It’s a really good idea to understand what they are talking about in this graphic. After all, if you don’t know what ‘Passive Voice’ or ‘Adverbs’ are then how are you going to know if you agree or disagree with the BAN on their usage?
Point by Point my opinion – Take it for what it’s worth.
The inciting incident. It is said that if you don’t start with an inciting incident, the reader will put down the book. Actually, the NON-READER is likely to put down your book. Those people who actually can read and do read for entertainment or education, people who might have read ‘War and Peace’ ‘Don Quiojte’ ‘Ulysses’ or even ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ are probably able to stick it out for a chapter or two. They are readers, not FISH. If you have to sink the hook right through their cheek from the first nibble, you aren’t much of a fisherman. And they aren’t likely to understand anything deeper than ‘Twilight’ anyway. Is that you target market/reader?
Introduce Main character in the first scene. As the previous point, this is formulaic commercial paperback bestseller strategy and aside from being contrived for economic rather than artistic merit, it’s just damned BORING.
Genre requirements. This means that you give the reader what they expect within the genre you are writing. Great advice for genre writing but not everything can be pigeon-holed into a specific genre so yes, a good point but again, take what you will from it.
Enough dialogue. Very valid point. There is really no such thing as too much as long as it is valid dialogue. Beware BAD dialogue, pointless dialogue, info-dumping dialogue, back story dumping dialogue, repeating the previous chapter for the slow reader dialogue (they got it the first time) and a miriad of other bad habits.
What is your promise? A writer and a reader have a contract. The writer must deliver.
Enough conflict. 100% agree. Kill your babies. Make your favorite character suffer.
Consider your target market. Again, this is less about telling a good story and more about selling a predictable story. I’ll pass on that idea. If I can write something that is worth writing, I shouldn’t have to tailor the plot points for my market. Case in point – I will not go the Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit) route. I am not Hollywood and I’m not going to add in a romantic sub-plot to every story to meet market requirements. (Both LOTR and the HOBBIT had romantic subplots that were not in the books and SUCKED) The story will be the story. PERIOD.
Don’t understand point 8. I guess so.
Distinctive voice. I certainly hope so.
Spell check. Too many times.
Adverbs, adjectives and too long sentences. There is a right way and a wrong way to handle these elements. I like long sentences as long as the principal noun doesn’t get lost. Again, who are we writing for? I do make a point of breaking up my pages into paragraphs with a mix of short and long sentences plus a lot of white space between dialogue and shorter, one-line paragraphs. I hate to see a big blog of black on a page. Adverbs? I use them depending on their type and placement in a sentence. Never in the ‘he said’ ‘she said’ tag. That’s horrible. Adverbs of frequency or a well placed adverb is ok but sparingly. Adjectives? To a minimum but I don’t see a problem with them.
Imprecise or nonsensical? Not sure what they are getting at here but …. I would hope so.
Profanity. I generally keep profanity to a minimum but if you are appealing to a certain market …. like they stated earlier, then who the fuck are they to say what is and what isn’t appropriate where profanity is concerned? The nerve.
I use passive voice when the characters are being ….. well, passive. Duh!
Pretentious writing …. Preaching. I love to preach. I give my characters a voice and they spew some of my political and social opinions. Why the hell not? They are my characters and they aren’t stick figure people. So they occasionally see the events in their lives from a bigger point of view like politics or societal concerns. After all, whose opinions am I going to put into their mouths? But yeah, I don’t want it to come off too preachy.
The rest of the points are more or less self explanitory. As you can tell, I am a strong believer in doing your own thing. If it works …. if you are satisfied with the result and think you wrote a good novel. Ok. Be happy with that.
I had a potential reviewer turn down my short story collection because at one point, a Mexican character said, “Damn, Gringos.” Obviously, a racial slur, in this particular case against the cultural genocide of the USA and their prevasive dominance in art, television, movies, music etc. It was written in jest and not to be taken too seriously but this reader slammed the book and refused to read any more.
Am I to now tailor all my writing to avoid offending anyone? Should I be worried that my book might have been more successful if I had left that part out? Hell NO! I hardly bow down to Politically Correct standards in my day to day life … a concept that is unheard of in Mexico in the first place BTW, so why would I do it in my writing?
In conclusion. Write what you want to write, the way you want to write it. Use adverbs occassionally. Try passive voice. Start with a preface and don’t introduce you main character until chapter 4. If it is a good book, it will be a good book with or without the so called RULES of writing Pap, commercial, fluff, pulp fiction for the dumbed down masses.
You just might come up with your own style and be recognized as a trail blazer.
Or in the worst case scenario, your crappy novel will be crappy on your own terms. (We’ve all written some dung but at least it was my dung …. following someone else’s formula wouldn’t have changed that)
David Gordon Burke
Find my books here.