Monday, 6 June 2016

Guest post by womagwriter Beatrice Charles

Thanks to Beatrice Charles for breaking some womag writing rules for us ...

Outside, the wind howled voraciously. In her bedroom, Daisy stood proudly by her bedroom mirror and peered anxiously at her own reflection.
"I'm so much prettier than my twin sister," she wailed piteously as she flicked her long blonde hair over her scantily clad shoulder, vainly admiring her slender neck. "I wonder where Deirdre is now?" she commented questioningly to no one in particular.
Suddenly she woke up and it was all a dream.

That's 7 at least:
1) don't start with the weather
2) avoid excessive adverbs
3) use 'said' rather than other verbs to describe conversation
4) don't have MC describe herself by looking in the mirror
5) no twins
6) no dreams
7) avoid multiple characters having names beginning with the same letter. 

That's a pretty good start. Anyone like to add to the story? Or have advice on submitting it?

Personally, I think she should hand write it and submit to every magazine she can think of, then phone up two days later and ask when they're going to print it. 


Captain Black said...

I appreciate this article has a humorous touch but you have, in my opinion, made a serious omission. None of the seven rules/guidelines you've stated, have any explanation or justification.

Rules and guidelines carry significantly more weight when the reasons behind them are understood. Again, this may just be my own opinion. What do other readers think?

As an example, I was once told "never start a story with dialogue". To this day, I've never heard a satisfactory reason for this. It therefore carries zero weight for me, so I often break this 'rule'.

Teresa Ashby said...

That no twins rule has always frustrated me, I don't know why. Perhaps because I was a twin and have always found twins fascinating. I also break the rule Captain Black mentions about never starting a story with dialogue :-) xx

Patsy said...

You're right, Capatain Black - these rules often are given with no explanation and without that, it's harder to tell if we really should stick to them. There are cases when almost of of these could, perhaps even should be ignored.

I often start stories with dialogue. Haven't checked, but I should think I do it as often as I start with anything else.

Anonymous said...

Captain Black, here are some reasons (imo) for these rules:

1. Starting with the weather is pretty dull and a cliche (as in 'it was a dark and stormy night'). You want to HOOK the reader in the first few lines not bore them (and actually I think dialogue is a good way of doing this - you're straight into the story and character with dialogue).
2. Excessive adverbs = weak writing. Your action (strong verbs!) and dialogue should 'show' the reader what's happening, rather than 'telling' the reader with adverbs.
3. All those ridiculous words other than 'said' ('he expostulated', 'she rejoindered') are called 'said bookisms'and unless you're trying to be funny, they're too much. The reader doesn't notice 'said'. You can use it ad finitum.
4. It's a cliche
5. It's a cliche (Shakespeare was just about the last writer to get away with it)
6. It's a cliche
7. It confuses the reader.

Anonymous said...

I mean 'ad infinitum' of course!

jane wj said...

Surely Daisy should turn out to be a cat? :-)

jane wj said...

PS I have had stories published that have started with dialogue!

Penny A said...

Would just like to add that excellent advice about never allowing the eyes (or any body part, for that matter) of the Main Character to take on a life of their own... wandering about the room, perhaps, or worst of all falling on the table!

Wendy's Writing said...

I would say that over half my published stories start with dialogue 😊

Patsy said...

@ Helen, I think you're write. Most of these aren't that terrible, except that they've already been done so often they can stop our work feeling original.

@Jane - of course she should! Beatrice, what were you thinking of?

@ Penny - that's a pet hate of mine.

Simon Whaley said...

Of course rules should be broken. I shall always remember the short story competition I was judging once, where one of the entries began: "It was a dark and stormy night. No, really!" (And so the humour continued.)

You can break the rules, if you know why you're breaking them, and what the benefit of breaking them is.

Captain Black said...

Many readers of this blog, like me, have at least some experience, read some good books on writing (hello Jane W-J, nice to see you here) and have received tuition on the subject. We know most of the reasons behind writing rules; we've learned them over the years.

Writers with less experience under their belts may not. This is why it disappoints me to see rules stated as matter-of-fact. They may be familiar to seasoned experts like me (cough, splutter, yeah right), but I believe good teaching and learning shouldn't be "by rote".

Sorry, I'll climb down off my hobby horse now. I'm sure there's something else I'm supposed to be doing...

Carolb said...

We could all add to those points.:)

Captain Black makes some relevant points, but all editors have their pet hates, and those tend to be the most common ones mentioned.

Bea said...

@Jane Ooh, good idea. Something like this:
Mrs Dalrymple walked into the room and stopped when she saw Daisy preening in front of the mirror.
"Daisy," she exclaimed. "What a funny cat you are! Sometimes I think you imagine yourself to be a real person. But you're not, you're my cuddly, wuddly, bundle of fur," she twittered.

Patsy said...

Of course if this story is aimed at the Australian market, you're going to have to work a dingo in there somewhere.

Shane Telford said...

The first story I sold to That's Life actually referenced Prisoner Cell Block H so you may be barking up the right tree there, Patsy!

suzy doodling said...

Most of the People's Friend stories begin with dialogue and action. I love breaking rules.

Kitty said...

I have featured dreams in one or two of the stories I've sold, although it was never "all a dream".