside.”

We don’t need to say “outside.”  She was in a room and went out through a window, so we know that’s where she went.

The next sentence begins with, “Mike didn’t see where she went.” That’s redundant since we already said she disappeared. Let’s cut it.

 “By that time all the other students were on their feet and trying to get to the window.”

“By that time” is one of those little phrases we tend to use, but really only slows down the action. We’re trying to keep the action moving here, so let’s drop it.

 “Mike alone remained seated.”

We’ve just said, “all the other students were on their feet,” which tells us Mike was still seated, so let’s drop that, too.  Besides, the next paragraph begins with him standing up.

 “Mike rose slowly and watched the officers push their way through the crowd.”

The words “their way” are unnecessary. What else would they be pushing? Let’s cut them and go with, “He watched the officers push through the crowd.”

 “One of them finally made it to the window and crawled out of it,”

We don’t need the words “finally” or “of it.”

With those changes, here’s what we have:

 Mike looked up to see everyone else in the office staring at the door where two police officers stood whispering with the supervisor. He turned to look at Maggie just in time to see her stand up.

The supervisor called out, “Is Maggie Carpenter here?”

Maggie leapt onto the counter under the window. As the officers shouted for her to stop, she smashed her fist through the glass. She pushed through the remains of the window and disappeared. All the other students were on their feet and trying to get to the window.

Mike rose slowly and watched the officers push through the crowd. One of them made it to the window and crawled out, shouting to his partner, “Parking lot!” The second officer turned and ran out the door, leaving the room in a chaotic maelstrom.

With those bits of tightening, we’ve taken out unnecessary words and left the action moving at a faster pace.

And we’ve let the cops out after Maggie.  Run, Maggie, run!


Earl Staggs earned a long list of Five Star reviews for his novel MEMORY OF A MURDER and has twice received a Derringer Award for Best Short Story of the Year.  His new novel, JUSTIFIED ACTION, is available in print or ebook. He served as Managing Editor of Futures Mystery Magazine, as President of the Short Mystery Fiction Society, is a contributing blog member of Murderous Musings and Make Mine Mystery and a frequent speaker at conferences and seminars.  Email:  Website:


by Erin Entrada Kelly

Years ago I wrote a short story that received a resounding chorus of identical feedback from editors. The feedback went something like this: ‘Great story, but there’s no resolution’ and/or ‘This is great—but where’s the rest?’ I sat down with the story again, poised with a rewrite pen, and racked my brain for some kind of ending. After a while, I put it in a drawer and let it be. I couldn’t figure out an ending because there was no clear resolution. Life is unresolved sometimes, I thought. Life doesn’t tie itself up in pretty little bows.

It took me a while to appreciate that one of the reasons people enjoy literature—flash or otherwise—is because it allows us to escape out of our own unresolved, un-bow-tied situations. We want something better for the characters we acquaint ourselves with; we want something to change for them, or at least for the story, and we’ll take these changes for better or worse. It doesn’t have to be happily-ever-after, but it has to be something.

That’s it, really. That’s what makes an ending. Something needs to change. The situation, the person(s), the emotional quotient of the character(s). Things won’t always end well for the characters we write, but we know that it’s ended when something about the story becomes something else. As readers, we want to experience someone else’s experience, and that means going through all the peaks and valleys. The valleys aren’t as interesting without the peaks and vice versa. Just as in real life. If life were a plateau, how would we know how it feels to walk uphill or slide downhill?

So how do you know when you’ve reached the end? How do you know if the ending works? You walk the path of your story. When you reach the end, you turn around and stare back at the beginning. If you see a flat horizon, then you need to keep walking.


Erin Entrada Kelly is staff editor for Flash Fiction Chronicles. Her fiction has been published widely in places like Keyhole Magazine, Monkeybicycle and the Kyoto Journal. She was short-listed for the Eric Hoffer National Fiction Prize and the Philippines Free Press Literary Award for Short Fiction. Her debut novel is forthcoming from HarperCollins’ Greenwillow Books. She currently works at Swarthmore College and is represented by the Jenks Agency. Read more at Find her on Twitter here.

by Gay Degani

Does anyone get rejections that say, “Some strong writing here, but this isn’t a story; there’s no arc” or “I like your character but where’s the conflict?”  Have you thought, “This editor is nuts!  A guy’s chasing her.  She has a gun.  She shoots him.  Isn’t that enough conflict?”

