Copyright © 2005 Henrietta W. Hay
The Immortal Hardy Boys
June 17, 2005
Writing" is a very inclusive word. It covers everything from a first grader's painful efforts to Shakespeare. It includes today's grocery list and a fine novel, a letter to your grandmother and a scientific tome.
Fiction is one form of the art that I really enjoy reading. I can't imagine writing it, though. Well, I did make one try. In going through some old files, I found, written in long hand on three yellowing pages of tablet paper dated December 21, 1926 a very short story that I had written. (My mother was a great saver.) It was a 9th grade assignment in Englewood High School. Incidentally, I got an A.
The plot was pretty simple. Boy liked girl classmate. She liked him.
Then he saw her having lunch with another boy. Boy was sad. Then the first girl introduced him to her twin sister. Light dawned. Everybody was happy.
How is that different from today's fiction?
It really isn't. Since 1926 I have learned that there is a basic format for fiction. It sounds simple: introduction consisting of a few words or a few chapters, a problem of some kind, and a closing, sad or happy, or "you figure out what really happened." The difference lies in what the good creative writer does with the format.
My friend the philosopher gave me an article out of the June Harper's Magazine, entitled, "The Writer's Guide to Hardy Boys Rack Books," that shows how far you can get with format and limited creativity. After we got through laughing over it, I realized that, "Hey, I could write one of those." Note: I'm not going to.
I suspect that through the years, nearly every boy between 10 and 14 has pored over the Hardy Boys. I know my two did. They have been produced continuously since 1927 under the name, Franklin Dixon.
Since it would take Methuselah himself to write constantly between 1927 and 2005, , we have to assume there was no Franklin Dixon. Of course, there wasn't. The Hardy Boys were created, along with Nancy Drew and the Bobbsey Twins, by Edward L. Stratemeyer. He set up the format and then would outline stories and farm them out to writers. After his death the Stratemeyer Syndicate continued the process. There are hundreds of books that were "written" that way.
So if you want to write a Hardy Boys book, here are some requirements from the book "Writer's Guide to Hardy Boys Rack Books."
' The books have stayed with the times in some ways, but the basic standards of 1927 have been maintained. Writers are instructed to avoid cursing and vulgar language. Instead they are encouraged to use positive and upbeat phrases. For example, All Right! Wow! Great! Believe it!
Four letter words on the acceptable list are Rats, Yeah Right, Yeah, and Yuck.
The crimes the boys tackle should be modern but not bloody, such as
armed robbery, arson, international espionage. Each fight scene should be no longer than two pages. And the limit on sex is kissing and hugging. No off color remarks or double entendres are to be allowed.
And lastly, "End your penultimate chapter with a major cliffhanger.
The final chapter features the villain being foiled, killed and/or captured as our heroes bask in glory."
So if you want to write a Hardy Book, or any other, remember: Format, Format, Format.