Busted! Writing Myths Exposed (post by Anna)
Sirens wail. You glance around for an escape route, but all you can do is hide under your desk. The writing police are coming for you! Why? You’ve violated the laws of proper fiction.
Okay, this may be an exaggeration (but only a small one) of what happens when writers meet so-called writing experts. Readers will likely have heard some of these “laws” of fiction too, and we writers hear them from other writers, from editors, and from workshop instructors or authors of writing instruction books. Now don’t get me wrong, most writing advice is good. But sometimes, erroneous advice gets so entrenched that the only reason anyone can give for why we must adhere to the “rules” is because “it’s always been this way.” These tidbits of information mutate into writing myths.
Here I present my top two writing myths and bust them apart with facts. Readers, can you point to favorite books of yours that violate these rules? Writers, have you ever been told your story needs major work because you broke these laws of writing? Share your thoughts and help debunk the myths of writing.
Myth 1: Every Story Must Start with a Bang
Wham-bam! The story has begun. The sucker-punch-to-the-gut approach to a story opening works for certain types of books, but not for every story. Even action-heavy novels don’t always start with a bang, and a slow-and-steady build can provide needed background.
Case in point: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. The story takes time to reach the big moment, when Claire gets hurled back in time; the opening chapters give us background and character development necessary for the rest of the book to work. No wham-bam here. Although it flouts this law of writing, Outlander became a bestseller and a popular TV series.
Myth 2: Erotic novels must use certain words in order to qualify as erotic.
I can’t tell you those words here, because they are extremely explicit and generally considered to be vulgar, but I’m sure most of you can guess at what words I mean. (If you can’t, e-mail me and I’ll tell you.) These words describe female anatomy, for the most part–and I’m not including the F-word. In my story Tempted by a Kiss, an erotic romance, I never used these supposedly required words and phrases. I’m not the only one, though.
Case in point: Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. In the entire 500+ pages of this book, you won’t find those words used even once. In spite of breaking this “rule,” Fifty Shades became a bestseller, the most popular erotic novel ever, and a Hollywood movie.
I could list even more myths–like “never use adverbs” or “flashbacks are verboten”–but you get the idea. Writers, next time someone lambastes your story for breaking the laws of writing, think twice–or maybe three or four times–before swallowing their advice whole. Be true to your story and your voice, because the evidence proves readers don’t give a hoot about the “rules.”
It’s time to stop running from the writing police.