We've probably all had some advice given to us that we've laughed off or cringed over. I've had plenty.

Here's one thing that drives me nuts: Give your characters a tick, a speech impediment or a limp or some annoying habit that makes it easy for the reader to track them.

Because readers are stupid and need cheap gimmicks to just help them keep characters in line? Because you're a lazy writer and can't distinguish your characters any other way?

I remember one comment on something I'd written: "They all run and jump the same way." You know, in some jobs, there isn't room for creative flair. Evil Kev can tell you from military and firefighting training that you get taught to do certain things a certain way. Sometimes, your life depends on it. If I was writing about police, soldiers or firefighters (and I was writing about one of those groups) I'd expect them to move in a similar fashion.

I'm guessing comment #2 is another way of saying #1 - give them physical differences that separate them. (Because one being a man and the other being a woman isn't enough.) So instead of writing a believable book I should give one detective a permanent disability that will physically define them the whole way through the story?

Guess I find that rationale lazy. And when I read stuff like that it feels artificial, contrived. Drives me nuts. Anyone else been given any advice or read something in a review that they thought was ridiculous commentary?

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Having been involved with RWA for years, the first advice I got was you had to start out in category romance.
Well, heck, I don't write real romance. I write suspense with some romance in it so that advice had me offtrack for a year or so until I chucked it.
I judge contests and I would never have the audacity to tell someone they can't do something unless it specifically didn't work with that story.
"I judge contests and I would never have the audacity to tell someone they can't do something unless it specifically didn't work with that story."

That's the key, I think. Doing what works for the story being told, not what's 'standard' and 'formulaic', regardless.
I actually blogged about that not too long ago. And I talked about examples of starting with weather - a Rankin book. Stuart MacBride's excellent Cold Granite: has chapter 2 starting with the line "It was pissing down outside." Chapter 1 is really the equivalent of a prologue (one page, from the killer's pov) so I think of Chapter 2 as the "real" start. Not that I have anything against prologues. It's the prologue backlash that prompts authors to retitled them as chapters, though.

Another thing people get advice on that drives me nuts.

And in general, one page chapters drive me batty. It's like books written for those with ADD - "I know you can't pay attention so my chapters will never be longer than 3 pages." Gives an artificial sense of a fast-moving book, but wastes a lot of paper and really means dick all.

Ah, there I go, another little rant...
Avoid all adverbs and get rid of all unnecessary words.

This will probably sound a little naive, but I think that following micro-rules like this can tend to make everything seem the same. Yes, a good writer can follow rules like this and still create entirely different voices for different characters or novels and, yes, there's always another way to phrase a particular sentence, but ... sometimes I think it's okay to write things like:

"She patted him softly on his bald head."

My argument here would be that the word 'softly' evokes a certain sound and mood in our minds that makes the sentence a tad less patronising than it would be without the word 'softly'.

Also, I think that sometimes it's nice to have a few extra words for rhythm, even if they are redundant, even if we don't really need to read them, even if the point has already been made, Daniel.

I'm reading John Connolly's DARK HOLLOW at the moment and, if I look at the book from the 'wasted words' viewpoint, I could quite easily cut it down by at least 200 pages. But I find myself enjoying the digressions (except for the history lessons on arrival at every single location), partly because of the poetry of the language, but also because of the slow creeping of the buildup.
You could argue that it was redundant because it's already implied by the word 'patted', but I guess I've already countered that by saying it was less patronising. Which could lead someone to say 'choose another verb', but ... okay, I'll stop now. :)
Does a protagonist have to be likeable? That's the advice I hear from some folks, and I think it's wrong. Interesting, yes. Likeable, not necessarily.

Likeable, to me, implies someone you might want to be friends with. Would you want to have Jack Reacher as a house guest for a few weeks? Would you invite Vachss's Burke to the church picnic? Would you want Amos Walker to babysit your kids for the evening?

Maybe. I don't know. Maybe you're a masochist.

Protags are, by nature, very opinionated people, always followed by Trouble. Personally, I don't need to like them. I just need to root for them and enjoy their stories.

The best writing advice I ever heard? Read, read, read. Write, write, write. From Stephen King's On Writing. Writing can't be taught. Not really. You have to start with a bit of innate talent, and then nuture that talent with sweat. There are no shortcuts, no magical formulas you can learn in a classroom. To me, creative writing courses and MFAs are a waste of time. Sit your lonely ass in a chair, crank out half a million words, and then see where you are. Maybe you're a writer, maybe you're not. There's only one way to find out, IMHO. Read a lot, write a lot. Just do it.
I completely agree about the need to read. I was always kicking myself, feeling I wasn't well-read in the genre, so when I see aspiring authors/authors who haven't read as much as me I'm shocked. Best advice I got:

"Keep reading" - Ian Rankin

I also agree with you about protagonists. You don't have to like them.
Once I got old enough to know what it meant, then, "Write what you know," wasn't such bad advice. Once I realized it doesn't mean "facts" you know as much as "feelings" you know. Facts you can (and should) look up.

I was easily able to get inside the heads of characters who were lonely failures, who for long periods of their lives were paralyzed by self-doubt and low self-esteem, constantly filled with regret and worry. That's writing what you know.

All that internet porn stuff I had to look up.

I got very little bad advice in creative writing classes, but I was too young to realize that at the time and thought it was all bad. Looking back now, all I can remember is the time Garry Geddes (mostly known as a poet, though he was teaching short stories) had me read a story out loud. I really wasn`t into that, I kept thinking, `but stories are meant to be read, no one will ever hear this,`and of course, I didn`t want to read in front of a room full of people. It was only years later I realized what he was getting at, this whole idea of `voice`in writing. There was probably a lot of other really good stuff going on in those classes that could have really helped me out if I`d been bright enough to figure that out.
Of course. I ignore that.
As for the characterization: Dickens worked very much with characters who had certain eccentric traits or a colorful appearance. He did this very well. I see no reason why we cannot occasionally learn from him. If nothing else, it helps the reader keep track of characters.


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