Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

Breaking The “Rules” of Writing


See that boy in the picture who’s pointing?

Break The Rules

Image from Horton Web Design ~ http://www.HortonGroup.com

I can’t help but think I used to play with him—the kid who changes the rules in the middle of the game :-)

Sure, there are things in life that must have rigid rules—spaceflight for one—but, I truly don’t think writing is one of them

In my short novel (which my co-author swears is not a novel), Notes from An Alien, I broke the rule that “Novels should not have prologues”.

I also just broke a rule in that last sentence—Never end a sentence that has a quotation mark right next to some punctuation with the punctuation outside the quotation mark—but, to me, it’s just more logical, when the quote is “within” the full sentence, to end with the punctuation

Actually, I could have logically ended that sentence this way: …the rule that “Novels should not have prologues.”.—a period for the rule and one for the sentence; but, I try not to totally freak out my readers :-)

I’ve written many posts on this blog that include cautions for writers about sticking to the “rules”.

Using the Top Tags widget in the left side-bar (which you can avoid right now because I’ll put the links right here) will give you 41 posts about Writing Advice and 47 posts about Writing Tips.

If you take those links, you’ll see this post along with the rest; and, many posts are in both categories

Two specific posts worth mentioning, about the “rules of writing”, are:

Learning How To Be An Author Means Much More Than Reading About How To Write…

More Proof That “Breaking The Rules” Is Good for An Author

The direct stimulus for the post I’m now writing came from an article in SalonThe joy of literary destruction: Writers who broke all the rules.

I think I just broke another writing rule—using the word “post(s)” more than six times in eight contiguous sentences :-)

That Salon article talks about many writers, modern and not, who found their own way to write; and, usually, had a slew of other writers follow in their tracks.

The rule-breaker I found most interesting is Cervantes and the rule-breaking book was Don Quixote.

I’ve been meaning to read that book for a few years but my absolutelymustreadbecauseofwork stack of books somehow keeps giving birth to more books

Don Quixote was published in two volumes in 1605 and 1615.

Here’s an excerpt from the Salon article:

“Usefully for my purposes, one of the works of literature which most strongly expresses this complicated view is also one of the most innovative in form. I am referring to Miguel de Cervantes’s “Don Quixote”—perhaps the most stylistically ambitious novel ever undertaken, in no small part because it was one of the first.”

I’ll now list a series of questions the article says Cervantes’ book evokes:

“What does it mean for an author to get inside his characters’ minds and relay their thoughts, rather than simply displaying their actions on a theatrical stage?

“What is a ‘narrator’, and how does he connect with the author of a work?

“How do the realities of fictional characters’ lives compare to the realities of readers’ lives, and where, if anywhere, do the two planes intersect?

“Does the book exist in its own time or in the time when you are reading it, and does that mean it exists in a different way for each new reader?

“Can the reader himself inhabit more than one era, time-traveling through books?

“Can the past…be made to live again, and if so, can the nonexistent, purely fictional past also be brought to life?

“Are dead authors different from living ones, from a reader’s point of view?

“How do poetry, drama, history, and fiction overlap?

“What is novel about the novel?”

The author of the article says, “Cervantes was possibly the first person to ask most of these questions, and probably the first person to answer them

One last excerpt:

“One of the many things Cervantes discovered was that he could repeatedly remind his readers that they were reading a book—could, in that sense, blatantly announce the fictionality of his fictional characters—and still get us to invest emotionally in these people and their story.”

By the way, that Salon article was excerpted from Why I Read: The Serious Pleasure of Books by Wendy Lesser.
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One response to “Breaking The “Rules” of Writing

  1. Pingback: How Long “Should” #Novels Be? | Notes from An Alien

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