No, actually, it isn’t.  What that is is “action” which is different from “conflict.”  Action is movement.  Conflict is choice followed by movement.  What???  I’m talking about structure, what Randall Brown pointed out in a post at Flash Fiction Chronicles,  “Who Cares?”: The Nuts & Bolts of Making Narrative Matter:

Something happens (precipitating incident) to create a desire, and that desire creates a need for action that is thwarted by this and that and this and that until, finally, there’s resolution.

Movies are a great way to learn structure and what a story arc is.  One of my favorite movies to illustrate structure in that old reliable action flick ( I know, I didn’t say “structure flick”), Die Hard, made back in 1988 when Bruce Willis was moving from Moonlighting on TV to the Big Screen.

Here’s what to do: Get the Die Hard DVD and watch it with a pen and paper and the timer on your DVD player.  Number the lines on your paper from 1 to maybe 120 or so.  This numbering reflects two things: the number of minutes of the movie and the number of pages of the movie script.  In other words: one page of script-formatted writing equals one minute of movie time.

Back to your worksheet.  Maybe skip every other line to make sure you can write big if you get excited. Record what happens briefly, such as “McClane squeezes toes in rug in bathr” every minute or so, all the way through. This may seem like a tedious exercise,  but there is a pay-off.  When you’re finished, you will be able to see and understand just how carefully the story has been constructed.  For the hot-shot movie critics out there who love those ponderous three-hour think pieces (Tree of Life, anyone?), Die Hard is too “on the nose,” but for learning about structure and character development, it provides writers with one of their best instruction manuals.

What you’ll be looking for once you’ve finished watching the movie and recording each “tiny bit of action” or “beat” is based on Aristotle’s Poetics–the 3-act play structure.  There are many good books out there (Robert McKee’s Story  (a classic study of structure) is based on The Art Of Dramatic Writing: Its Basis in the Creative Interpretation of Human Motives by Lajos Egri. For a quick understanding, there’s always Syd Field’s Sreenplay) to help writers learn the ins and outs–as well as the disagreements about rules, formulae, and art–but I’ll lay out the minimum here.

Act 1 starts with a character in his regular life, something happens to turn his life on its head, and by the beginning of Act 2 (approximately 30 minutes/pages in), the character’s life 180 degrees away from what it once was.  The character sets out to either change his or her life back or to figure out how to make the best of things.  He’s not trying that hard because frankly, he can’t really believe things could go this wrong.  Then something else goes wrong and he rails against new expectations.

About a quarter way through Act 2 (around 45 minutes/pages in) the character has some kind of epiphany that he’s going to have to work a helluva lot hard than he thought.   The simple solution isn’t working.  He needs a better plan.

About half way through (60 minutes/pages) he realizes who the enemy is (himself, his best friend, the woman with the man hands) and at the same time, there is a coming together between the character and his/her main relationship.  If that relationship is male-male as in standard buddy flicks, they bond over fishing, fists, Figaro (The Odd Couple, Lethal Weapon); if female-female, they bond over awful men, making do, Manolos (Thelma and Louise, Outrageous Fortune, Sex and the City); if male-female there’s the usual washing of wounds or sex (Three Days of the Condor, Thomas Crown Affair, Charade).

In the second half of Act 2 some new effort is launched, but it doesn’t work and leads to a dark moment around 75 minutes/pages in.  The character gives up the game as hopeless.

But by 90 minutes/pages, the beginning of Act 3, the character has come up with new energy, a new plan, a new assault on his problem and works through his conflict until he either wins or loses.

Notice as you are jotting down the minute by minute action bits of Die Hard on your pre-numbered paper, what is happening around line 30 (30 minutes in), around line 45, around, line 60, 75, 90.  The timing won’t be perfect, but you’ll be shocked to see how close it is.

When you start reviewing your scribbles, by the first three or so minutes (line three or so), you know who McClane is, what his problem is, and how he thinks he’s going to solve it. Notice he HAS a problem. A personal goal to find out what the hell is going on between him and his wife. That isn’t the PLOT of the movie, it’s a subplot, but it’s what gives the movie some universal meaning.

About thirty minutes in, you might notice that everything has changed 180 degrees from the beginning of the movie (this is about where ACT 1 ends). The building is taken over and the story problem isn’t just about McClane and his wife, but it’s about surviving the “terrorist” attack.

Act 2 comes next, from around 30 or so minutes to about 90 minutes in. In that time, it is McClane fighting the bad guys.

The first part of act 2 is all about getting the police’s attention and he assumes, of course, that the police will solve the problem. He has to just survive and create enough chaos to keep the bad guys busy until the cops save the day.

But in the middle of the movie, around 60 minutes in, we see that McClane isn’t going to get any help. As a matter of fact, he’s now perceived as one of the bad guys. The stakes are ramped up. There is no help coming. He’s got to do it himself.  However, if I’m remembering correctly, this is about the time John McClane’s wife begins to feel more kindly toward her estranged husband. She knows it’s him solving the bigger problem as only he can.

