Writers Rules: Should I Follow Them? Ask A Ghostwriter

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writers rules, erick mertz, how to hire a ghostwriter
Do The Writers Rules That Made “The Time Machine” Great Still Apply Today?

There seems to be a great number of writers rules attached to good fiction, right? People are always saying do this…don’t do that… and that?

Definitely, don’t do that.

But what are we as writers supposed to make of a bunch of these rules? Are following writers rules necessary for crafting good fiction?

Or are the rules for writing good fiction unnecessary inhibitors?

I don’t pretend to have an answer to that question. If I did come out here and say that I had an answer, that would mean I had one of those writers rules of my own that happened to supersede all of the others.

I don’t have that, sorry.

Similar to many other things in creativity though, writers rules are better thought of as guideposts. They are caution signs instead of stop signs.

As a way to illustrate that, I am going to break down a fairly well known writing rule known as “Wells’s Law”.

Writers Rules & Wells’ Law

If you don’t know Herbert George Wells, he’s basically the father of science fiction. He wrote many of the canonical texts in the genre like The Time Machine, The War of The Worlds and The Invisible Man.

Wells’s fiction is the blueprint for science fiction books the world over.

In crafting his fiction, HG Wells followed a very simple writers rule that became known as “Wells’s Law”, which states, “that only a single fantastic assumption was admissible per story”.

Easy translation of that bit of 1930’s writing? There can only be one strange or oddball element in a successful work of genre fiction. All of the other elements in the story, you’ve got to play them, more or less, straight.

But is Wells’s Law right?

There is no way to empirically prove it one way or another. The law is applied in much of his work and, here we are, a century later, talking about it. But there are some easy examples to show what can happen when you break that law.

I’m going to lightly dissect two movies. Each one breaks the Wells Law, but the result of that is curiously different.

Does The Marvel Change Writers Rules?

Signs is the third film directed by well-known filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan. In the most basic terms, Signs follows former Episcopal priest, Graham Hess, and his struggle out of grief after losing his wife in a tragic car accident. Crop circles begin appearing on Hess’ farm, which foreshadows an eventual alien invasion on a global scale.

In the movie’s final conflict between alien and man, Hess, whose faith was devastated by the accident, witnesses what he believes is God’s intervention. His child is saved, and once the aliens have been dispersed, his faith is restored.

According to Wells Law, there are two fantastic elements at play: the existence of aliens and of God’s intervention.

While these two aspects don’t diminish one another, or logically have to cancel each other out – we certainly can be living in a universe with both God and aliens – in one story, they are a bit much for a two-hour film.

Consequently, Signs is not viewed as Shyamalan’s best work. It is regarded as a decent film, but its resolution is muddled.

By contrast, his first work, The Sixth Sense, an adherent to the Wells Law, is crystal clear with one of the most memorable “fantastic” resolutions ever.

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In the summer of 2019, Marvel released Avengers: Endgame as the culmination of their sprawling, decades in the making, “cinematic universe”. Back in the previous film, it’s bookend, Infinity War, a jumbo, purple bad guy named Thanos assembled an “infinity gauntlet” and disintegrated half of all life in the universe.

Only in comic books can you get away with that, right?

Avengers: Endgame does not just break the Wells Law – it shatters the rule with a cosmic sized fist, but somehow at the same time, it manages to be viewed as a masterwork of cinematic storytelling. In order to undo Thanos’ grandiose apocalyptic gesture, the assembled cast of Marvel universe good guys travels back in time in order to undo the deed before it was done.

Did you catch the two massive fantastic elements? Beyond such a thing as superheroes (who can fly, shoot fire, what have you) they travel back through time to undo an apocalyptic stroke by a purple bad guy.

Was this movie a success? Nearly three billion dollars in lifetime grosses says that, unequivocally, yes it was.

What Does This All Mean Though?

Maybe the playing field between these two films is not exactly level.

One is an emotionally centered, grief-battles-faith story based in part in reality; the other is an ensemble piece centered on a generation’s worth of comic book heroes.

By taking two films that obviously break Wells’ Law, though, we see that the writers rule is better viewed as a guidepost.

While Signs has been forgotten by many, save for M. Night Shalyman’s most ardent supporters, Infinity War and End Game are two of the most highly regarded films, by audience approval metrics, of all time.

Certainly, even the father of science fiction could not foresee comic books, or comic book movie franchises, and what those have done to storytelling. However, I think he would still crinkle his mustache at the way Marvel plays multiple “weird” elements in their story.

