"There is No Story Formula" by Jim Kjelgaard (The Writer, March 1950)

      One of my favorite childhood writers was Jim Kjelgaard. I spent hours reading about boys and dogs and the wilderness in his outdoor adventure novels. He wrote genre classics Big Red, Wolf Brother, and Haunt Fox. What I didn’t know about Kjelgaard is he wrote dozens – perhaps hundreds – of stories for the pulps (and non-pulp magazines) in the 1940s and 1950s. His stories appeared in Argosy, Adventure, Black MaskBoy’s Life, and many others. He co-wrote at least one story with a young Robert Bloch that appeared in Weird Tales. While he wrote in multiple genres – adventure, western, juvenile, mystery, horror – his tales tended to be set in the outdoors.
      Jim Kjelgaard was a professional writer from the late-1930s until his premature death in 1959. 
An article titled “There is No Formula,” about how he wrote, appeared in the March 1950 issue of The Writer. Kjelgaard’s argument, and one I agree with, is there is no workable story formula for writing successful, readable, and entertaining fiction. It’s worth reading and those of us who write will get an insight or two about both Kjelgaard and story writing.




a little more about Jim Kjelgaard…

Jim Kjelgaard (James Arthur Kjelgaard) was born on December 6, 1910, in New York City. His early life was spent on a farm in the Allegheny Mountains in Pennsylvania. He attended Syracuse University but left before graduating with a degree. According to Contemporary Authors, “[Kjelgaard] worked variously as a trapper, teamster guide, surveyor’s assistant, factory worker, and plumber’s apprentice” before becoming a full-time writer in 1939. That same year, he married Edna Dresen. The two had a daughter, Karen, and his first novel, Forest Patrol, was published by Holiday House in 1941. His writing won a Spur Award for Wolf Brother (Holiday House, 1957) and the Boy’s Life Award for Ulysses and His Woodland Zoo (Dodd, 1960). Jim Kjelgaard died by suicide on July 12, 1959, in Phoenix, Arizona, after suffering with health problems and severe pain due to arthritis.


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