Worldbuilding is an essential part of any work of fiction. But especially for science fiction or fantasy, it’s the lifeblood of storytelling. But when worldbuilding fails, it can wreck your whole story, and leave your characters feeling pointless. Here are seven deadly sins of worldbuilding.
Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said.”
Keep your exclamation points under control.
Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
This is half-true, in that Leonard presented these in an essay entitled “Ten Rules of Writing,” which - I believe - was originally written for The New York Times Magazine. The essay is available in book form, and contains some fun illustrations, as well as explanations and caveats. Like so much of writing, Leonard is writing his rules, and makes it clear what works for him is not what works for everyone.
Personally, I love that little book. 10 Rules of Writing helped me get through the dark days of BRAVO.
Elmord Leonard’s writing career produced an incredible number of hit novels, short stories, and movies—Get Shorty, Out of Sight, Jackie Brown, and 3:10 to Yuma among them—but not all of the films adapted from his work succeeded. Last year, The Atlantic’s James Parker asked him whether he’d learned anything from flops like Be Cool or The Big Bounce.
"No—nothing," he replied. "The screenwriter is a writer, and if he’s really good, he’ll recognize what’s on the book page, and he’ll pick it up and use it."