Friday, March 26, 2010

Ten Rules for Writing Fiction

Some time ago, Elmore Leonard wrote his ten rules for writing fiction (eg. you can have two or three exclamation marks per 100,000 words of prose, and no more).  Successful author without a doubt, worth reading ditto.  The Guardian (UK) recently invited a number of other writers to contribute their rules, and published them in two parts.

Part one (which starts with Elmore Leonard's list)
Part two

One of the points made by Wolf Hall's author, Hilary Mantel:

Description must work for its place. It can't be simply ornamental. It ­usually works best if it has a human element; it is more effective if it comes from an implied viewpoint, rather than from the eye of God. If description is coloured by the viewpoint of the character who is doing the noticing, it becomes, in effect, part of character definition and part of the action.

Michael Moorcock mentions the Lester Dent Pulp Paper Master Fiction Plot.  Which is at the very least worth discussing with kids writing creative pieces; I've pointed it out to some kids doing Extension 2 English major works as well (where plots can sag under the weight of Beeeyooootiful Writting (sic).  Also, it's fun.


1--Shovel the difficulties more thickly upon the hero.
2--Get the hero almost buried in his troubles. (Figuratively, the villain has him prisoner and has him framed for a murder rap; the girl is presumably dead, everything is lost, and the DIFFERENT murder method is about to dispose of the suffering protagonist.)
3--The hero extricates himself using HIS OWN SKILL, training or brawn.

PS.  Heads-up: In the second part, Will Self contributes in his point 10 a suggestion you might like to review before blithely handing this out to your class.  Sigh.  He could have made the same point differently, but I guess the temptation to be an enfant terrible (although he's perhaps a tad old to be an enfant terrible) was too great (and nor does the paper have any requirement censor to school-level).
PPS. I'm too old to be an enfant terrible too.  I'm just sayin'.

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