- Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
- Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
- Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
- Every sentence must do one of two things -- reveal character or advance the action.
- Start as close to the end as possible.
- Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them -- in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
- Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
- Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
I actually have these taped to my wall.
Number 3 is my favorite. Whenever I’m stuck with how to resolve a scene, I think about what each character involved really wants in that situation--even if it is just a glass of water. But, remember, your character may not know what he or she wants--but you have to.
Number 4 is also a great one. This you learn the hard way during the editing process. If a sentence serves no purpose, your editor is going to suggest you take it out. And keep suggesting it until you do.
What about you? Any favorite tips from the masters?