Don’t use prologues.
Don’t write multiple points of view.
Don’t write in the first person.
Don’t write in present tense.
Don’t write in passive voice.
Don’t use adverbs.
Show don’t tell.
Sound familiar? These are just a handful of the Rules of Writing. There are more. Many. Many more.
But no need to fear—rules are good things created in part to establish order and organization, maintain quality and maximum outcomes, and define best practices.
They’re also made to be broken.
I’m not saying anyone should write Rebel across their forehead and pen a prologue filled with adverbs. I’m saying you need to know when to break the rules, and moderation is always key.
If you want to include a prologue, go ahead. Prologues can be effective, giving just enough details to set-up the story and prime readers. They should never be info-dumps, burdening readers with information they’re supposed to carry and remember throughout the book. That’s what plots are for and story details should be shared and shown to readers as the story unfolds.
If your prologue is full of plot points, skip it.
The debate over POVs (points of view) will never end. Some prefer one POV—the protagonist, while others feel the protagonist and the antagonist should be heard from. Still, in genres like romance, POVs of the hero and heroine are popular.
But, it’s the writer who gets to decide the POV of their story, and it should be compelling, always moving the story forward.
A writer once lamented she struggled halfway through her first draft before she realized she had the wrong character telling the story. With a different character’s POV, the story flowed, and in her words, “made so much more sense.”
Multiple POVs can be troublesome and too often lead to head-hopping—multiple POVs in the same scene or chapter.
And that will open up a brand new can of worms.
Some say never, ever, ever hop heads. It’s confusing to the readers and weakens the story.
The opposing teams say it can be done as long as the reader is cued in such a way to know the POV is about to change.
And again, from books and blogs I’ve read and chats I’ve sat in on, head-hopping appears to occur often and be acceptable in the romance genre.
Case in point—author Nora Roberts is a notorious head-hopper who sells books in the millions. Anyone complaining about her books being confusing?
In the end, the issue of head-hopping is between writers and their editors, because they don’t care for it and will point it out.
If you didn’t know any better (like me) or drifted into head-hopping by mistake, correct it and move on.
If it was intentional, be prepared for a fight. You’re not Nora Roberts.
Speaking of famous authors, Stephen King says, “the road to hell is paved with adverbs,” so don’t use them… ever, and who’s going to argue with Stephen King?
Well, J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer might. And William Golding definitely would… while waving his Nobel Prize for literature in your face.
I believe most writers will agree adverbs weaken writing. You can prove it to yourself by writing a paragraph laced with adverbs like, quickly, silently, suddenly, really, and only. Then write the same paragraph replacing adverbs with strong active verbs. There’s no question the second paragraph will be clearer and more compelling… and less exhausting.
Yes, adverbs are considered weak words, but all words have power if used correctly. Books like Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, The Twilight Saga, and Lord of the Flies are still leaving bookstore shelves—adverbs and all.
Again, the problem with the Rules of Writing is all too often you don’t know you’re breaking them until you do. So, it’s in any writer’s best interest to make learning an active part of their writing journey. We’ll never know it all, but it’s better to know when you’re breaking the rules… so you can high-five your inner rebel and enjoy it.