Monday, February 7, 2011

Rules of Engagement

Cynthia Vespia is the author of character driven suspense fiction. Her Demon Hunter series is a trilogy of terror. It was nominated Best Series of 2009.

Life, Death and Back is her new paranormal suspense novel where death isn't the end but only the beginning.

Let's give Cynthia a warm welcome as she shares her rules about writing. Feel free to ask question or just say hello. She'd love to hear from you.



It was recently brought up in a chat forum about what the rules are for writing. First thing that came to my mind was that there are no rules! What a blasphemic word that is for a writer. Then I got to thinking, there are certain “rules of engagement” that are expected from the reader.

For instance a thriller needs to be fast paced; a romance novel has to be heavy on the passion; fantasy is expected to be otherworldly; and erotica...well, you get the point.

There are just certain elements that go into different genres that make fans continue coming back for more. It has been that way since the dawn of time, or at least as long as novels have been around. So as a writer we may as well embrace them as facts. However, it can also be said that rules are meant to be broken. To quote Bruce Lee: "Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own."

In other words there are basic elements from which all stories springboard. But what gives each story and each author its own unique voice is taking those elements and making them your own. Don't be afraid to experiment. I've been known to compile almost every genre into one story...and y'know what, it works! It's called life. And whether that life is seen through the eyes of a Demon Hunter, or a guardian angel, or a female gladiator it is still life and it is painted with many different colors of emotion. Romance, suspense, comedy, horror, and yes even fantasy are all a part of our daily living so why wouldn't we include them in our writing? Readers are more apt to enjoy a story when it is relatable. Emotions are relatable.

Back to the rules. Half the fun of writing is that we get to create our own rules. We create different worlds, populate it with different characters, and watch like puppet masters as they all interact with each other. Maybe that's why I like The Sims so much.

Rules are there as a starting off point. If you're a writer just starting out I suggest you learn the rules of the genre you are writing in, but then as Bruce pointed out, add your own take on it. Whatever is uniquely you will shine off that page so don't be afraid of it. If everyone wrote in one certain style it would be a very boring universe in bookland.

Life itself has enough rules and I don't know about you but I'm tired of being regulated. In any event trust your instincts. When something is telling you to go down a different path than you may not have planned for just go with it. I remember following my character Bryan from LIFE DEATH and BACK down a weird and winding road all the while telling him to go back, that this was not the path I'd chosen for him. Fortunately I allowed him to take the lead and at the end of the road I wound up pleasantly surprised thinking “oh, that's why he did that!”

This is a metaphor, of course. I'm not that nuts. I don't see visions of my characters on random street corners. They only show up at odd hours to have a cup of coffee or maybe catch a movie.

So write what you are passionate about, kids. Don't censor yourselves too much. Have fun with it. Everyone is too damn serious these days and they forget to enjoy things. Writers and readers alike make sure you enjoy it. Enjoy the story for what it is, rules or not.

Since most readers inevitably become writers, and most writers started out as readers, let me pose this question to the group: Do you have a ritual...not necessarily a rule...that you have before beginning a new novel?

Cynthia is the author of character driven suspense fiction. Her new paranormal thriller

Life, Death, and Back is available now. Find out more at


Donna L Bolk said... Best Blogger Tips

I read an article by Stephen King in which he talked about J.K. Rowling. In a nutshell he said she broke almost every rule, but her series was a hit, because at heart she was a true storyteller. I took that to mean if you can tell a good story, you will win the reader over. I also took it to mean STORY FIRST.

Karen Michelle Nutt said... Best Blogger Tips


Thanks so much for sharing your article with us.

I believe you can follow all the rules, but the bottom line is the story has to grab the reader.

Cathy said... Best Blogger Tips

I'm not a writer so I'm not familiar with the format accepted in the writing world, but I do love to read.

I have to be drawn into the story. I want to love the characters and care what happens to them. As a reader, this what I crave.

Enjoyed the article.

Cynthia Vespia said... Best Blogger Tips


Karen, thanks for hosting :)

Cathy, as a writer that is what I want to evoke from the reader. It's what makes me love a book too and becomes the fun of writing. Thanks for sharing.

desitheblonde said... Best Blogger Tips

well that would make my english teacher tell me to do better and i like the way you did the wording good luck on the book

Romantic Heretic said... Best Blogger Tips

I'm a fan of Voltaire when it comes to writing.

"All styles are good, except the boring."