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Between The Pages, Past
A Mystery Column
By Dennis Collins

Rules of the road…

     Every writer has their own style and what works well for one author may not necessarily help another. I can only speak for myself in this regard but here are a few rules that I apply to my own writing.

  1. The Hanna-Barberra Rule: The people who researched the audience for the Saturday morning cartoon shows found that it was much easier to hold the attention of the viewers if there was a loud noise or some sort of furious action every five minutes or so. I review my manuscript from time to time and make sure that no more than four or five pages go by between action scenes. Gotta keep em’ awake, right?
  2. The Lone Ranger Rule: In all of his years on radio and television, the Lone Ranger brought countless criminals to justice but he never once killed anybody. In order to keep my main characters unburdened, I have decide that, although they are surrounded by killers and death, they will never actually kill anybody. That’s not to say that the bad guy isn’t gonna die, it just won’t be any of my good guys that kill ‘em.
  3. The Noah Webster Rule: Nobody’s gonna need a dictionary sitting in front of them on the coffee table when they read my books. Dontcha hate it when you always gotta look up words so you know what you’ve just read?
  4. The Jack Webb Rule: Short choppy sentences. Quick answers. Keeps the dialogue lively.
  5. The Cecil B. DeMille Rule: Change scenes often. Keeps the story fresh and adds a little something to look forward to. Where are we going next?
  6. The Charles Atlas Rule: This is something I’m still trying out. Write the whole story from beginning to end in a skeletal form and then add the muscle later. It’s a little like trimming your Christmas tree. You can put on a few lights and ornaments and then step back and look to see where things need a little shoring up or filling in. Seems to me that you can get the muscle in all the right places that way.

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