Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Rules of Writing

After publishing a few stories here and there I've developed some hard and fast rules for writing an acceptable* story.

Certainly, the language mechanics are important.  That the story should follow the rules of decent grammar (unless for some reason you chose otherwise) is also a given. The story should also adhere to the rules: of punctuation, and speling (unless there are good reasons to ignore those details.)

Font selection and document formatting used to be important but this seems not so much now that one can change the presentation with the swipe of a mouse, and I won't even go into the ancient use of 20 pound bond and SASE's - most of you can google those terms for an explanation if you need to.

Composition is sort of important, most of the time.  Scenes should logically follow one another, except when you use flashbacks or forewarning, or wish to elide into some discourse on something that might or might not be relevant for the reader to know.

Each scene should have at minimum a protagonist, setting, and activity - although the paragraphs within a scene need not contain all of these and maybe you can leave out one or two of those elements if you feel like it.

Should I mention that dialogue should be as readers think people talk as opposed to the sometimes random nature of real conversation? It helps to occasionally inform the reader of just who (or what) is speaking, has spoken, or is about to speak so their minds don't wander off the reservation.

As in real life, story consequences should follow actions and have some reason for being there.  It is particularly important that characters tend to maintain a single identity throughout the story, at least to themselves, most of the time.  Keeping the character's names straight helps a lot.

The meta is relevant as well.  A story usually attempts to convey some concept to the reader and leave them with a sense that they have been on a journey.  The style of story telling sometimes does this even when the actual intellectual content of the piece is negligible. But who am I to say anything negative about stylists?

Writing in a language the editor will understand** also helps.

*Meaning "good enough" -  I've long abandoned attempting perfection.

**This is usually English.


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