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Allen Guthrie's Infamous Writing Tips

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LJ Hall

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And now I'm painfully aware that my characters sigh and shrug. A lot.

Argh, but thanks.
 

srgalactica

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23: Don’t allow your fictional characters to speak in sentences. Unless you want them to sound fictional.

This confuses me a bit. lol. Does anyone have any examples?
 

NicoleJLeBoeuf

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23: Don’t allow your fictional characters to speak in sentences. Unless you want them to sound fictional.
Oddly, that rule almost reads like it means "Don't include sentences in which you allow your characters to speak." Heh.

Guthrie's warning against having your characters speak in complete sentences. And as a blanket prohibition, it's a bit over the top. Real people often speak in complete sentences. Some of us even think in them. (I suspect that thinking in complete sentences corresponds highly with being a writer.) But it's true that real people speak in sentence fragments a lot, and you should let your characters do the same.

Chalk me up as someone who's throwing Rule 19 right out the window. I am so sick of the love triangle trope. Lovers who get together quickly (or are already together and stay that way, shock!) and then go on to fight crime together are rather awesome. It's a relief to see a story get its tension from other sources than romantic jealousy, is what I'm saying.
 

Civic

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Chalk me up as someone who's throwing Rule 19 right out the window. I am so sick of the love triangle trope. Lovers who get together quickly (or are already together and stay that way, shock!) and then go on to fight crime together are rather awesome. It's a relief to see a story get its tension from other sources than romantic jealousy, is what I'm saying.

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. It's more gratifying to have an established couple or two people who come together rather than having a third or fourth person in the mix. Perhaps I like my love stories cleaner (possibly because in my own life I find this idea so alien as to make it frustrating and unrealistic).

The tips are great. I've read a few of these lists and this is one of the better ones. It also reminded me to fix up a flaw that insists on sticking around in my writing.
 

Asmodeus

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These are really good, wish I had found them before I had started writing but now will look to break them every chance I get, or keep them true if necessary.
 

phantasy

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Wow these rules are great, I'll be visiting this list a lot for sure.
 

Phuein

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Honestly, I try my best to take from writing styles and methods of authors I enjoy. I steal without shame. In due time techniques learned become personalized. We all have to start somewhere; better good than bad.

Pairs of adjectives are exponentially worse than single adjectives. The ‘big, old’ man walked slowly towards the ‘tall, beautiful’ girl. When I read a sentence like that, I’m hoping he dies before he arrives at his destination. Mind you, that’s probably a cue for a ‘noisy, white’ ambulance to arrive. Wailingly, perhaps!
This just got me cracking up in laughter right there. :=D

Start scenes late and leave them early.
Very interesting. Sometimes, I prefer the audience to be able to actually put the book down though.

Don’t plant information.
Classic Manga nonsense. :=P Japanese Mangakas (authors) are amazingly adapt at breaking this rule.

Spot the moment of maximum tension and hold it for as long as possible.
Dragonball Z anybody? Nobody? Just me? Alright. You caught me. I love it.
 

Elusive Wanderer

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Interesting... I battle with this a lot. I have even scoured through other writer's books to see what they do, and how they let their characters speak. It seems that both are done (complete AND incomplete sentences) and they both work quite well. I would suppose the trick is this: how your character speaks should be consistent with their personality, and it should be consistent throughout the novel.

Maybe I'm wrong, but it's been my observation.

Oddly, that rule almost reads like it means "Don't include sentences in which you allow your characters to speak." Heh.

Guthrie's warning against having your characters speak in complete sentences. And as a blanket prohibition, it's a bit over the top. Real people often speak in complete sentences. Some of us even think in them. (I suspect that thinking in complete sentences corresponds highly with being a writer.) But it's true that real people speak in sentence fragments a lot, and you should let your characters do the same.

Chalk me up as someone who's throwing Rule 19 right out the window. I am so sick of the love triangle trope. Lovers who get together quickly (or are already together and stay that way, shock!) and then go on to fight crime together are rather awesome. It's a relief to see a story get its tension from other sources than romantic jealousy, is what I'm saying.
 

MonaKarel

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Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. It's more gratifying to have an established couple or two people who come together rather than having a third or fourth person in the mix. Perhaps I like my love stories cleaner (possibly because in my own life I find this idea so alien as to make it frustrating and unrealistic).


