Saturday, February 26, 2011

For Your Consideration or Amusement

I really dislike the whole "rules of writing" thing. Back in my AOL Writers Club message board days, a number of pro writers suggested that the only true rules were the ones governing grammar, spelling, and punctuation (which could be broken as needed) and the notion that words must somehow be committed to paper or pixels. So you can imagine that this article on some writing rules gave me a few chuckles.

This one really gave me pause, and a giggle:
"7. Smarten up your protagonist.
Your protagonist is your reader’s portal into the story. The more observant he or she can be, the more vivid will be the world you’re creating. They don’t have to be super-educated, they just have to be mentally active. Keep them looking, thinking, wondering, remembering."
This could be useful for some situations, ie a tight third person narration or first person narration using the protag, but if you're writing omniscient, I don't see how this is a factor. The storyteller not being the protag can reveal whatever the author wants revealed.

And that's the problem with advice about rules, or even guidelines which are somewhat better/more useful. They're often unclear. They can be confusing or even contradictory. They often need explanations and they have exceptions. Sometimes, explaining everything that would follow would take a book. If you leave off a detail, as in the narrative style or pov affecting what #7 excerpted above says, then you'll give an eager writer looking for advice a likely wrong impression. That writer might be a newbie who doesn't know yet how to use that "rule" or "guideline" in his or her own work/writing style. And the attempt to force it to work could make things worse. And that leads to frustration. Believe me, I'm the voice of experience here, though the "rules" I'd try to slavishly follow were different than in this list, mostly. Enough so that I tried to stop writing for a decade.

Here's a link that's much more fun: 100 Best First Lines.

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