And then at about 90 minutes when Act three begins, John McClane makes his final assault to save his wife and everyone else who has survived. And he manages to do that in true action hero form.

The end? The enemy is defeated and he regains his wife.

Okay. Formula. Over the top. Right? Yeah but it’s a learning tool too. Knowing why this movie works has helped me to have answers to story problems whenever I get stuck. I have questions to ask myself.  What does the formula tell me at this point???

Maybe I’m 30 pages into a 120 page novella and nothing has happened?  Maybe it’s a 1ooo word flash, and I’m 250 words in, and my character doesn’t exist on paper yet.  Thinking about Die Hard, I know I’m in trouble.  By page 30 my character should have a problem and he should be adjusting to it, fighting against it, trying to solve it.  If I’m writing flash, I should know the same kinds of things at 250 words.

Formula? Yes.  But I don’t have to write formula .  I can write with my own voice, my own details, my own angle on what it all means, but at least I have to realize that readers may want to know the character I’m creating and the challenge he or she is facing because a larger percentage of writing we like gives us insight, whether slight or deep, into life.

There are other things to be learned from Die Hard.  Also look for:

Set-ups and pay-offs: On the plane McClane talks with the other passenger about being afraid of flying. The passenger offers a suggestion. Watch for this to pay-off when he is in the bathroom of the Nakatomi building, and then later when he’s in the elevator and later when he’s being chased.  This suggestion from the passenger pays off about 6 times in this move. THAT’s good structure.

Look for how exposition is handled: On the plane, in the taxi, between McClane’s wife and her boss, when McClane gets to the Nakatomi building and looks his wife up on the list of employees. Then think about set-up and pay-offs again.  How is information given to the viewer?

Look for character development: The characters in this piece are so well-defined and consistent in their traits. We get them quickly and their motivation and subsequent behavior holds the structure together when the twists are thrown in. There is suspense without confusion.

Setting: Think about the airplane, the limo, and the high rise Century City building. Then think about how this movement evolves and what happens in the building and how each of these places have their own twists and turns.

Pacing??? Remarkably fast, but with the right amount of time spent on reflection so the movie has meaning. And it does. It’s about loyalty, determination, married love, brotherhood, evil….

I didn’t make this up. If this idea of studying movies to help understand structure appeals to you, you might consider reading one of the books I mentioned earlier.

I can’t remember all the movies I did this with, but it is amazing to see how close movies THAT WORK stick to the basics of structure.  And guess what,  most of my favorite books do too, even Jane Eyre and Middlesex.

Movies I logged:

Suspicion (wrong ending really but I still love it)
Outrageous Fortune
Trading Places

That’s all I can remember off the top of my head!  Happy movie watching!


 This is a revised FFC reprint from 2010.


Gay Degani is the editor of Flash Fiction Chronicles.


 By Len Hazell

Ever heard of intertexuality?  If not, perhaps it is something to look into.  Intertexuality is not some kinky literary fetish, but it was quite a buzzword in literary theory about ten years ago. Before it became popular in certain circles, the word meant:

“The reference to another, separate and distinct, text within a text.”

Like saying a man stranded on a desert island was doing a “Robinson Crusoe.” However, the rise of magic realism and postmodernism subtly changed the meaning so it slowly began to mean:

“Combining samples of previously published text to form a new and original work.”

To clarify, the more traditional words “allusion” or “influenced by” are somewhat the same thing.

In Haroun and the Sea of Stories, Salman Rushdie tells us of creatures that live in that eponymous sea called “Plennti-more Fish.” These fish consume the stories that make up the sea, mix them in their bowels and poop out new tales for the fishermen to catch. The writer–the intertexualist–scours archives of past published works, old TV programs, films, cartoons, comic, pulp novels, and literature, searching for tasty morsels, gobbling them up, and then regurgitating the mix into a new story of his or her own.

A  fun example is what happened in the studios of Hanna-Barbera. “Top Cat” was a rewrite of “The Phil Silvers Show.” “Huckleberry Hound” recycled Bing Crosby projects. “Pixie and Dixie” creators reworked their own “Tom and Jerry” material for MGM and most famously of all, “The Flintstones” was an animated version of the hit sit-com “The Honeymooners.” Animators referenced old shows, their own shows, books (remember those TV ancient cartoons with Eliza crossing the frozen Ohio from Uncle Tom’s Cabin?), myths, and legends.

The tradition, though was not yet known as “intertextuality,” had begun for the modern era.

