On absolute rules for fiction writing

Harry Crews taught us that space breaks in a story are a crutch and a distraction, that dreams have no place in fiction, and that there’s never any excuse for denoting speech with a verb other than “said.” I’ve parted ways with these proscriptions as absolutes, but I still wring my hands before violating them.

So I move that Matt Cheney’s genius rules for writing be handed out with syllabi in creative writing classes across the land. Here’s an excerpt:

If you use adjectives in your prose, do not use nouns. If you use nouns, you must not use verbs. If you use verbs, try to avoid verbs that specify a particular city.

When specifying particular cities in fiction, do not use cities that have been specified in poems. Poems have so few things left of their own anymore that we should let them have their own cities.

 


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