No, I’m not talking about breaking rulers here; I’m talking about rules of writing. I’m no expert, I just sit down and write what comes naturally to me, I’ve never taken a writing course (yeah I live dangerously) and I didn’t know that there were rules but apparently there’s a bunch of rules out there. The following are a few examples of rules I’ve come across, mostly stuff I’ve found on the internet, some make a lot of sense to me, most of these so-call ‘rules’ are just silly. It’s been said that in order to break the rules one must know the rules, yeah that sounds good and all, but at the end of the day, you as a writer should follow your own instinct and write the best story you can write.
Write What You Know
This one’s easy and blatantly obvious, see the gist here is that if you write what you know your story will fly out into the page much more easily, no argument there because is true, however I’ve always had a bit of a problem with it because it got me thinking: As far as I know; Dante Alighieri never took a stroll in hell yet he wrote about it flawlessly in “The Divine Comedy” that takes imagination and to me; imagination trumps anything when it comes to writing. I like a challenge therefore I like to dive head first into matters which I know nothing about, by doing so, I get to learn something and, hopefully, so will the reader. As a writer you just got to make sure you do your research and come across as someone who knows what you’re talking about, otherwise you’ll come across as a jackass, which I’m sure I’ve done plenty of times.
Don’t Write About Music
Oh boy, I did it now! See, again I see where that rule’s coming from as most folks could care less about music while reading a story, novel, etc. unless is the book “Please Kill Me” which I recommend wholeheartedly to anyone interested in the Punk Rock movement. That being said; yours truly is currently writing a story saturated in music from the 1980’s, I know, I think I just shot myself in the foot on that one. Aside from turning people away when you dwell into music in writing, one has to keep in mind the copyright consequences that this endeavor brings, which means; you can’t go around penning song lyrics for songs you haven’t written, you will get it in the ass for doing so and it’s not cool. But if you still want to pen someone else’s lyrics into your masterpiece know that you’ll need permission from the copyright holder and a shit load of mullah, so beware. On the other hand you can do what I tend to do… I write the name of the song, sometimes crediting the singer or band, and then I tend to describe what the song is about to the reader.
Don’t Tell Jokes
Whoever wrote this ‘rule’ must have a broomstick up in their keister, I mean; who doesn’t like a good laugh? Say two guys who don’t know each other are waiting around having a smoke; you, the writer, wants to break the tension, what do you do? One has to tell a joke. Fuck the guy that came up with that rule. The same goes for the guy who said you should avoid pop- culture references, this one I kind of understand because it will ‘Date’ your novel, story, etc. But the guy that said not to inject food into your piece? Fuck that guy; I do it all the time because when writing I tend to get hungry.
Show Don’t Tell
Oh man, this is a big cardinal rule driven into the skull of many a writing course attendee, again, I can see why. You want the reader to feel what it’s like to be inside of the thunderstorm, so by describing it as lucidly as possible you will get the reader in there. I’m a bit ambivalent about this one because the majority of writers tend to abuse the hell out of this one in order to ante-up their page count which makes the reading tedious and boring. On this one I tend to follow rules 8, 9 and 10 of the Elmore Leonard rules of writing which are:
- Avoid detailed descriptions of characters. (Sometimes I break this one)
- Don’t go into great detail describing places and things. (Sometimes I break this one too)
- Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. (I try like hell to stick with this one)
As a side note: there are no rules in fiction.
Write on and do you.