Skip to content

Rules We Love

This past Wednesday, the Insecure Writer’s Support Group question of the month was what writing rule do you wish you’d never heard? I had fun visiting various blogs and finding out what writing rules hurt rather than helped, or annoyed rather than bolstered. Some rules popped up multiple times. Some were unique like L.G. Keltner’s post that hilariously made me realize for the first time in my life that ‘i before e’ is actually not a rule at all because it’s only true about half the time. All in all, it seemed like everyone decided rules are meant to be broken!

So, I thought today I’d talk about the opposite: writing rules I love.

Here are some ‘rules’ (of course they can be bent and broken) that I felt really enriched my writing once I implemented them:

  • Get rid of filtering. This was like finding a hidden jewel. It was something I hadn’t even thought about until an editor brought it to my attention. It means getting rid of language that distances us from the point of view character. So instead of saying ‘she saw,’ ‘she felt,’ or ‘she heard,’ instead describe the sight, feeling, or sound, because we don’t need to be told the person is experiencing it–we just need to know what they’re experiencing. This makes the writing much more immediate.
  • No disconnected body parts. Hands don’t move on their own. Eyes don’t close by themselves. She moved her hands over the wall, rather than her hands moved over the wall. He closed his eyes, instead of his eyes fell closed.
  • Stop piling up actions. Separate multiple actions that can’t be happening simultaneously. Instead of “he walked across the room petting the dog and turning on the TV,” break it up into “he walked across the room, stopped to pet the dog, then turned on the TV.” I actually see this sort of piling up happening even in the books of well-experienced authors.
  • Action beats instead of ‘said.’ I shared this example on emaginette’s blog. One of my favorite ways to avoid using ‘said’ is the action tag: //”Oh my God.” Amy couldn’t believe this was happening. “Why today, of all days?” / “I know.” Roy’s heart ached for her. “On the day of your dead dog’s birthday!” // It shows who is speaking while also getting deeper into what the characters are feeling.
  • Get rid of gerunds. I used to be terrible about using too many ‘ing’ words. Once this was pointed out to me, I went on the lookout for them.

These are some of my favorite rules, even if I do bend and break them from time to time. What are your favorite rules?

Megan Morgan View All

Urban fantasy and paranormal romance author.

4 thoughts on “Rules We Love Leave a comment

  1. I love a couple of these rules myself.
    Get rid of the filtery has probably be a game changer for me. I still use filters a lot in the first drafts, but I’ve lerned to ideantify them and transform them. Love that process 🙂
    Get rid of the dialogue tags is another. I leanred both from an online workshop I used to be a member and I particularly remember the girl who ointed out the dialuge tags to me. She told me: “It almost looks like you don’t trust your dialogue to be strong enough. It is strong enough, don’t humper it.” It just opened my eyes.

    Like

  2. Felt was a word I was guilty of using too much and it took a bit to wean it out of my writing. (Didn’t help that my series had characters who communicated telepathically and could feel one another’s feelings.)
    You’re right about the ING words. I found if you could change it to an ED word instead, that made it active rather than passive.

    Like

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: