I haven’t been able to write much here in a while. I have school going on, a son, work, I’ve been sick off and on, all that fun stuff that sort of gets in the way of bloggification. That said, I haven’t entirely forgotten about it and thus, here I am.
Anyhow, for a while I’ve been wrestling with a topic for my grand blogging comeback, which isn’t really grand in any way shape or form. I thought about doing something on promotion, decided against it. Someone suggested I go on a political rant, and I definitely decided against that. I seriously considered kittie pictures, because, well….KITTEHZ!
Though, when it all came down to it there was one thing that really bothered me. These certain writing rules, that people hold up as some sort of holy scripture. This idea that there are these hard and fast things, that if you do them, instantly you’re going to be better at your craft or that they are the “right” or “best” way to do it. Well, to that I say bollocks. I’m gonna tear these little rules apart….kind of.
So, without further adieu:
Rule Number One: Show, Don’t Tell.
OK, this one I can see in a sense. You want to grab your reader, drag them kicking and screaming into the visceral pit of action and story guts that you’re crafting for them, and make them feel like their a part of the mix. I get that, I really do. Here in lies the problem with the old “Show, Don’t Tell” school of thinking:
Sometimes you gotta tell to show.
What I mean is, sometimes you have to just tell your readers what’s up, or you’re going to bog down your narrative. This is especially true in the case of past events that haven’t been given some form of exposition throughout. As an example, in Demon Jack there is a scene where Jack’s rather unpleasant background with one of the antagonists causes an event in the present. What I mean by that is that there were things that happened back in the day, that were coming to a head in the current. So, how exactly do I show that and not tell it? Go the tried and true route of the ever cliché flashback? Waste pages telling a story that happened completely outside of the premise of my novel? Nay, good reader, none of these. You tell the reader what’s up, and use that to fuel what’s currently going on. If you can figure out a way to do it creatively or fuel something bigger, all the better.
For me, when faced with said problem, I told. Literally. One character told another what happened. The best part, it fueled the tension of the scene (I think), because I was able to use it to lend emotion to a character, to use that story, told in a fit of rage and accusation, to help build a current scene. So yeah, I told the story, literally, I didn’t just show what happened.
At the end of the day, however, this is one of those rules that you have to know to be able to break. Showing in excess will give you nothing but page after page of exposition and descriptors, telling too much will give you nothing but bland, watered down prose that will bore your audience to tears.
Rule Number Two: If you want to be successful, you have to write every day.
Oh to hell with this one. This is bullshit from the get go. Yes, you have to practice. Yes, it takes dedication. Yes, you have to give yourself in some way, shape, or form to the craft or Robert Johnson your soul at the Crossroads to become an author, sell books, etc. See, the rule itself isn’t what gets me. Rather, it’s the idea that you must put your ass in a chair everyday, write 7629 words per day, and all that jazz.
See, here’s the thing. Writing everyday is important, but not as important as a day off. This is a truth I myself have still not grasped entirely. I have a tendency to be a workaholic when it comes to writing, to the point that I’ve done 14000 words in a day, two days straight. Awesome for the productivity, but it’s hell on the back. All that said, you need days off, you need to recharge, you need to be able to take a step back and, you know, live once in a while. Besides…there are girls (or guys) out there. Oh, and KITTEHZ!
Rule Number Three: Write what you know.
Oh, and there’s this one. The biggest pile of steaming monkey poop in existence when it comes to “Writing Rules” or “Advice” or what have you.
Write what you know.
I get the logic, the more informed you are about something the more realistic you can make it seem to your readers. Awesome, great, if you’re a non fiction writer.
Here’s a little known secret: Us fiction writers, we get paid to lie our asses off.
Seriously, it’s true. All that stuff we write, none of it is real. Not a bit.
See the logic here? No? OK.
First, you want to ground your fiction in some form of reality…just ask Tolkien or C.S. Lewis. I mean, those guys probably visited Narnia and Middle Earth on the regular right? I mean, Jim Butcher is probably really a wizard, J.K. Rowling too.
Truth be told, I see this rule as more of a “make the rules fit” than only write about the things you’re familiar with. What I mean is that the world we’re all familiar has a certain set of rules, action and reaction, that sort of thing. That’s what you know and that’s what you want in your writing. You want the things that happen to make sense, you want the reactions to fit, you want the scenes to be organic. If you’re writing about a paramedic who happens on a bloody scene, you don’t have to know crap about emergency medicine outside of a touch of research and a general idea on how it would feel to see some poor guy eviscerated and splayed out in the middle of the street to be able to make it something worth reading.
You don’t have to write what you know. Write the world you know, however it works.
So there you have it. My two cents on some of the more common rules of writing. That’s not to say they’re all rubbish, or they’re useless. They aren’t. There’s a small nugget of truth in all of em. That said, however, there’s a good deal to be said for knowing the rules so you can break them to little itty bitty pieces.
Till next time kids, same bat time, same bat channel.
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