A friend’s daughter recently asked for help on a report for school. She needed to asked a writer about their profession. It brought to mind some of the various ‘rules’ I learned over the last several years of being a fiction writer.
I know there are dozens of subjective ‘rules’ out there, including every genre maintaining their own unique set of laws, but here’s what I’ve found to be universal. These are rules I’ve learned either the hard way or being in the right place with the right people.
* Say as much as you can in as few words as possible. Then cut the word count by half.
* Adverbs are spawns of Satan. Don’t use them. Find the right verb.
* Adjectives aren’t evil, but they are sinful. Use sparingly. (Damn, I used an adverb!)
* Head-hopping is just as confusing as it sounds. Keep to one point of view at a time. If you have to change heads, best option is to only do it by chapter.
* Likewise, stay in one tense: past or present. Otherwise, it becomes too ‘Back to the Future‘ for people.
* Clichés are such a cliché. Originality is the only way. Ya feel me?
* Showing is better than telling. Showing makes things more active, better paced, and easier to read. Telling has its uses at times, but again, only sparingly.
* Info dumps (also called backstory dumps) belong in the dump themselves. Filter in the backstory in small bits throughout many chapters.
* Most importantly, forget everything I just wrote and do what works for you and your voice. Fiction is subjective.
Can you think of any other rules I’ve missed? That we can throw out together?