Sunday, February 28, 2010

The rules of writing


There was a recent feature in the Guardian where writers were asked to state their 'rules' of writing. ('Don't, unless you really can't think of anything better to do', would probably be mine.)

The question of how to write is as perennial as it's unanswerable. However, on the excellent Bookwitch blog, I discovered that Declan Burke had thought to go and seek the opinion of Mr. William Shakespeare himself. Thanks to Mr Burke, we now have it direct from the bard.

“1. Write ye not a new tale if’t can at all be helped. Plunder thou yon histories, myths and pre-Renaissance Italian romances for plot, setting, character, structure, style and theme. If anyone notice, claim ye homage.
2. Makest thou heroine a maiden as young as is strictly legal.
3. Lest there be doubt on who be your varlet, give him a hump. Or a hooked nose. Or black skin. If ye can manage all three in one villain, have on.
4. A good title be half the battle. ‘Big Fuss About Nowt’ flyeth not.
5. A pox on reality. Toss ye in some ghost, fairy, witch and monster for good jizz. If ye can handle a haunted kitchen sink, have on.
6. If ye suffer from block, have your mistress take up the quill while you cane opium and give her daughter goodly tup. If ye be nabbed, claim research.
7. Ne’er miss a chance for identity mistook, for such wrangling be good for fifty page or more. If they be cross-dressers, ye’ll get a whole tale.
8. Prithee, no more than one monologue per page. Unless folio pages they be. But e’en then, no more than three, max.
9. If the pace should flag, lobbest thou in a ‘Gadsooks!’ or ‘Forsooth!’ Or have skewered a king, general, politician or prince. For the money shot, go with ‘Gadsooks, I be skewered, forsooth!’ The plebs love’t.
10. Once in while end your line with a rhyme / ’Tis posh as a turret and waste some more time.”

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