Writing Rules I Live By and Writing Rules I Break
So…I admit, while I might be a rule breaker about some things, there are a bunch of writing rules I try not to break–mostly because I don’t enjoy seeing them in other people’s writing, so I don’t want it in my own.
1.) Info dumps. Giant piles of background story have no place in my books – not in the beginning or anywhere else. I don’t believe the reader needs to have all the background info about characters, the world they live in and their past trauma or emotional baggage. It’s boring and it takes away from the characterization that can be revealed by the plot. Is it okay that the reader know something important about the character on the first page? Absolutely. Does the reader need to know everything that happened in this character’s life prior to the beginning of the story? Nope.
2.) Using conversation between characters that already know the information to convey said information to readers.
“As you know, Albert, if we don’t get the virus sample to Dr. HotNTots, the cells will die, and we’ll have no way to stop The Precious Moments Apocalypse.”
“You’re so right, Dr. Milquetoast. And without the samples we’ll all be shambling about on oversized feet looking like creepy, soulless children, with hydrocephalus and a penchant for pastels.”
I prefer to find some other method of conveying the necessary info to readers.
(On a personal note, I just googled Precious Moments Zombies in hopes that there was something out there I could use for an image, and LOOK WHAT I FOUND! Someone else hates Precious Moments as much as I do!)
(Seriously…I love whoever made this.)
3.) Conflict – there must be conflict, and it absolutely needs to matter. Without conflict, there’s no story. As the imminently wise Alex Kourvo once told me, “It doesn’t matter how much you love your characters, you need to grab them by the back of the heads and shove their faces into the meat grinder.”
It doesn’t matter how delightful the banter, how hot the sex, how amazing the world building, without conflict, there is no story. Conflict is your friend – internal and external conflict. Stories really should have both.
4.) Chapter hooks. I always try to end my chapters with a hook. I want the reader to have to turn the next page even if it’s just to catch a little peek of what happens next.
Sometimes, the last line of a chapter can be something completely innocuous, like this line of dialogue. “You forgot your coffee.” See completely innocuous, but it ends up being a page turner because of what’s led up to that line.
5.) Head. Hopping. Makes. Me. Nuts. I try to stick to one point of view per chapter for books with shorter chapters or one point of view per scene with longer chapters. I also stay in the heads of the main characters. No one needs to know what my character’s mother, sister, boss, dry cleaner, dentist, cab driver, BFF, barista, teacher, etc is thinking – even if it would reveal something interesting about your main characters. There are other ways of conveying that information to the readers. Besides, I’m sure the dentist’s thoughts are all pure evil, anyway.
I’m sure there are more…but this is what I’ve got right now. Anyway, check out the other Wednesday Random Bloggers and see which rules they’re following and which they’re breaking.