Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Breaking Rules

Don’t start with weather. I’ve heard some variation of that writing rule so many times over the years and from so many sources that I’ve lost count. So what am I doing in the book I’m working on right now? You guessed it. Starting with weather ‘cause I’m such a rebel. Yep, that’s how I roll.

Anyone who knows me is laughing hysterically right now because they know I’m a fairly rule bound person. I obey the laws. I don’t go in the out door. I always wait for the walk signal to cross at a light. Even if no one were around for miles, I’d have trouble crossing with no little man urging me on. It’s ingrained in my psyche.*

But every once in a while the rebel in me comes out from hiding and asserts herself.

As you might have guessed, I think rules are important. They bring order to chaos. But I also think it’s okay to break one now and then as long as there’s a good reason for it. And as long as you know what those rules are before deciding to ignore one of them.

The reason I started with weather is because the heat wave that’s hitting my fictional town of Vista Beach is critical to the story line. Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself. It might be partly because we're having our own heat wave here at the beach and I'm really tired of it. But I digress. I’ve barely begun this story so I have no idea if this the beginning that I’ll end up with in the version I turn over to my editor months from now or if I’ll start with something else. Time will tell.

So, dear readers, what writing rules have you broken? Do you think of writing rules more as guidelines and suggestions than actual rules? When you’re reading what someone else has written, do you care if a writer breaks a rule? Are there any rules that should never be broken?

In other news, I’m sharing the cover love in this post. The artwork pictured here is for my second book, Paint the Town Dead, which will be released on December 8th. Incidentally, this isn’t the book where I’m starting with weather. That one’s tentatively titled Trompe l’oeiled to Death.
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*This quirk is affectionately lampooned in the 1990s musical, Waiter, there’s a slug in my latte!, a spoof of Seattle fads and foibles. You guessed it. I grew up in the Seattle area.

13 comments:

Tiffany Yates Martin said...

I LOVE the idea of not breaking the rules unless you totally know the rules. I've seen them broken spectacularly, but sometimes I think writers defend choices by saying "rules were made to be broken," without considering WHY a "rule" is in place or breaking it deliberately and with knowledge aforethought, as you said. Great post!

Julie said...

I concur with you and Tiffany! Knowing the rules is important. If you don't you might have a character wake-up, stare into a mirror and describe her reflection...hmmm, now that I think about it, that seemed to work out okay for E.L. James...

Lovely, lovely cover!

Sybil Johnson said...

Thanks for stopping by, Tiffany and Julie! I love the cover, too!

NG West said...

I agree with you all. It's critical to know the rules so when we break them, we have a good reason for doing it. Cormac McCarthy comes to mind.
I LOVE the cover and title: PAINT THE TOWN DEAD.

Sybil Johnson said...

Hi Nancy. Thanks for stopping by. I'm not familiar with Cormac McCarthy. Who's that?

Cindy Brown said...

The opening of Macdeath breaks a bunch of rules - Ivy (my protagonist) is in her car (a no-no) talking to herself (another one), the weather is mentioned (!) and she meets her eyes in the rearview mirror ( a big do-not do rule) ! But it works because it's all character and plot driven - she's on her way to an audition (the driving) saying affirmations before an audition ( the talking to herself) when her air conditioning gives out on a hot sticky summer's day (the weather). Plus she doesn't describe what she sees in the mirror - it' s just part of the affirmation. So I'm a big believer in breaking rules when it helps drive the story forward and am excited to see how you begin with weather (and BTW, LOVE the name of your new book!)

Ritter Ames said...

Great post, and I love this cover!

Despite the fact that I write a series about an organization expert, I'm not always good with rules if I can find a better approach. I don't break them so much as completely ignore them. LOL! But I love your thinking, and I've always heard not to try to break the rules until you understand them. I think that's really what I subconsciously do, so I guess I'm only a pseudo-rebel :)

Sybil Johnson said...

Thanks for stopping by, Cindy. The opening of Macdeath sounds very interesting. I will now have to move reading the book to the top of my TBR list!

Sybil Johnson said...

Thanks for stopping by, Ritter. I find it rather funny that you series is about an organization expert and you're not good with rules! Pseudo-rebel. I like that term.

cynthiakuhn said...

I like rule-breaking in writing because writers who broke rules started whole new literary movements. :) But yeah, they probably understood the rules first.

Sybil Johnson said...

Hi Cynthia. Thanks for stopping by, you rebel you! Starting a literary movement. Hadn't thought of that aspect.

NG West said...

Cormac McCarthy wrote All the Pretty Horses, No Country for Old Men, and The Road. I was thinking of The Road, an apocalyptic novel where he uses stream-of-consciousness, LONG run-on sentences, all lower case. It's hard to read, but after you get into the rhythm, it seems to work. (Sorry this is late. I couldn't remember his other titles.)
Nancy
(NGWest?)

Sybil Johnson said...

Thanks, Nancy, for the info. I've heard of the first two books. Hadn't heard of the third.