So you want to pen an award-winning novel. Here’s some advice: Write about death. Or love. Or–if you’re feeling really adventurous–homicidal cowboy brothers.
These are some of the plot lines coursing through the longlist for the 2011 Man Booker Prize, one of those prestigious it’s-an-honor-just-to-be-nominated literary prizes. Delayed Gratification, a self-proclaimed “Slow Journalism Magazine,” mapped the themes of every contender in this catchy infographic:
Note that death tops the list, featured in all 13 novels, including the winner, The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes. Love comes in a distant second. That means, of course, that all the books about love are also about death. So go ahead and write a torrid romance novel. Just make sure it’s a bloody one.
Then you have more obscure themes, such as corruption and theft, biological terrorism, and horniness (in two books about death, but not love, hmmmm!). Cannibalism makes an appearance (in Carol Birch’s Jamrach’s Menagerie) as do “nanny trust issues” (Alison Pick’s Far to Go). The aforementioned homicidal cowboy brothers figure in Patrick DeWitt’s The Sisters Brothers, which also centers on love, death, and corruption and theft. How did that not win?
Explore more at Delayed Gratification. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to write a bodice ripper about horny, thieving, homicidal cowboy twins with a taste for their nanny’s plague-infested human flesh.