Do you have tips for Writers Rules that you would like to share? If so, leave them in the comments. I would love to hear more

Free “How To Hire A Ghostwriter” eBook

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I so adamantly believe that knowing how to conduct a ghostwriting interview is a bedrock of success that I wrote a book about it.

While this book doesn’t necessarily cover what writers rules to follow as this blog does, it does serve as a primer for a professional mentality with your writing.

I can’t think of a better frame of mind to be in while writing than, I’m a professional, I know what I’m doing here.

If you would like a complimentary copy of How To Hire A Ghostwriter: Your Guide To Finding The Best Pro For Your Project all you have to do is click and download.

If you have read this book, like it, and found it helpful, please share it with some of your fellow writers and take a moment to review it either on GoodReads or Amazon.

How Do I Contact You?

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If you are serious about hiring a fiction editor, or having your book, screenplay or non-fiction story professionally written by a ghostwriter, or you need self publishing help, please contact me via email, or call.

Every new contact receives a free 30-minute 1:1 consultation about their ghostwriting project or manuscript consultation.

Erick MertzWriters Rules: Should I Follow Them? Ask A Ghostwriter
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Thinking like a writer

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Learn to start thinking like a writer even when you can’t actually write.

Thinking like a writer - notice the details in everythingWriter’s magazines often set out to tackle what they see as the biggest elephant in the room: lack of time. How do I find enough time to get my creative work done?

I won’t attempt to tackle that topic here, or anywhere else for that matter. For one reason, any answer that I give you would not be an original. I don’t want to recycle. There are literally hundreds of blogs, magazines and books that give writers advice on how to steal 10 minutes to an hour to get some writing in.

The second and most important reason I won’t tackle the subject though, is that I believe having enough time is not the main obstacle in transitioning from unrequited desk jockey to literary provocateur.

While time is a frequent barrier, the biggest challenge most writers face is their mind set.

How do you start thinking like a writer and in turn acting like one? Here are a just few very easy techniques you can use to think and feel like a writer when you can’t write.

Listen To Dialog:

Unless you live and work in a monastery, you are surrounded by people talking. If there is a consistent area of feedback on new writing it’s this: the characters sound like they were written.

Sit down at a bar. Put down your phone in the line at the grocery store. Use your imagination in the next share holder’s meeting you are forced to attend. These are your characters.

Listen to how they talk. They’re telling you how to write them.

Describe The Scene (In Details):

I do this a lot. It sounds silly, but I walk into a room and describe the scene I encounter in various terms. Kitchen. Newly remodeled kitchen. Newly remodeled kitchen with a retro feeling.

I don’t often do this exercise aloud (unless I’m alone). If I did, I think the people in my world would assume I am much crazier than they already do but finding the myriad of ways and access points to describe an ordinary space and seeing the details contained broadens descriptive powers that every writer needs.

About Details:

Find them. Everywhere. Leave no stone unturned.

Good writing sees the surface but great writing delves deep and churns constantly. Colors. Ornaments. Textures. These create the rich tapestry that readers love.

How do you do this? What color is the tie on the man across from you? Does the woman’s coffee cup beside him show lipstick stains? What does the clerk at the store do while you search for exact change?

The power of observation is a necessary skill. Become a master of all those small things. Your readers will thank you when your bored housewife character does the little things they can relate to.

Form An Opinion:

Maybe you sit down at the end of the day and relax with a TV show. I do. Often. In many of my previous blogs, I proudly reveal TV as a major point of reference for writing and character development.

Don’t watch passively though. Instead, make comment on what works. Ask the person you’re with. What works for you? Why this and not the other thing?

Why do people gravitate to watching Glee like my wife is right now? I’ll advance a theory: it is not simply because of the songs. Form an opinion about what works in the shows, episodes and scenes you watch. That critical eye will go a long way in discerning what works on the page when you finally sit down.

Simply paying closer attention to the details in your everyday can help you start thinking like a writer. You may be reading this either because you’re at an impasse or ready to take the next step. Either way working with a professional ghostwriter can help you and your writing get to the next level.

Erick MertzThinking like a writer
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Elements Of Setting In Writing

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The Elements Of Setting In In Your Writing

Tips from a pro to help you incorporate appropriate elements of setting to make your story come alive.

Looking at how Aziz Ansari uses elements of setting in his clever Netflix series Master Of None shows why it matters where your scenes and stories take place. In fact, the buzz around the little show that everyone is talking about may be as much the product of setting as it is chemistry between characters.

Master Of None is a program with many predecessors. The protagonist is young. He is a dreamer. He is desperately trying to figure things out as he lives life. As charming as he is, he is unlucky in love.

