By Kariss Lynch
Remember that scene in Pirates of the Caribbean, the one where the not-so-refined Miss Elizabeth requests parley with the pirate captain? She thinks parley is a Pirate Code granting her protection. Sadly, she didn’t quite know her audience. She is quickly informed that the Pirate Code is more like guidelines than actual rules.
Writing is a lot like the Pirate Code. As authors, especially those that are just beginning, we tend to get stuck on the specifics of structure, the exact questions we should ask our character, the words we should avoid or always use, or even picking character names that begin with different first letters. After several years in the industry, I have come to one solid, freeing conclusion – these are more like Pirate Code. They are guidelines, not rules. And guidelines provide direction while at the same time providing freedom. For all you Type A writers (taking to myself a bit here), I either really stressed you out or blew your mind.
However, there are a few articles of the Writer’s Code that need to be adhered to in order to give you the best story and flexibility to write in your style and your voice.
Article 1: Story structure is king.
It’s not up for negotiation. There are just certain story elements that must be present in order for a solid and engaging story to exist. Clearly we need a beginning, middle, and end, but we need a problem, an incident that kicks off a journey, roadblocks along the way, a climax, and a happy ending. These elements should be part of your writing creed, the guidelines the rest of your story is structured around. After these are in place, write like a pirate and bend, move, and shape your story with your voice your way.
Article 2: Character development isn’t optional.
Flat characters don’t sell books or engage readers, so character development is another vital article of the Writer’s Code. You must spend time to understand your character’s problems, goals, dreams, dark moments, fears, and even victories. But how you do that and what those specifics are is where your freedom kicks in.
Article 3: Audience awareness makes it better.
In order to write for your audience, you must know them. The people who don’t like romance are most likely not my audience. The people who only want action and suspense with nothing else added are most likely not my audience. The people who like a blend of those are most likely my audience. I also notice which of my social media posts are liked the most, which helps me know what kind of content my readers like. This then fuels elements of my stories. Knowing my audience is a writing rule, but how I execute is up to me.
When I know my guidelines, I can explore my freedom. I can break the “rules” knowing my story will still shine because I followed a structure, yet made it mine. I recently penned THE END to my fourth book and can honestly say that it has taken me four books to learn this lesson. I’ve never enjoyed writing more. I’ve found my Writer’s Code, and just like the pirates, it’s more guidelines than rules. A balance is involved, but the more you play with writing, story, and this industry, the more you will discover how to write like a pirate – wild and free, with a few helpful guidelines to steer you in turbulent waters.
Kariss Lynch writes contemporary romance about characters with big dreams, adventurous hearts, and enduring hope. She is the author of the Heart of a Warrior series and loves to encourage her readers to have courage. In her free time, she hangs out with her family and friends, explores the great outdoors, and tries not to plot five stories at once. Connect with her at karisslynch.com, or on Facebook, Instagram, or Goodreads.