1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
4. Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.
5. Start as close to the end as possible.
6. Be a sadist. Now matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
“The track climbed upwards, steep and indistinct,
Through the hushed silence and the murky gloom;
And now they neared the edge of the bright world,
And, fearing lest she faint, longing to look,
He turned his eyes—and straight she slipped away.
He stretched his arms to hold her—to be held—
And clasped, poor soul, naught but the yielding air.
And she, dying again, made no complaint
(For what complaint had she save she was loved?)
And breathed a faint farewell, and turned again
Back to the land of spirits whence she came.”
There are times that walk from you
Like some passing afternoon
Summer warmed the open window of her honeymoon
And she chose a yard to burn
But the ground remembers her
Wooden spoons, her children stir her Bougainvillea blooms
There are things that drift away
Like our endless numbered days
Autumn blew the quilt right off the perfect bed she made
And she’s chosen to believe
In the hymns her mother sings
Sunday pulls its children from their piles of fallen leaves
There are sailing ships that pass
All our bodies in the grass
Springtime calls her children until she lets them go at last
And she’s chosen where to be
Though she’s lost her wedding ring
Somewhere near her misplaced jar of Bougainvillea seeds
There are things we can’t recall
Blind as night that finds us all
Winter tucks her children in, her fragile china dolls
But my hands remember hers
Rolling around the shaded ferns
Naked arms, her secrets still like songs I’d never learned
There are names across the sea
Only now I do believe
Sometimes, with the window closed, she’ll sit and think of me
But she’ll mend his tattered clothes
And they’ll kiss as if they know
A baby sleeps in all our bones, so scared to be alone