Thanks to my ISP I haven’t really had for an extended period of time (Telmex, never use this company if you move to Mexico). Apparently they haven’t built their network to withstand a light drizzle, or a slight breeze. The good news is that today there was no extreme climatic conditions, such as clouds, and I have internet, and I’ll post something quick.
10 Writing “Rules” We Wish More Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors Would Break
This is a wish list by Charlie Jane Anders based on the idea that you have to know the rules of whatever you’re doing, but you don’t have to follow them. If you are going to break them, break them effectively. So let’s have a look at them, and consider them in the light of my novel Faer Play which I’m unexpectedly doing rewrites on.
1) No third-person omniscient
None of that here, the novel is “limited third” – although in my first draft I apparently jumped around a lot between this and omniscient and “ironic narrator”. That’s all be edited for consistency. Yay editing.
2) No prologues
It was actually suggested that I put in a prologue, specifically making my dream sequence a prologue because it is full of action. The dream sequence was originally a flashback sequence, which an agent at a conference told me was a no-no because it was “backstory”.
3) Avoid infodumps
This is something else I removed from the first draft based on the advice of this agent at a conference, with the result that all my beta-readers commented they had no idea what was going on nor how the world worked. Getting that page-and-a-half of information back into the story has been rather more difficult than I imagined, but I think I’ve succeeded with the idea of performance art.
4) Fantasy novels have to be series instead of standalones
I agree with this, a thousand times yes. If I see “Book One of…” on the cover my first thought is “if the rest of the series isn’t out yet, it would be better to wait until it is so I can read all the books at once”. This rule was instituted after I tried to read From Hell, an excellent comic series that I had to start reading from scratch every time an issue came out because of the time between them. Twelve issues over seven years…yeah, I’ll just get the phone-book version, thanks. My book is a standalone, although there are sequels. Sequels or other novels set in the world of the first are great, I love them, but writing a series just because that’s what is done often goes wrong. Take Robert Asprin and his MythAdventure series. I love this series, the first six books are amongst my favourite books of all time. Funny stories with great plots and interesting characters, not to mention funny… I don’t think I’ve laughed harder at any other books, including Discworld and Hitchhiker’s Guide. Up there with the best. Books 7-12, in my opinion, left a lot to be desired. They didn’t seem as funny, the plots weren’t as tight…I’m not going to complain here. My point is that after I finished reading them I found out that Asprin published the first six books independently, but got a publishing contract for the second set of six books, which allowed him to “plan more”. I think he worked a lot better as a pantser.
5) No portal fantasy
I understand that this trope is overused, but it’s the only way to tell a certain type of story. My novel is reverse portal fantasy, if such a thing exists.
6) No FTL
Not really relevant to my novel, but definitely a rule that can be broken because it is so restrictive. If you think science fiction can’t have FTL travel, just call it science fantasy. Everyone happy?
7) Women can’t write “hard” science fiction.
I had no idea this was a rule. It seems, on the surface, stupid, and digging a little deeper doesn’t reveal anything intelligent to comment on.
8) Magic has to be just a minor part of a fantasy world
Let me guess…this is the result of an influx of the literary crowd who insist they would never read genre? They can all piss off. If you’re going to write a story where everything is exactly the same as Earth, you may as well just set the story on Earth. Or would that require too much research and knowledge so that readers don’t get thrown out of the pretty prose by proclaiming “well, that’s ridiculous, that’s not how tigers behave”?
My novel has magical beings, and them being magical is kind of their distinguishing feature, but I don’t know if that counts as being a “minor part”… I’m going to say it breaks this rule because I think it’s a stupid rule.
9) No present tense
I think this is often considered a problem in any type of writing, along with second person. I actually agree with this one – if it’s done well, present tense and second person can be awesome, but it’s really hard to do well.
10) No “unsympathetic” characters
Well, I understand that it’s difficult to write a story where the protagonist is unsympathetic, but no character? This is a pointless rule, because what is unsympathetic to one person can be entirely sympathetic and relatable to another person. My novel certainly has bit characters who are treated with nothing but contempt (this is to add realism), but the main characters are flawed, but hopefully personable. I’m going to say that I half-broke this rule. I fractured the rule.
So, I only broke two-and-a-half “rules”. That’s good, I guess?