Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Writerly rules

One day I was happily googling along when I found a list of rules for fantasy writing. Many things I once avoided I did so because these sorts of rules, rules that were often misinterpreted and led to prose almost as bad as that which it forbid. To that end I wrote this list. It is of humorous intent and nothing more.

There were 30, there are now 28; because the Holy Roman Empire does not relate directly to writing I removed those rules involving his Imperialness.

1. Do not use dragons: they are unoriginal.

2. All stories must be in limited 3rd person.

3. Stories cannot contain more than five leading characters.

4. All stories must have a short intro, three rising actions, a climax, and a tidy clse. 7 parts, max.

5. No story may be written in colloguial english, ever.

6. No story may be based in a school of magic.

7. Absolute villains are forbidden.

8. All stories must contain a lovestory subplot.

9. Charismatic heroes are forbidden.

10. All stories must contain both minority groups in sex, sexual preference, race, and age.

11. All characters must have an interest in popular culture.

12. 400 CE to 1400 CE (the middle ages) are not to be used as setting, in fact stay out of Europe all together.

13. Ninja must never be used as characters (though they are acceptable as plot devices.)

14. All stories must begin with a MYSTERIOUS INCIDENT which leads to confusion and bustle.

15. All main characters must be young (no older than 20), except the wise advisor who must be old (no younger than 50).

16. No matter how large a world you create by the end of the book the reader must know every detail of that world.

17. All writers must create their own worlds.
b. Worlds may have no more than three cultures.
c. There must be gods.

18. No matter how poor the rural areas are the cities must always be highly advanced.

19. Simple problems must take at least a fortnight to solve.

20. Complex or unsolvable problems are to be solved in no more then 18 minutes.

21. Characters must never make factual errors.

22. The main characters must always have horrible flaws.
b. it is forbidden that the main character be interesting or likeable.

23. One should never pay close attention to workplaces, city systems, rural practices, or other mere technicallities.

24. No character may be named Richard, Roy, Harris, James, or any other name appearing in our world (even if they are from our world).

25. All urban heroes must wear trenchcoats.

26. All non-urban heroes must wear chainmail.

27. No character is permitted to be perfect.

28. Kings are either good or bad, there is no in-between.

Not that rules and lists are a bad thing, I adore them. Many people adore them. It may be our utter adoration of them that leads us into these problems. Like feudalism, building on something that does not exist.


Anonymous said...

Good fun in the world of fantasy writing. I wouldn't banish dragons though. Sure, they've been used a lot but I think there's more for them to do and many more roles for them to play. Then again, though it's my favorite genre, I'm not the most widely read in fantasy.

Currently re-reading the Pern series, my absolute favorite ;)

Melissa Donovan
Writing Forward

Conda said...

Reading through this list reminded me of how successfully Terry Pratchett has turned all these conventions on their merry heads, and then back onto their bottoms.

Yes, I wonder why we all love lists?

Sean Ashby said...

Cracked me up. I used to read a ton of "sword & sorcery" fantasy as a teen, but gave up on it after so much of it felt like a regurgitation of LOTR. Tired of dragons, too, but I'm still seeing more and more pop up (and become bestsellers, too). Hope you don't mind, but I linked to your list from my blog, because I had just done a similar list about kids books.

(Pratchett is indeed a great antidote to the tired and clichéd, I agree!)

Tony said...

And there are these: