Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Writing Rules

Some tips from a couple of successful guys...and keep in mind that sometimes rules were meant to be broken.

Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing:

1) Never open a book with the weather.
2) Avoid prologues.
3) Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialog.
4) Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said"
5) Keep your exclamation points under control.
6) Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose"
7) Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
8) Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
9) Don't go into great detail describing places and things.
10) Try to leave out the parts the readers tend to skip.

Kurt Vonnegut's 8 Rules of Writing (Kurt Vonnegut's rules were written for short story writers, though they can be applied to longer works (with the possible exception of the 8th rule). He also qualifies his list of rules by saying that Flannery O'Connor broke all them except the first one.):

1) Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that they will not feel the time was wasted.
2) Give the reader at least one character they can root for.
3) Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
4) Every sentence must do one of two things - reveal character or advance the plot.
5) Start as close to the end as possible.
6) Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them - in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
7) Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
8) Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

Elmore Leonard's rules are much more particular. Most of these rules are easy to break and are broken regularly. Though I have to agree with number one. Unless the opening line is "It was a dark and stormy night..."

Just kidding. ;)

2 comments:

charlesjshields said...

Just a note to let you know about a book blog I’ve started with a different twist: “Writing Kurt Vonnegut.” Every Saturday, I post another excerpt from my notebook as Vonnegut’s biographer— profiles of the people I met, the difficulties encountered, and the surprises, such as finding 1,500 letters he thought he had lost forever. It’s a blog written in episodes about being a literary detective.

Perhaps you’d like to give it a look at http://www.writingkurtvonnegut.com

All the best,

Charles J. Shields
And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut, A Life (Holt, November 2011)

Colleen Love said...

Very nice! It's funny how many different styles people have with writing, and yet I'm so glad they do!
If it weren't for the 'dark and stormy night', where would Snoopy be? hehe Just another Beagle with his typewriter atop his dog house. :D