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Commentary on the 10 Rules SciFi/Fantasy Writers Should Break

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I came across this article by accident. I belong to a few subreddits, and it was linked to one for writers. Normally, I don’t click on such links, but this one caught my attention. The article itself is older, was originally published in 2015, but the advice in it is one that can be used today. It goes over ten writing rules that they feel and supported by some survey, which SciFi and Fantasy writers should break. They give supporting reasons why when they discuss each rule. I do recommend reading the full article, and seeing what you think of it.



For me, I already break most of these rules, or at least I feel I do. I write InfoDumps. I write in Third Person Omnisentience. That’s two of the rules they say that writers should break. I agree with them. Another article on the same site, has InfoDump listed as one of the “writing terms, Authors wish would disappear,” among others.



The 10 Rules they list are:

1.       No third-person omniscient.

2.       No prologues

3.       Avoid InfoDumps

4.       Fantasy novels have to be series instead of standalones

5.       No portal fantasy

6.       No FTL

7.       Women can’t write “hard” science fiction.

8.       Magic has to be just a minor part of a fantasy world

9.       No present tense

10.   No “unsympathetic” characters



To date, in what I’ve written and posted on GA, I’ve broken rules 1, 2, 3, 6, 8, and 9. I can’t break rule 7, being a male. Rules 4 and 5 are being broken in my Fall 2017 Anthology story, and rule 10 I want to try my hand at.



For my take on some of these:

1.       I find the first person very wonky and struggle with it. I’ve done a mixed POV story with Finding Eros in Florida, where the first person is used from the POV of the God Eros. I normally always used third person omniscient in my writings, and I prefer it that way.

2.       I love Prologues and wish I would do more. Only my Aeris – Guardian Force has a Prologue, and it is a snapshot of a scene, that won’t be the full story. However, it set the tone, which I wanted to share. I had a Prologue for Finding Eros in Florida, but cut it out at the last moment.

3.       I love InfoDumps. Chapter 1 of Aeris – Guardian Force is almost an entire chapter of InfoDump. It’s needed. It set the foundation of the world, around which Aeris is a member of.

4.       Larry Elmore, a Fantasy Artist painter from the 80’s and 90’s wrote a standalone fantasy novel. It was awesome. I love standalones. Many Authors on GA have done one-shot stories, and they are awesome. Readers want more like I do with Myr’s Ranger story.



I could go on, but I feel you should read the article. See what they have to say and if you agree with it, let me know in the comments below.




Link Here: https://io9.gizmodo.com/5879434/10-writing-rules-we-wish-more-science-fiction-and-fantasy-authors-would-break

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I am not good with understanding writing rules, which is why I cannot comprehend grammar, or in this case third-person omniscient. I even looked it up, so I get what it is, but I never consider it when writing. In my latest Sci-fi fantasy story I write in the third person, however, I couldn't tell you if it's limited or omnipresent. Would I write Sci-fi in first person, perhaps, but probably not.

No prologues: I follow that rule because I like to jump right into the middle and prefer the tale unfolds with perhaps passages that are in the past. So I wouldn't use a prologue, but I would do the “six months earlier” scenario.

Avoid info dumps: definitely. I hate reading them, I think they are a big turn off. If I do read them I don't retain the information. The only exception is if they are short.

Fantasy novels in series: no I don't think so. But I guess if you create something – an alien world or reality that's seductive and interesting, then people will want to read more.

No FTL: I forget what that means, so let's ignore that one.

Women can't write Sci-fi: I don't know of any books written by women in the genre – perhaps they prefer other genres?

Magic should be a minor part: sort of depends what you mean by the term magic, but I wouldn't expect the kind of elves and fairies casting spells all the time!

No present tense: I am unable to understand that one. For example, I might write: there was a loud metallic sound echoing through the tunnel, it seemed to be getting nearer. “We need to move,” Altair was anxious. Is that present tense? I never even think about it!

No unsympathetic characters: I think the article said no unsympathetic protagonists which I don't necessarily agree with. I like real people, so they have a good and a bad side, whether you like them or not very much depends on your own outlook on the world. A number of readers tend to dislike any character not in a monogamous relationship or who sleeps (has sex) with different partners. I might very well have a lead character like that, so perhaps a number of readers would regard that as an unsympathetic character. They might actually, detest the main character for being like that. So as I said, this very much depends on the reader.

An interesting article. At the end of the day, there really are no rules to follow or ignore, it might be good, it might be great, you do it your way. Not even the popularity of a book is a guide, as this might change over time, although the very best stay around forever.

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1 minute ago, Dennis191 said:

Ehh. Complicated to explain myself accurately. I'm just hoping it wasn't too much of a nonsense. LOL :)

I believe I got what your saying. :)

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Just now, Dennis191 said:

Well that's good then... I'm not that stupid after all...lol

You're not stupid, my friend. Keep being yourself. :)

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Very interesting. Lots of food for thought. I just want to make one comment with regards to women writing science fiction. One of my favorite sci-fi authors is C. J. Cherryh, who happens to be a woman. She is incredibly prolific... if I was to pick a favorite it would be the Chanur series. For Fantasy, I absolutely love Lynn Flewelling's Nightrunner (seven books) and Tamir Triad (three books) series. And of course there is the incomparable Anne McCaffrey, Suzanne Collins (Hunger Games), Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid's Tale)... so so many tremendous sci-fi, fantasy, and speculative fiction writers. Just saying :)  Cheers, and thanks for the informative post... Gary....

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1 hour ago, Headstall said:

Very interesting. Lots of food for thought. I just want to make one comment with regards to women writing science fiction...Gary....

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is often considered the first science fiction novel.  And Madeleine L'Engle, Ursula L. LeGuin and Nobel Prize winner Doris Lessing wrote some of my favorites.



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I have to say I hate info dumps as a reader, and I try to avoid them as an author. A story should be related from the viewpoint of the character(s) and anything else is straight up author voice. If you really want to get into the intricacies of your world(s), species, languages, politics, religion, etc... then use the prologue or appendixes in the back of the book for the readers who wish to delve that deep. Otherwise, you should be able to relate to the reader that information, to the extent they need to know it for the storyline to make sense, from the character's POV as they move through the tale. Unfortunately, that's a very difficult thing to do with science fiction, which is very complex for the most part. 

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