Tuesday, April 25
Rule The Roost—What Writing Rules Do You Always Get Wrong?
Part of the How They Do It Series (Monthly Contributor)
Discussion time! Today’s all about those rules that elude you. You know them, but they just don’t sink in. They’re a lot like those words you consistently spell wrong (which, for me, are: calendar, receive, and judgement—and yep, I just watched my program correct them automatically because all three were wrong when I wrote ‘em).
So…writing rules you always get wrong. What are they? The top three on my list are:
Past Perfect, aka Pluperfect, Tense: This one confounds me on a consistent basis; I always end up making every sentence of the segment past tense even though it clearly reads clunkily, and I know I’m doing it wrong. So what’s up with that? Is it that I don’t trust that my readers ‘get it’? How ridiculous. If readers are into the story, and ingrained into my character’s head, they understand. They only need one reference that anchors the scene to the past, and yet…. Maybe it’s me who doesn’t get it. (A distinct possibility).
The only remedy I’ve come upon for this is a self-styled mnemonic I ripped off from the old flick Jerry McGuire. It goes like this: “You HAD me at ‘Hello’.” Meaning: say it once, and you truly don’t need to say it again. Your piece will naturally make sense to the reader, and it will, also naturally, transition back into present tense when it needs to. Trust. All ya gotta do is trust. That said, if any of you have a way that makes Past Perfect/Pluperfect easier, please share!
Deep POV: This one I know how to do but it scares me. We’ve been schooled, scolded, and shushed into keeping our back-stories back until we’re at least 100 pages in. (In novels I read I always count—when I see the backstory, I automatically look to see what page I’m on in the book, and when it’s before 100 I always blush a little and say “Oooh! You rebel!”). Yet if we create characters who relay their stories and personalities via Deep POV (which is part of the style and substance for virtually all of my fiction), this is difficult and sometimes impossible. To define, though, Deep POV is third-person subjective taken a step farther than the normal—ie, Deep POV takes readers into the head and heart of a character, allowing the story to be seen and felt through the characters experiences and history and thoughts and feelings.
But…’history’ bad—right? Yes. And no. History, if delivered in a way that pushes the plot forward, either via telling the story or telling us how the character will participate in the unfolding story (ie, what drives him or her) is okay. But using history as a part of Deep POV simply randomly…? Nope. No matter how clever, witty, or insightful it is, if it doesn’t move the story it’s gotta go. Sigh. I lose some of my best stuff that way.
The Wicked White Box: My characters fall into this No-Man’s Land on the regular. I get so caught up in their dialogue (which is my favorite thing, ergo my favorite crutch. Ugh) that they, I, and, most importantly, and alarmingly, the reader forgets where they are. I always need to yank them out with a shepherd’s hook of scenery—which sometimes works, but most times feels and looks clunky and as though it were inserted too purposefully to read smoothly.
Solution: I don’t have one. But (flirty wink) I bet YOU do—and that you want to teach me. Right? Right?(I’ll send you cookies).
Now—what are your perplexities? Share both problems and solutions and let’s see if we can collate in a hive-mind of suggestions and solutions. Cheers, all! Happy (end of) April!
Bonnie Randall is a Canadian writer who lives between her two favorite places—the Jasper Rocky Mountains and the City of Champions: Edmonton, Alberta. A clinical counselor who scribbles fiction in notebooks whenever her day job allows, Bonnie is fascinated by the relationships people develop—or covet—with both the known and unknown, the romantic and the arcane.
Her novel Divinity & The Python, a paranormal romantic thriller, was inspired by a cold day in Edmonton when the exhaust rising in the downtown core appeared to be the buildings, releasing their souls.
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About No Vacancy
When therapist Lucas Stephen’s sister returns from a legendary Los Angeles hotel, she’s a shell of the artist she once was. Nearly catatonic, deteriorating rapidly, Michelle alarms Lucas by painting the same old-style straight razor over and over.
Heartbroken and frightened, Lucas resolves to find out what happened to her. With his beautiful—and psychic—colleague Della, Lucas travels to L.A., booking a room in the hotel Michelle stayed at.
They barely cross the threshold when Della senses evil. She sees bodies falling out of the sky. Broken dreams. Imprisoned nightmares. She begs Lucas to leave, but the hotel makes both time and truth shift, and when Lucas looks into the mirror in his sister’s room, he sees the straight razor—and is drawn to the bright, scarlet stain of fresh blood…