While the subject matter is nothing unique, Ansari utilizes a fresh approach to tell this familiar story. Take “The Dinner Party” the fifth or middle episode from season two.

It is no spoiler to reveal that Dev (Ansari’s character) has recently returned to his native New York from a cooking internship in a small Italian village. At the end of season one, he left his NYC problems behind to learn the art of making pasta by hand amid romantic locations steeped in ancient history.

And, as all love lost protagonists do, Dev also befriends Francesca while overseas and they hit it off.

But Dev and Francesca can only be friends because she has a boyfriend. In “The Dinner Party” Dev invites Francesca, who is visiting the states, to a Manhattan soiree put on by one of his new buddies, a producer for the cooking network where Dev works as a host. This is the place to be. Everyone is going to be there and the party is so posh that John Legend gets up and plays piano at the behest of his host.

Writers Ansari and Alan Yang expertly utilize what amounts to a simple apartment setting. One of Dev’s oblivious actor friends happens to be at the party too and he’s constantly interrupting their banter. When they do get to talk, Dev helps Francesca overcome her stilted use of English with loving charm. Of course, it’s a foodie party, so passionate opinions about the myriad plates of food crop up between them. No one can simply like or dislike a dish. They have to argue about it. As the evening wears on, Dev opens the debate on flavor notes in a glass of wine (which Francesca charmingly describes as tasting like shoes). When the moment is right, the flamboyant host butts in and upstages Dev’s humor.

Five obstacles to Dev’s goal of Francesca. All of them arising naturally out of the elements of setting in the episode.

“The Dinner Party” is about how two people can be so close yet remain far away from one another. In order to accomplish that goal, Ansari and Yang had to create an organic setting that provided ample interruption. What better than a dinner party? How about a dinner party put on by professional foodies?

The episode culminates in the two characters sharing a cab after the long evening. This is the episode’s (and maybe the series’) golden moment. Dev is charming as always. Francesca listens to him and laughs at his little quips but… they just cannot execute the kiss they both so plainly want from the other. There is a genuine love between them but after an evening of missing they cannot get where they need to go.

Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love. Girl proves elusive. The formula is stock. Ansari is not content to write out a cliche he knows will work. Instead, he freshens the bittersweet story line using setting.

Give me a call or email me if you want to talk about how you can leverage my skills and experience to make your story come to life. It can make all the difference in the world!

 

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NaNoWriMo And Your Ghostwriter Consultant

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“Do you do NaNoWriMo?”

This is one of the first questions people ask me when I tell them I am a writer. My answer? No. I’ve never done NaNoWriMo but I am all too familiar.

For those unfamiliar, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month. Taking place every November, the project helps new and aspiring writers write a novel in a single month.

50,000 words. 1,667 per day. Every day. A daunting task.

NaNoWriMo is as much about support as productivity. The umbrella site organizes local groups. It encourages writers with positive words. On almost every social media platform NaNoWriMo groups post daily word counts and sprint together under hashtags.

On one hand, it is one of the most inspiring times in writing.

Our culture is fascinated with marking off processes with chunks of time. Consider the RPM challenge, which is an album written and recorded and released all in February. In April there is a monthlong script sprint. The shelves of every bookstore in America are teeming with books in which an author takes a period of time to abstain from or indulge in something.

Sometimes I wonder whether anything takes on its natural process anymore.

As a ghostwriter, I am particularly fascinated by NaNoWriMo for a couple of distinct reasons. For one, it gets people thinking about writing. Anything that accomplishes that makes me happy. Another aspect is the sheer audacity. Asking participants to wake up on November 1st and produce 1,667 words when they likely have not produced a single line of fiction in their lives is crazy, perhaps dangerous. Would you encourage the guy in the cubicle next door to run a 26.2 mile marathon without training simply because he wore tennis shoes on Fridays?

Writers are readers and readers buy books. The sheer act of staring down 50,000 words raises the bar for everyone in the business. When I am asked, I usually caution writers who want to take part in NaNoWriMo to perhaps consult with a ghostwriter or manuscript consultant first. Get an idea of your story. Flesh out some of the uncertainties. Give your concept a much needed test run and see if it works out. Not everyone wants to do that with their mother or wife or a brother who are likely going to be nice no matter what you have.

Get in shape first. The advice applies to marathons and NaNoWriMo. Bring on a ghostwriting professional to bring it into shape before you try and bring it to life.

Erick MertzNaNoWriMo And Your Ghostwriter Consultant
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