My air conditioner decided to stop working (for the third time), and it’s 85 degrees and 59% humidity. As a result, I was a bit on the cranky side when I ran across a post on IO9 that was called Seven Deadly Sins of World Building.
Think about that title for a moment. It’s first thing most people will see, either in a search engine or a Twitter feed. “Sins” suggest that if you break these rules you’re going to go to the place with the guy with the pitchfork and horns.
Then there’s “deadly,” which sounds kind of threatening, like if I break a writing rule, I don’t just get a bad grade, but some evil spider monster will come after me.
Now I’m not picking on this particular post, but more of a trend I’m seeing that’s rather disturbing. The social media pundits say that writers have to get out there and pound the internet with expertise. What’s a fiction writer to do? There’s no expertise, except to talk about writing. Unfortunately, this gets combined with another piece of advice on posts, to make numbered lists (and I have been guilty of that, though I’ve stopped doing it).
But writing fiction doesn’t lend itself well to lists, at least not unless rules are being laid out. So we get things like “Worst Writing Blunders,” “Don’t make these stupid writing mistakes,” and “Writing Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making.” Most are portrayed as if you even cross the boundary of one of these you’re going to earn an instant rejection. “7 Fatal Writing Mistakes” sounds like goons are going to come after the writer and give him cement overshoes.
Most of the stuff talked about isn’t really a mistake, and in some cases, it’s merely an opinion of the writer. But it’s wrapped around with the authority, “I’m a writer, and I’m going to tell you what you’re doing wrong.” Rules have perceived authority, even if the person doesn’t have any. It also seems like it’s gotten a lot worse lately. There are no rules for creativity. It’s about what works.
Getting off my soapbox now and wandering off to research about how many eyes a spider has.