I came across these "rules" this morning and thought about them while wandering through my day. I'm not wild about the automatic love triangle for a number of reasons, and I write romance in various sub genre. What I do enjoy, if done well, is to have that "third person" be the history and experiences (negative generally) of one of the characters, or of both.
 

Rbrown8384

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Though this is eye opening advice, of which I had many moments of inspiration, I could not help but feel like this would be more helpful if there were more examples.

Show, not tell right?

I could just be a newbie, but I learn must faster with visual aids.
 

tpberger

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Enjoyed the list.

I think 30. on pronouns, though many times good, is better to just play by context.

"John took the knife out of its sheath and stabbed Paul with it."

That can be confusing, however,

"John took the knife out of its drawer and stabbed Paul with it,"

is perfectly fine.

It communicates the action clearly, and only an idiot would misinterpret "it", or someone who overly takes rules as absolute for conveyed meaning.

"I took the knife out of the drawer and stabbed the burglar with it."
"What! Why didn't you stab the bad guy with the knife."
"I did."
"No, you didn't, you said you said you stabbed him with "it," and since "it" clarifies the last noun that can only mean you stabbed him with the drawer. See, if we do not follow rules communication becomes impossible."
 

AngelaGreenfield

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Number 6 and Number 23 reminded me of the issues that I'd had with dialogue while studying a fiction workshop. The instructor taught me to put the said-phrase as close to the first sentence as possible.

For example, instead of writing:

"I saw Jill at Walgreens this morning. It wasn't Hank that was with her. It was that gorgeous young gardener that they just hired," Gladys sneered.

I should write:

"I saw Jill with that gorgeous new gardener this morning," Gladys sneered. "They were at Walgreens, and Hank wasn't with them."
 

Elvin-Bala

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32: If something works, forget about the rule that says it shouldn’t.

So disqualify everything he advises if it works for you? I thought the advice was valuable, although I'd say there are exceptions to many of those guidelines.
 

TopHat

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I am very pleased to say that this list has made me very red in the face.

Well, back to the torture editing process
 

blacbird

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"John took the knife out of its sheath and stabbed Paul with it."

That can be confusing, however,

"John took the knife out of its drawer and stabbed Paul with it,"

is perfectly fine.

????????????????????

The only difference in these two sentences is the noun "sheath" replaced with "drawer". How is one confusing and the other not?

caw
 

BlackMirror

Writing. Writing. Writing.
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Excellent tips, and you've concentrated all of the best one's every writer should consider and use in their writing! Bravo!
 

J.S.Fairey

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Really fantastic list! So many rules on here which I break, rather frequently... ahem :p I think this is going to be wonderfully helpful when I'm editing; I'll go through my MS with 32 different colored pens and try not to be too upset when it lights up like a Christmas tree.
 

Meleena

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These are very useful things to keep in mind, thank you. I don't agree with all of them, though #30 is spot on for that, but some points I found invaluable. I am luckily still in the final edit phase, so I don't have to stress too much about going back. I will be putting some of these into use, so thanks!
 

junebugaboo

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I'm just finishing up Carolyn Wheat's How to Write Killer Fiction, and a lot of these tips are mentioned--great book, btw. I think I need to print out this list and stick it on the wall right above my computer screen.
 

Emily Muyskens

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#16 "Start scenes late and leave them early."
This one in particular caught my eye. (Though all of the tips are right on the money!) I have a tendency of wanting to ease readers into a scene. I forget that I can set the stage even once the scene is in motion. But even MORE so, I forget to leave the scene early. Gotta keep 'em coming! :)
 

Turhan

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#17

I certainly did that. yikes!

"17: When writing a novel, start with your characters in action. Fill in any necessary backstory as you go along"
 

shestval

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This is a wonderful, wonderful list! It says very concisely and clearly many tips that I've heard before (although never enough, because I still do them) and also adds a few that I haven't. Although I'm not quite sure HOW to freeze the action. I'll have to look for that when reading other authors. Anyone got some reqs of authors who do it well? (Someone mentioned Dragonball Z but writing would be better. :) )
 

arihad

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I am guilty of all of these. Especially the shrugging, sighing and smiling sadly. I'm embarrassed now. :)
 

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