The Lists #2 by Kevin Bray

Ten Rules for Revising Fiction by David Madden

(and Why I Don’t Always Follow Them)

  1. “Is your style overloaded with archaic or Latinate verbs?” Yes. They irradiate my paragraphs with evidence of my intellectual coruscation and I know editors reject me because they are jealous of my erudition.
  2. “Have you neglected to imagine the possible uses of a wide range of technical devices?” No! One time I used my highly advanced technical toaster (four slots) to burn the first four chapters of a failed novel. I have also tried to increase suspense in my  manuscripts with “pop up pages”, a clever technical device that usually appears at the thousand page mark.
  3. “Do you depend too much upon stereotypes?” Apparently editors do not know that there are only six archetypes for characters and only twelve possible climaxes available, which yields seventy-two stereotypical stories. I still use the same characters, but now I attach an animal companion (there 8.7 million species on Earth!) to each one. So far these stories have not been published.
  4. “If you have used the first-person point of view, have you realized all its potentials?” No, probably not. It’s usually one guy doing all the talking and unless I bring in a dummy to sit on the narrator’s lap or he talks with a sock puppet, I can’t figure out how to take potential from singular to plural.
  5. “Have you chosen an effective title?” I tried choosing titles, but then I discovered an app that will generate five possible titles for any genre. My latest book is double titled “The Taming of the Screw” or “How to Twist a Driver”. Readers think it might be erotica or a book about cocktails, so I have effectively targeted multiple markets.
  6. “Have you used too many stock dialogue and thought tags?” Yes, I answered curtly.
  7. “Have you given readers the wrong impression about any of your characters?” Was I not clear that the character who murdered his mother and her meddlesome parrot, and then stole a Smart Car for his escape, worked for P.E.T.A.? What other impression was possible? A psychopath?
  8. “Are the relationships among the characters unclear?” Please see the appendix attached to all my work in which I provide a kinship diagram.
  9. “Are there too many coincidences in your story?” Is it a coincidence that the Great Depression happened at the same time as the Dust Bowl and bank foreclosures and that the Joads thought California is the place they ought to be and then when they get there a whole bunch of other people showed up to pick the same damned fruit and there are too few jobs for all of them? I think not.
  10. “Do you assume too much or too little of your reader, creating confusion?” Nice Mr. Madden! You assume I have readers. (My children and spouse are forced to read my work, however. My wife usually asks “where’s the ending” when she finishes, and my children grunt “whatever”, so, yes, I might be assuming too much or too little from these readers.)


Kevin Bray Kevin Bray (Episode 86 and 112) lives in Toronto. His work is in The Globe and Mail, Airplane Reading, The Danforth Review, The Healing Muse, The Barnstormer, Bio Stories, Penduline Press and The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts.  “The Fragmentary Blue of a Butterfly”, is contained in the anthology “How to Expect What You’re Not Expecting”. He studied at the Humber School for Writers and the Vermont College of Fine Art.