Sunday, July 22, 2012

Bits and Pieces on a Steamy Sunday


Okay, that title could be misconstrued by many across the pond, but since it's appropriate to the topic of this post, I'm keeping it. Little thoughts about the writing craft are rolling around in my head this morning because I've been reading manuscripts. Here are some to ponder…

Prologues and epilogues: These are old fashioned and should not be used in any genre except those which need additional explanation about time and place. Fantasy and science fiction novels sometimes need prologues because the reader must be orientated as to place and/or time. In fantasy, for instance, an author must sometimes build a complete world and the same is true many times with science fiction.

I think amateur authors believe, because many of them read fantasy when growing up, that all novels should begin with a prologue. Writing instructors, usually those at the high school and university levels, many times encourage this along with the idea that if you have a prologue you must also have an epilogue. Modern authors shouldn’t include either in their genre novels. Prologues need to be labeled Chapter 1, or just 1, and the epilogue should also be chapter headed or numbered.

The End: Amateurish—not used anymore. Readers can figure out the novel has ended if it’s very obvious the story is over. If it's not obvious, then more (or even less) words than THE END are necessary.

Story arc:  According to some writer gurus, all stories should slope slowly upward to the climax then drop rapidly to the conclusion. How quaint. English teachers again? Probably. Yes, a story should build and move forward, but there can be many upward slopes and downward slopes and not all stories drop swiftly to their conclusions. It would be wonderful if all this writer stuff could be put into neat little boxes; however, art doesn’t function this way. 

Genre novels should open with something happening. For instance, a suspense novel should open with, well, suspense.

The conclusion I’ve reached over the years is that most writing books are written by those who have never written anything except how to write books on how to write. The same is true with just about any how-to book. Those who write them know a little about nothing and make their money by convincing those who know less that they know more. 

One space! Two space! Three space more! And so on…: There used to be an urban legend that a sentence had to have one space after a comma, semi-colon, colon, or whatever, and two spaces after a period. How IBM Selectric. Yes, when Courier was king, a distinction between commas and the period and such needed to be made because of letter spacing. Who in the world uses Courier anymore? Not even king Microsoft uses it as their default. Out with the old and in with the new; typewriters out, word processors in, making one space sufficient. Yea!!  

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