Do you wanna know a secret?

Do you promise not to tell? Okay, here goes:

All three of my Las Vegas novels, “Dice Angel,” “Money Shot,” and “The House Always Wins,” are essentially the same story. Sure, they feature different characters, different challenges and different timelines. But the structure is the same. The main character, through a combination of luck (good or bad) and pluck, finds himself/herself facing a pivotal life-changing situation in which the thing they care about most is on the line. And so, they’re forced to step up and behave in a way that goes against their basic natures, which is just another definition for growth. Add a vital yet mysterious helper character, whether a charlatan, a mentor or a figment, and a long buildup, in which we (you and I) get to know and care about our protagonist, and there’s your story. A few “alert readers” (in the words of Dave Barry), have pointed this out to me along the way, but most haven’t noticed.

And here’s the other part of the secret. It doesn’t matter. Because there are only so many story ideas. Apparently this particular blueprint, which also includes karma and redemption, appeals to me or I wouldn’t keep lathering, rinsing and repeating. The magic, as always, is in the implementation. And the ways to deal with that are, well, infinite.

For more on this subject, I can’t think of a better place to start than The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler. Enjoy!