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Friday, February 20, 2015

Go Ahead, Break Some Rules by Cora Ramos

Cora Ramons on the right with other members of SJ SinC

SJ SinC member and past president, Cora Ramos,  shared some tips she garnered from our guests at our last meeting, Catriona McPherson and Simon Wood.

Rules for series characters:

See the character grow through the series. What is the overarching goal?

    1. You shouldn’t be able to sum up your character in one line. You can’t describe a ‘personality succinctly. You can get to know someone–over time.

    2. You need a ‘voice’ for that character. Take out all that is not her/his voice in the re-write.

    3.The character sees himself and knows that he’s not perfect.
On the other hand, a good crime novel does not have to have good or great characters. So, plot, pace and high stakes can make it alone. Think about James Bond, Jack Reacher, Robert Langdon—they are not complicated figures, but they maintain a certain attitude—that’s about it. Yet they pull us through book after book. We don’t have to know why a personality does what he does only that he reacts in certain ways.

A true flaw in your main character has to have a cost. You have to do it in a way that works. (Girl on a Train and Gone Girl—unlikeable characters). 

Characters do NOT have to want something. It limits where you go with the character. Your hero can have unresolved desires and wants if he is a series character.

The take away—don’t be bound by the rules and advice of other writers, especially when they don’t work for your story. Sometimes a new and fresh way of writing wakes people up. I guarantee you will find it hard to put down Simon’s novel, The One That Got Away?

Is there a rule that you break in your writing?

Or do you try and follow famous authors' rules consistently?

P.S. Some exciting news from member Lorie Ham, the editor and publisher of the online magazine, Kings River Life:

“Just Desserts for Johnny” by Edith Maxwell, published by Kings River Life, has been nominated for an Agatha. You can read the story here:



  1. Replies
    1. I break rules all the time (you know that!). I will show the reader the killer right away. The rest of the book my protag, Christy, has to catch up. Sort of the Colombo set-up. The books don't always end with justice, or even resolution. Rules? What rules? They don't apply as far as my writing is concerned.