The Sixth Rule for Writing a Modern Novel

March 6, 2013 at 6:43 am

Never use the words ‘suddenly’ or ‘all hell broke loose’

I haven’t ever used ‘all hell broke loose’, but I do confess that there are a few ‘suddenly’s in The Heir. It’s interesting, because even before I saw this list, I didn’t really like them there, but I wasn’t sure if I was fussing about nothing. It looks like I wasn’t fussing about nothing! So although they will appear in The Heir a few times I will try and cut them out of its two sequels.

So what do I put instead of ‘suddenly’? I guess it depends on the context, but sometimes just removing the word is all that’s needed. If not, rewording the following dialogue to make it sound a bit more dramatic is a good idea. Sometimes that can be difficult to do, but I think ‘suddenly’ does become a default setting sometimes; an easy way out to stop us thinking of something new.

And what about ‘all hell breaks loose’? Maybe simply describe what hell looks like in that context. People running all over the place. Guns blazing. Shouts of terror. Whatever fits the context. Try and think of something new each time. It may be tricky, but it will help keep things fresh.

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