Thanks go to fantasy author Juliet E. McKenna for sending me Mark Twain’s Rules of Writing:

1. A tale shall accomplish something and arrive somewhere.

2. The episodes of a tale shall be necessary parts of the tale, and shall help develop it.

3. The personages in a tale shall be alive, except in the case of corpses, and that always the reader shall be able to tell the corpses from the others.

4. The personages in a tale, both dead and alive, shall exhibit a sufficient excuse for being there.

5. When the personages in a tale deal in conversation, the talk shall sound like human talk, and be talk such as human beings would be likely to talk in the given circumstances, and have a discoverable meaning, also a discoverable purpose, and a show of relevancy, and remain in the neighbourhood of the subject in hand, and be interesting to the reader, and help out the tale, and stop when the people cannot think of anything more to say.

I realise that I’m not one for rules, especially rules of writing, but this is ridiculous: I seem to be bent on breaking all of them, most particularly number 3 (mild spoiler for readers of
Mortal Ghost).

I reckon I ought to be worried. If the author can’t tell whether a character is dead or alive, what is the poor beleaguered reader supposed to do?


3 thoughts on “The reader shall be able to tell the corpses from the others

  1. Michele 17 years ago

    Hear, hear !!

  2. Lee 17 years ago

    Too right, Michele – torch the rules completely, it’s the only way to set the world alight.

  3. Michele 17 years ago

    Well as I always say, if you’re going to break a rule, break it properly !