It was used with caution at first. Fear of a copyright suit made intertexualists cautious, but as time went on, and copyright law became more and more obscure and confused, writers became bolder.

Example 1:

An ex-soldier declares war on crime after his family is gunned down in a mob hit.

A former Marine and weapons expert, turned pacifist takes up his gun again and becomes a vigilante seeking out and killing criminals after his wife and daughter are raped and murdered in a mugging.

A retired government agent becomes a pharmacist and forswears violence until the mob demands protection money from him and kills his wife.  He dons a black suit bearing a skull emblem and become a vigilante avenging himself on the mob.

Sound familiar?  They appear to be versions of the highly popular comic book series and film franchise, “The Punisher.” Only they are not.

Number one is the origin story of “The Executioner,”a thirty-seven-issue-strong series of paperback books by Don Pendleton starting in 1969.

Number two is the storyline of a 1972 novel, Death Wish by Brian Garfield.

Number three is the origin story of The Black Terror created by acclaimed novelist Patricia Highsmith in 1941 while working for Nedor Comics.

“The Punisher” (Frank Castle) was assembled and put in to print for the first time in February 1974 by writer Gerry Conway and artists John Romita, Sr. and Ross Andru under the guidance of Marvel supremo Stan ‘the man’ Lee. The intertextuality chain is plain to see the works listed above are the parents of the “The Punisher.”

Why?  Frank Castle has all the most appealing aspects of his predecessors rolled in to one. The Punisher is ex-military, ex-police(or FBI depending on which version you read or see), a weapons expert, a scientist, an utterly ruthless vigilante and is unencumbered by any law, but his own. He has a cool black suit with a skull motif, big guns and most importantly a dead wife and family to justify his insanity.

“The Punisher” has it all, taking the best from its predecessors.

Example Two:

A man murdered by a religious group leaves a clue, written in his own blood, which only a genius could decipher.

An Albino holy man, a member of an obscure religious sect, carries out a bizarre plot by his masters involving theft and assassination.

A centuries-old religious secret is revealed showing that the Holy Grail was a person, not an object.

Obviously The Da Vinci Code right? Wrong.

Number one is A Study in Scarlet written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, which was first published in 1887.

Number two is Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier, first published in 1936.

Number three is both The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln in 1982  and The Templar Revelation: Secret Guardians of the True Identity of Christ, a book written by Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince and published in 1997.

(The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown was published in 2003.)

The final and most startling example I have kept till last because it shows just how far-reaching and how successful “intertextuality” can be if handled by a writer with some talent for mix and match and a good eye for a contemporary story.

Example three:

An evil wizard, long thought dead, returns to bring havoc and chaos to the world. Only the descendant of his most hated enemy can stop him.

A good wizard walks down a road extinguishing street lamps as he goes.

Magic users make good their escape using a bewitched flying car.

A child is sent to a school of witchcraft to be trained in the mystic arts.

A well meaning man keeps a giant Spider as a pet.

Chess pieces come to life and fight on the board.

A boy chews a special food and is able to breath under water.

An evil wizard cannot be killed while his soul is hidden elsewhere.

There is a mirror that shows your heart’s desire.

An unpopular teacher turns out to be a hero.

Okay, ten is enough. I could go on for hours. It’s the Harry Potter series isn’t it? Only it is not.

Number one is of course The Lord of the Rings, 1954–55 by John Ronald Reuel Tolkien.

Number two is Bell Book and Candle by John Van Druten, 1950.

Number three is The Passionate Witch by Thorne Smith and Norman Matson, 1941.

Number four is The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy in 1974 and A Wizard of Earthsea, 1968 by Ursula K. Le Guin.

Number five is Tarantula a 1955 schlock horror movie.

Number six is Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There 1871 by Lewis Carroll.

Number seven is “Marine Boy” (TV Series 1968–1969).

Number eight is Captain Sinbad (1963 film version).

Number nine is Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1808.

Number ten is Goodbye, Mr. Chips by James Hilton 1933 and even more so The Browning Version by Terence Rattigan 1948.

JK Rowling is the new master of modern intertextuality and it has served her well. Give it try, decide on an idea to write about, google who has done something similar before, pick and mix the popular bits and who knows, you may have people lining up at midnight for your latest efforts too.


Len Hazell is 46 years old from the north east of England, holds a degree in Media, and is majoring in writing for the print and broadcast media.  He has published in various magazines in the UK, fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, and has had several plays produced throughout England.  He is currently working on his own musical adaptation of Arsenic and old Lace which he hope to stage in 2011. Len can be contacted at His music is available at

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