Don’t kill the dog!


HOW COULD YOU??? By Gilliamhome’s Olympus E3 and Evolt 500 Page – Flickr: Hoss, CC BY 2.0,

I was reading a book the other night where the hero adopts a puppy. Then the worst thing ever happens – the dog dies. And not just dies, but is gruesomely murdered by the killer as a message to the hero.


It should be the first rule of writing. DON’T KILL THE DOG.

It makes me less anxious to read anything else by this author. Will he kill more dogs? I don’t want to take the chance.

I was telling a writer friend about this, and we decided there should be universal writing rules, regardless of genre.

  1. Don’t kill the dog.
  2. Don’t make the entire story turn out to be a dream. (A la Dallas, for those of you who remember.)
  3. Sex scenes must be physically possible to replicate.

There are other rules that apply to the mystery genre in particular – you can’t introduce the killer at the end of the book, you can’t have the crime solved by intuition. But across genres, I think these three rules are a fine starting point.

What other rules are there? What do you HATE to see a writer do? What makes you stop reading?



Filed under Books, Writing

12 responses to “Don’t kill the dog!

  1. Ralph Brontz

    I dislike, hate, detest cliff hangers. I just finished one, and the author expects me to wait what, another year? before continuing. I read over a hundred mystery books a year. I’ll have to go back over the original before I can pick up again. I have a better solution………..I won’t by any more of his/her books, not matter how good a writer they may be.

  2. What about a character having a dream about his dog dying?

    Seriously though, spare me the flashbacks!!! I hate flashbacks (tho stipulate they may be necessary on occasion), especially flashbacks that come just before the climax or that create a sort of forced cliff-hanger by interrupting the plot at some exciting moment (I suspect these are new writers trying to delay gratification).

    • I’ve written one flashback, I think, but it came early in the story, and during a conversation, not action. One of the questions I pester my writing group with is, “Does this interrupt the flow of the story?” I don’t want to do that.

  3. Denise

    I hate when a writer has a character not know, or not have access to, information/equipment/technology that would be commonly used in the character’s profession and uses this to create an important plot point. Yes, the character might not have immediate access to his computer, but don’t tell me he doesn’t know how to use that computer!

    • Wow – I don’t think I’ve ever read that! I hate it when I’m saying to myself as I’m reading, “That would NEVER happen.” Unless it’s fantasy or sci-fi, of course.

  4. berryblu

    LOL I should have known what book series had the dog episode in it! 😛

    I’ve been trying Peter May’s Enzo Files as your earlier blog post made them interesting. And they are, except for that one, I agree.

  5. berryblu

    🙂 Nope. But it seems that the 6th and final book is coming out in just 2 days, January 12, 2017.

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