There are dozens of rules in writing – ones you should follow and ones you should break – but there are three basic tenets at the core of good fiction that you ought to know. I’ll expand on the Three Laws as we go along. For now, here’s an overview:
Law #1: Read good books. Garbage in, garbage out. If you want to write well, feed your mind with excellent writing. You’ll learn a lot just by osmosis. Start with the books that defined your genre. If you write fantasy, read Tolkien. If you write sci-fi, read Wells. If you write mystery, read Doyle. Then branch out and read in other genres; Dickens. Carroll. Bradbury.
Law #2: Show, don’t tell. You’ll hear this one a lot, because it’s true. But it’s not always explained well. Here’s a short example: “she was beautiful” is telling; “her large, indigo eyes peeked out from behind a mess of curling flaxen locks” is showing.
Law #3: Write from your gut. You’re trying to write a dramatic scene and it sounds cheesy. It’s happened to the best of us – because we were trying to be poetic instead of just writing from the gut. Hopefully, we haven’t experienced the same tragedies that we inflict on our characters, but we’ve probably felt, to some degree, the same emotions. You’ve never lost your entire family to Martian invaders in a single day, but maybe you had to put your dog to sleep. Latch onto that feeling. Try to remember every detail – how it felt in your chest and in your fingers, the thoughts you didn’t want to think, the things you wished you could say. Avoid using fancy words; just write as plainly and as honestly as you can, and from the rawness of your emotion, beauty will naturally emerge.
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