Monday, March 18, 2019

Advice to Take or Drop

Q: Which writing advice tropes do you follow, and which do you ignore in your books and short stories?

- from Susan

Trope:  a word or expression used in a figurative sense : figure of speech. b : a common or overused theme or device : cliché the usual horror movie tropes

Let’s go with b. Here are a few we hear often:

Write what you know.
Show don’t tell.
Something must happen on page one.
If you introduce a gun in the first act, the gun must be fired in the third.
In a mystery, the reader must get the same clues the amateur sleuth does.
Don’t introduce too many characters in the first chapter.
Don’t switch points of view in the middle of a paragraph/scene/chapter.
Don’t split infinitives.
Avoid slang that will date your story.

By this time, if you’re a writer or a reader, you’ve heard all these and more many times. And, yes, where it works, I follow them. But following all these and more makes a work formulaic, just as ignoring all good advice can lead to a mess of a manuscript no editor will buy. If you’re a writer with some experience, you know what will work for your manuscript, don’t you? And you know what bad writing is, so you do your darndest to avoid it.

I tend to follow basic, sensible literary formats, updated for today’s communication-heavy world. I ignore what I think should be ignored to make my manuscript as singular as I want it to be. And that’s my advice, trope or not.

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