rules of engagement.
Do you see these people^^^^^^^^^^ ?
They have come to hear a good story.
Let's not let them down.
There a lot of great writing rules out there. These are my own. (Commentary included.)
1. Tell the story straightforward in time, without much, or any backstory. (That said, if the backstory is seriously intriguing, just tell it. It doesn't really matter to anyone what's backstory and what's not, as long as it's interesting and tense on a page-by-page level. And also beautifully written.)
2. Use simple, clear words, aimed at communicating with the reader, rather than expressing something creatively. (Then again, if you have something pretty bad-assly creative to express, you should probably express that mother. I mean, what are we here for after all?)
3. Use cliffhangers at the end of every chapter, so the reader will almost turn the pages by instinct. (Tip: sometimes leaving out the cliffhanger can be the surprising move, if it's just cliffhangers everywhere.)
4. Seek scenes that will force characters to say or do what they most crave to say or do. Everyone has an unstable nuclear reactor at their core. Tamper with it. (No complaints here.)
5. If possible, compact the story into a short time frame, where each action directly causes the next. (This rule can be broken by people more talented than me.)
6. You are as a storyteller, standing in front of the campfire in the ancient times. Your job is to relieve your audience of the burden of consciousness. Keep their attention. (I stole this from David Mamet.)
7. No physical descriptions shall appear, beyond the bare minimum, unless they advance the story in some way or illuminate a critical aspect of character. (Or, unless they are completely joyful, or insanely interesting, or irresistible to you as a writer. If it's irresistible to you, that's the surest sign you're on to something.)
8. Feature characters with bottomless desire, facing obstacle after obstacle. (Also, weird people.)
9. If you aren't excited about it, the reader won't be. The reader knows if you are faking it. (Clue: if you find yourself audibly sighing when you try to write a passage, delete.)
10. Remember, and this is the most important rule: The reader is a person, just like you. It's like you're sitting next to them on a 6 hour flight. Take care of them. Help them understand. Keep them entertained. Do not waste their time. Be a good companion. (And if shattering any of the other nine rules will help you follow this last rule, then shatter with prejudice.)