Monday, July 14, 2014

Ten Rules I want Writers to follow

I was recently asked what rules, as I reader, I wish writers would follow. I came up with a few.

Rule #1: Don't preach at me. Tell the damn story... I think this is self explanatory.

Rule #2: Don't make up your own history, claim that you've done your research, and then NOT share your research. You are not Dan Brown, I don't tolerate it FROM Dan Brown, and I will waterboard the next schmuck who does that. Anyone want to test that threat? I'm a freaking historian. I know when you're lying you morons!!!!!

Rule #3: If you have an action sequence, HAVE an action sequence. I don't need blow-by-blow, but if your concept of a "fight" is "they fell to the roof and struggled with each other until they fell off," I will hurt you. Jack Higgins did that, and after that, I knew Sean Dillion series was doomed. I was writing like that when I was 16.

Rule #4: If you have a chapter, it has to be more than a paragraph long. If you only have snippets from a mad serial killer, we might forgive you if it's a handful of chapters. If it's your entire novel, you should be beaten to death with the hard copy.... I'm looking at you, James Patterson.

Rule #5: Vampires only sparkle IF THEY'RE ON FIRE.

Rule #6: Fantasy authors, please, for the love of God, if you're going to have a system of magic set in a modern environment, please explain where magic comes from. [Ahem: Dear Madam Rowling, where do wizards get their powers FROM? Why do they actually need wands? Why can some spells not require any wands?  A paragraph over your 7 novels would have been fine to explain any of this]

Rule #7: Stop giving me stupid villains. Just stop. Please.
Rule #7b: Stop giving me insipid heroes. Just ... don't.
Rule #7c: In fact, Stephen King, just stop writing entirely.

Rule #8: While we're at it, SOMEONE HAVE AN ORIGINAL IDEA. I don't care if you've been a bestseller for 20 years, stop pumping out books like they're an obligation. I'm looking at you King ... Higgins ... Patterson ... Pat Cornwell ... Nora Roberts does consistently better and original ideas than you twits, and she's a ROMANCE NOVELIST.  Gah.

Rule #9: Stop with the utterly dark nonsense. I'm tired of the same dystopian universes, the same miserable outlooks on humanity, and the same anti-heroes. Snake Plisskin only works once. Twice if you make him into a Metal Gear character. After that I'M BORED. You can give me an anti-hero if he's well-developed, likable, smart. You can stop giving me the same depressing, dark, amoral character who actually HAS no character development.  Even the book Codename: Winterborn, which has been compared to Escape from New York, went out of its way to describe how society works, how people live, how there's an economy. I never want to see another Escape from New York or Terminator universe unless they're in the Escape from New York or the Terminator universe.

Rule #10: Stop, stop STOP making professional soldiers into sociopathic Redshirt canon fodder while the plucky hero WITH ZERO COMBAT EXPERIENCE gets out alive.  Thank you


  1. *sigh of relief* I'm glad I'm not the only person who looked at a Nora Roberts book and said, "Hey, that's a nifty idea" then looked up, shocked because I was in a grocery store, and somebody might SEE me buy a Nora Roberts book. (Nora, it's not your fault. Honest. I was scarred at a young age by insipid horrible nasty romance that was really really awful. Or if it had a good idea, it was written about badly. No, it wasn't the romance novelist that I am allegedly related to. I don't even know her handle, or what she writes. Forgive me.)

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  3. Ray Bradbury has done #4. But I forgave him because he is Ray Bradbury.

    But as for #8, well, I think that's what happens when you write two to three books a year for several decades. At some point you're going to run out of good ideas. They all do. As for Stephen King, I haven't read anything beyond his early stuff and, outside of Doctor Sleep, am not planning on reading the rest. He can get pretty awful from what I've seen.

    #9... I don't see this going away anytime soon. The public love their amoral, uninteresting, sociopathic antiheroes as much as they love their villains to be "misunderstood" and "about the same as the good guy, if you think about it" or whatever. I don't need my good guys to be saints, but I do like them to be a step above someone who has no problem executing people in the middle of a public street for fun.

  4. Love this!

    If you ever need someone to help you bury the bodies of the rule violators, give me a call. I'll bring a shovel. ;)

    P.S. Trust me on this...Nora Roberts books get old very fast. The plots may change a bit, but the characters are so unoriginal from book to book.

    1. "Nora Roberts books get old very fast."
      I recommend her JD Robb cop stories instead - the character development in them has been fascinating. And their backstories are often jaw-dropping.

  5. I hope you don't mind, but I stole your topic for a blog post of my own here:

    I still give you credit for the idea, though. :)

  6. I especially like Rule #5: Vampires only sparkle IF THEY'RE ON FIRE.

  7. Rule #8: While we're at it, SOMEONE HAVE AN ORIGINAL IDEA.
    But... but... There ARE no original plots, only variations on them!

    1. I think it's more of a statement about avoiding stereotyped plot elements. There may be a limited number of plots, but there are as many approaches as there are authors-- probably more. This is why we still bother with fiction.


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