I'm so confused. Just when I think I'm getting a handle on the rules, someone changes the guidelines or adds a little twist.
In conversations with other authors and editors, I've really become more aware of how a story begins. We are told we should SHOW the story from the character's POV rather than telling the reader what is happening, so I'm wondering why so many authors start their novels by using a narrator's voice to set the scene. POV is the window through which we let the reader peek inside, and I become confused when a third-person narrator steals the show.
Now I know there are different rules for romantic fiction, mystery, etc., but I'm not sure how to apply them. Doesn't it seem that fiction writing should be writing? I've been told to avoid semi colons, try to stay away for using 'it', and instead replace it with a solid noun so the reader knows what 'it' is. I also avoid duplication of words where possible? So what makes some authors exempt?
I recently opened a NY best selling novel and read this:
**** **** ran his hand along her smooth, naked thigh, up to her waist, and then down along her flat stomach. His body was pressed against hers; front to back, her head resting on his arm. This moment had not been part of the plan, but it shouldn't surprise him. There had been signposts; furtive glances, comments made only half in jest. The tension had built for the better part of a year. Each of them silently wondering. Neither knowing for sure if it would ever go to that next level. And then they arrived at the private villa overlooking the tranquil beach. The warm, humid air, the crashing surf, the shots of tequila; all coalesced to create a situation of overwhelming sexual tension.
If I wrote this, following the 'rules,' the story would read:
**** **** ran a hand along her smooth, naked thigh up to her waist then across her flat stomach. He pressed the front of his body against her backside and enjoyed the tickle of her hair as it draped over his arm. He'd never planned for this moment to happen, but he wasn't surprised.
I think you get the idea. Following the rules set by publishers can affect the outcome of your manuscript. Some want you to stay away from 'ly' words, instead using stronger verbs. Others require you to avoid passive voice and "to" phrases. I really adhere as much as possible with the last rule because if a characters reaches "to grab", then he/she really isn't accomplishing anything. Why can't he/she just grab? Actually, following the rules have made me a much more polished writer. What becomes confusing is when you're instructed to avoid pitfalls like: seems, reaches, feels, was. Stay in the present tense, avoid passive voice, stay away from author intrusion. Lord...my head is spinning.
Care to share any of the rules you've learned lately? Or what pet peeves you find in mainstream published books? Any books? I always like hearing another's perspective. Why not add more fodder to the frustration?