Saturday, August 13, 2011

Writer's Rules: Vernon's Rules of Verbiage

A few years ago I came up with some rules for writers. Since the age of ten I've written things. Usually snippets. Most are lost in the waste left over from too many moves, too many new destinations, too few fresh starts. When computers came around I used the new technology to accumulate some writings, but most of those are lost as well, vanished in crashed drives or moved computers. 

My daughter writes. She writes well. My youngest brother writes. He writes well. His stories captivate me. At this time neither one is published. Neither am I. 

Somewhere in my fuzzy brain, after one too many discussions of stories and plots, I drafted some rules to follow when writing. I have one rule when discussing writing with other writers.

Our pact as writers - give the honest appraisal and be nice. (The short form: No BS) 

I also crafted three simple rules for developing a good story. It's generic, but it works.

1. Create a great, but imperfect main character. Know where he/she comes from, how they think, what they like, what they dislike. Give them strong moral fiber and unwavering principles.

2. Create a world or situation which conflicts with the character. This is the tension that drives the story.

3. Resolve the tension. 

I then wrote out a list of rules to follow, for which I still await feedback from other writers, but I think I covered them all. 

Vernon's First Rule of Verbiage: Write. A writer writes.
Vernon's Second Rule of Verbiage: Be a story-teller first, a writer second.
Vernon's Third Rule of Verbiage: Fiction is hard. It must be more believable than real life.
Vernon's Fourth Rule of Verbiage: Make the story matter.
Vernon's Fifth Rule of Verbiage: You're not the reader; you're the writer.
Vernon's Sixth Rule of Verbiage: Think like the reader.
Vernon's Seventh Rule of Verbiage: Don't confuse or vex the reader. 
Vernon's Eighth Rule of Verbiage: If the story bores you, the story will bore the reader.
Vernon's Ninth Rule of Verbiage: You can suspend reality for a story, but be internally consistent.
Vernon's Tenth Rule of Verbiage: When the reader sees the profound, smile and be thankful.
Vernon's Eleventh Rule of Verbiage: Sometimes two dimensional characters are necessary.
Vernon's Twelfth Rule of Verbiage: Every character deserves a unique identity.
Vernon's Thirteenth Rule of Verbiage: Create an imperfect great character.
Vernon's Fourteenth Rule of Verbiage: The main characters must have unwavering principles behind their actions.
Vernon's Fifteenth Rule of Verbiage: A good villain is just as important as the hero.
Vernon's Sixteenth Rule of Verbiage: If you want to put it in while writing, do it.
Vernon's Seventeenth Rule of Verbiage: If a character introduces himself/herself while writing, go ahead and include him/her in the story (if they fit).
Vernon's Eighteenth Rule of Verbiage: Take it out if it doesn't fit, no matter how cute you think it is.
Vernon's Nineteenth Rule of Verbiage: Grammar is important.
Vernon's Twentieth Rule of Verbiage: Main characters can die, but there should be a good reason.
Vernon's Twenty-first Rule of Verbiage: When the story ends, let it end.

I revised the rules a few times, but they are pretty stable now. For now, they’ll do.

Really, the first rule is the hardest. No BS.

1 comment:

  1. It never occurred to me that someone might wonder where the name "Vernon" came from. When I was nine or ten (maybe a little less) I used a nom de plume for the few simple things I wrote. My grandparents called me "Bernie" just like they called my Dad when he was young. Adding "Vernon" gave me initials that were the opposite of my own: VB -> BV. I thought that was clever at the time.
    I also had a nom de guerre: Sgt Bernie Vernon. I was a young version of GI Joe (in my mind). Interesting that I am the only one of four brothers who couldn't join the military!