David Gaider’s number one ‘Don’t’ when writing:
- ‘Don’t start with description.’
My number one don’t when writing?
1. Don’t write like David Gaider.
It’s a valid point. If you start with a paragraph of description, you’ve slowed down the story before it even gets started. If you start with interaction of some sort — the protagonist with his or her surroundings, or with another character — you’ll be better off.
Most advice like this is valid in moderation. I just really raise my eyebrows at such blanket suggestions. Yes, starting with ten pages of description about rolling green hills is going to bore most people. But good description relevant to the story and/or what’s going on can grab someone just as quickly and strongly as a few lines of snappy dialogue or a good action scene.
My original post was also really tongue-in-cheek, but I’m not sure I conveyed that accurately.
Well, as he says elsewhere in the article, “Two, that when it comes to writing, any rule exists to be broken. If you’re going to break rules, however, you need to do it with style.” You have to CHOOSE to break the rules you want to break.
So description starting off the story, if done well, can work. I think his comment was mostly that he saw enough entries this go-round where it didn’t work.
This is why calling them ‘rules’ in the first place is sort of problematic.
I’d just like to point to people like Tolkein. And Charles Dickens. And Mark Twain. Who leaned very heavily on almost exclusively description, and imagine pop culture if we didn’t have those stories. So Impressioniste is right - everything in moderation. Find a style that suits you. Gaider’s style is fairly stripped down, and I think he probably gravitated naturally toward stories that were reminiscent of his own style based on his rules.
And wouldn’t it be sad if the next Tolkein were one of the many entrants and decided not to write any more because of this? Keep to your style.
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- plotdevice said: I don’t disagree with him, stylistically. The opening line of my favorite book is, “The great grey beast February had eaten Harvey Swick alive.” It starts you off in the middle of the “action. But that is personal preference, much like his list.
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