THREE RULES OF WRITING
Many writers have heard W. Somerset Maugham's axiom about there being three rules of writing but no one knows what they are. I've come to the conclusion that, for marketability, my three rules of storytelling are: clarity, brevity, and believability.
Clarity trumps all "rules." After all, the goal in storytelling is to provide a tale that readers will immerse themselves in so they can enjoy the emotional roller coaster ride they crave. Which means, every word, sentence, and paragraph has to be clear and easily understood. No stopping even for a nanosecond to puzzle out who did what to whom and how, or why, it was done.
This happens because writers fail to understand they needed that information to write the story (to discover who their characters were and what problems they faced). However, perhaps only ten percent will be needed in the story itself to provide motivation and validate character and actions.
Clarity means short sentences are easier to read then longer ones clogged with prepositional phrases and clauses.
Clarity means using concrete details, not abstracts, i.e., not a dog but a Doberman; not a red hat but a crimson flurry of feathers masquerading as a pillbox hat.
Which brings me to: brevity, the soul of wit–and wisdom. Brevity is the ability to write with clarity but to do it with a minimum of words. Brevity is picking vivid nouns and action verbs to convey meaning, emotion, and imagery. Brevity means not writing about a war but writing about one person's experience with that war.
Brevity even amounts to "killing off your darlings" by eliminating minor and prop characters so one character multitasks.
And now for believability. In nonfiction, believability utilizes facts and research (the documentation) that supports a premise, an idea, or a hypotheses. In fiction, believability is the means of getting a reader to suspend disbelief and to believe that magic exists, that there are such things as vampires and mermaids, or that space ships can travel faster than the speed of light.
Yet, nothing shouts amateur writing and storytelling like a character doing something without reason or motivation. Inattention to this type of believability comes from not knowing the depths of a character's core values, most deep-seated fears, lusts, hopes, and joys. Thus characters are "flat," two-dimensional puppets.
For success in writing well (and for marketability), clarity, brevity, and believability must work together so the reader can enjoy the story from beginning to end.
When I wrote Karma and Mayhem, believability was my biggest concern. After all, how could Tienan have two souls? How should he react when he finds out his birthright soul has a soul?
As for Janay, the ex-peacekeeper-soldier who falls in love with Tienan, brevity was a priority because it would take hundreds of thousands of words to do justice to what happened in the Valley of Rathe, or how she acquired two twice-blessed dirks with minds of their own, or her ability to converse with angels and see demons. I knew her past, but I strove for the brevity and clarity to reveal only what was absolutely necessary for her motivations, dialogue, and actions to be believable.
It was only after the big issues of believability and brevity were addressed in the manuscript that clarity came into play to refine the work for publication.
So, what are your three rules for writing?
P.S. I want to thank Jeff for hosting me today and to announce the Official Online Book Launch Party for Karma and Mayhem will be October 10 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. EST at http://www.karmaandmayhem.blogspot.com. Jeff, and you, his readers, are the first to know that the grand prize at the party will be a copy of the original recipe for 'Choke-berry Shalamiz' (used in Chapter 11) that a chef created especially for my story. Details will be posted on Sunday, October 7 at http://www.karmaandmayhem.blogspot.com
Karma and Mayhem – He's a warlock with two souls and karma issues. She's mayhem personified. When the two face a cauldron of murder, demons, and witches, is their love more powerful than death? Published by www.soulmatepublishing.com and available there and at other e-book outlets.