Ask a Triceratops: Susan’s 10 Rules for Novelists

Jonathon is a famous novelist and he has written me a long letter which I won’t quote because it goes on a bit. It seems he has decided to copy my writing advice style and produced a list of “10 rules” for novelists. Now everybody is laughing at him and he is sad. He’d like to know if I could suggest 10 different rules that would save him from mockery?

Absolutely Jono! Only too happy to help a struggling novelist out!

  1. Ensure your primary narrator is comfortable. Remember the novel is an aural medium and your narrator should have a comfy nest of uprooted plants to stand or lie down on.
  2. Pay attention to the little things: how did the t-rex get drunk? What kind of tree is she trying to climb?
  3. Your secondary narrator shouldn’t be too colourful a character as this can distract from your tertiary narrator or the triceratops that is recovering from having a t-rex fall on her.
  4. Use sentences or sentence fragments or isolated words or phrases or grunting noises. 
  5. Don’t use gestures to get your point across. OK maybe that works for humans but classic triceratopian literature never uses gestures and you really can’t argue with a literary form with that kind of longevity.
  6. Avoid mammals. Not just in your novels but in life in general. At worst they’ll eat your eggs and at best they get underfoot.
  7. Don’t use “then” as a conjunction. Instead use a strong twine made out of twisted strips of bark.
  8. Setting fires to things can be fun but be careful you don’t cause a stampede or burn down the whole savannah.
  9. Your t-rex doesn’t need much motivation or character development. They are blundering drunken fools the lot of them.
  10. There’s nothing wrong with standing in the rain shouting your novel at a thundering sky, defying the lightning to strike you down as you declaim your truth to the heavens but don’t do this while holding an umbrella like my friends cat did that one time. On the other hand a cat highly charged with static electricity makes for an excellent if bad tempered duster.
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12 thoughts on “Ask a Triceratops: Susan’s 10 Rules for Novelists”

  1. I quite liked #10. Good advice for novelists of all species, and some mammals.

    #1 is useful for human audio book readers. Just make sure the plants aren’t something the narrator is allergic to. If they’re recording a Christmas book, obviously evergreens should be in the nest.

    I wonder what nests in Fungus Town are made of (if not, of course, fungus)?

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      1. I confess to being slightly disappointed that she didn’t write the first book in first person, the second in second person, and the third in third person.

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  2. 10 words to use when writing about Jonathan Frantzen:
    1. tiresome
    2. 1990s
    3. cramped
    4. dudebro
    5. pretentious
    6.out-of-touch (…. oops, JF wants us to know that is not one word but three-in-compound-form)
    7. pedantic
    8. dickish
    9. “jonathanfrantzenesque”
    THEN,
    10. irrelevant

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    1. We also would have accepted “trite”, “cliche”, “boring”, “whiny”, “tedious”, “jejune”, “petulant”, “egotistical”, “man-child”, “has-been”. (oops hyphens)

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