I have three general rules that I use when writing fiction, particularly longer form fiction. I mean, there are more than three rules, but I want to talk about these three interrelated rules today.
The first is that if it doesn’t meet the needs of the story, it doesn’t belong. I just read about a cool discovery on Venus. Needed? Nope, it stays out. I discovered the meaning of life. Needed for the story? No. Use it elsewhere. There are grey areas, of course, but usually they can be justified. For instance, in fleshing out my characters, Bob might be an extreme astronomy nerd, so he starts a conversation with, “Did you hear about what they found on Venus?” instead, “Hi! How are you today?” This tells you a lot more about Bob than it does about Venus.
The second rule is that the author needs to stay out of a work of fiction. The author seems to intrude in older fiction all of the time, but it doesn’t settle well in modern works. The author (me!) can feel strongly about something, but it stays out unless it can be worked naturally into the story. If I, as the author, just write in “Nazis are bad people,” it is jarring, but I can have, “Bob read Frida’s post and discovered she was a Nazi, and Nazis are bad people.” This is something Bob is thinking, not the author, so it isn’t jarring. Unless you previously liked Frida.Continue reading