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RULES FOR WRITING by Mark Twain

August 24, 2007 by in category Blogs tagged as with 0 and 0
Home > Writing > Blogs > RULES FOR WRITING by Mark Twain

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 people in a tale shall be alive, except in the cases of corpses, and that always the reader shall be able to tell the corpses from the others.

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

5. When the people of a tale deal in conversation, the talk shall sound like human talk and be such talk 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 neighborhood of the subject at hand, and be interesting to the reader, and help out the tale, and stop when the people cannot think of anything more to say.

6. When the author describes the character of a person in his tale, the conduct and conversation of that person shall justify said description.

7. When a person talks like an illustrated, gilt-edged, tree calf, hand-tooled, seven-dollar friendship’s offering in the beginning of the paragraph, he shall not talke like a backwater minstrel in the end of it.

8. Crass stupidities shall not be played upon the reader by either the author or the people in the tale.

9. The people of a tale shall confine themselves to possibilities and let miracles alone; or, if they venture a miracle, the author must so plausibly set it forth as to make it look possible and reasonable.

10. The author shall make the reader feel a deep interest in the people of his tale and their fate; and that he shall make the reader love the good people in the tale and hate the bad ones.

11. The characters in a tale should be so clearly defined that the reader can tell beforehand what each will do in an emergency.

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Reprinted from the March 1992 issue of the Orange County Chapter Newsletter, edited by Janet Cornelow who writes as Janet Quinn. Original can be found in MARK MY WORDS by Mark Twain

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