Saturday, September 12, 2009

Blog Chain - Breaking the Rules Baby!!


Quote of the Day:
There are three rules for writing the novel.
Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.
~ W. Somerset Maugham

It's Blog Chain time! Our wonderful Bonny posted before me and Shaun is up next, so be sure to swing by his blog tomorrow!

Our topic for this round was chosen by Kate. She wanted to know:

What writing rules/advice - whether it was a matter of cannot or will not - have you broken?

Well, as most of the other members have stated, I've broken pretty much all of them at one point and time. Some purposely, others totally by accident.

I too am a fan of adverbs and adjectives, and I love a good prologue now and then. I start other projects before finishing the one I'm working on. I write different genres. I occasionally use long, complex sentences. Or short, fragmented sentences. And one word sentences or paragraphs. I even sometimes mix my tenses, tossing in a present tense line in a past tense book.

One rule I have a hard time breaking is the whole proper grammar thing. I'm an English major. Going through school, I used bad grammar at my peril.

But....when writing novels, especially YAs where you have a bunch of teenagers talking, you just can't stick to the grammar rules and have it come out sounding normal.

For instance, my crit buddies recently ran across a line of mine that I'm sure still has them rolling in the aisles. It read:

I peeked at him again. He looked like Ronan, sort of. Maybe like Ronan’s cuter older brother - if he had one. I hoped it wasn’t he.

Yes, I actually wrote the words "I hoped it wasn't he" coming out of a teenager's mouth. I knew it sounded horribly wrong, but it was grammatically correct! What's a girl to do???

I'll tell you what she should do - she should break the rules!!

Well, in all honesty, I try not to break most of them but sometimes they need to be at least bent, if not shattered.

Maybe it would be easier to pick a rule I DON'T break :D There is one rule I absolutely stick to no matter what. The POV rule. I'm a stickler for it. Mostly because when I wrote my first book, I was horrible (with a capital H) with this rule. I once had a paragraph, ONE PARAGRAPH, with FOUR POVS going on. Yeah. I was bad.

So now, I make very sure my POVs are straight - no head hopping allowed!! :D

How about you? Are there rules that you just love to break? Rules you are careful never to break?

27 comments:

Lily Strange said...

My only rule is that there are no rules. I do try not to let my writing devolve into purple prose, but on the other hand I have no delusions that I am the next Hemingway or any such thing. I write for myself first, and some people say that's a big no-no. I'm not really concerned with whether or not people think I'm a "great writer." If what I write touches someone, then I am a good enough writer.

Suzanne said...

Rules? Um. Again.... I. Don't. Understand. You. ;)

Verily terrific post here with no grammatical corrections needed. Forsooth I have shown in all my posts it is she who laughs the loudest that laughs last... ah, but is she alone in the room at that time? Then? When? Rules? Wha?

Michelle Gregory said...

i try to not use caps when i blog or write blog comments. gotta push down that grammar snob somehow. still can't let a mis-spelling go, tho...

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

I gotta say I think authentic character voice matters even if it's bad grammar. If the rest of the book is correct maybe some aware readers will see there is a difference.
Rapid or too many POV shifts bug me. In fact, I am sad that a sequel I'm currently reading is doing it, and it's catapulting me out of the story. I don't remember that being an issue in the first book.

Sandra said...

I think the only rule that really must be followed is "Thou shalt not confuse the reader." That's what makes head-hopping a no-no, IMO.

Good post!

Bane of Anubis said...

One rule that I break on rare occasion is going from 3rd person limited to 3rd person omniscient... it's not a rule I like breaking, but there are parts in stories where I think a bit of narrative insight adds more power.

As for grammar rules -- ha, rarely used in dialogue. Usually obey in the narrative (used to be all up on the sentence fragments, though :), but if it's from a character's thought, I'm usually looser with his/her wordology.

I hate adverbs, but sometimes it's better to use an -ly than a multi-word phrase that 'shows' the same darn thing.

Elizabeth Bradley said...

When adverbs work, they work. They wouldn't exist if they didn't serve a purpose, it's just that the poor things have a bad reputation due to overuse. I don't worry about grammar in dialogue, people don't talk in proper English. Good post, good topic.

B.J. Anderson said...

Great post, Michelle. And good to bring up the POV issue. Very tricky stuff sometimes.

christine said...

Nice post! And you my feeling on the whole POV thing *wink*

Novice Writer Anonymous said...

You know, if only working on one project at a time was a hard and fast rule, no one ever told me. I do it all the time.

In fact, stick around for next Wednesday's post to see just what I mean.

Stephanie Thornton said...

I too stick to one point of view at a time. I realized after starting my novel that I had inadvertently done a little head hopping, but I think that's all been edited out.

*crosses fingers*

As for grammar, those rules are meant to be broken on occasion. Sometimes you need a punchy little fragment or an adverb. It's A-OK!

Shaun Hutchinson said...

I understand being a stickler. I break the grammar rules all the time, but I am in love with words such that I was seriously in a tizzy because my editor wanted me to use snuck instead of sneaked. I was like, "But we say creaked not cruck, and leaked not lucked." But since snuck is common in American usage and my narrator is a teen, she convinced me that sneaked sounded too formal. It broke my heart.

Michelle McLean said...

LOL funny how we get attaches to those words huh :) Our precious little babies that we are forced to ruthlessly toss aside *sigh*

And so glad to know I'm not the only rule breaker out there! :D

storyqueen said...

I love a good prologue, too!

(And I'm kind of fond of POV shifts, if I can follow them......)

Would it be crazy if I said I enjoy an epilogue from time to time?

Dawn VanderMeer said...

As Bane of Anubis said, I think grammar rules are a bigger deal in narrative than dialogue--characters have to sound real.

I, too, love a good prologue, and sometimes adverbs just feel right.

Diana Paz said...

Great post Michelle, I've broken them all at some point or another...there are just so many!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Great post, Michelle! I agree with you on the POV. And yay for breaking rules in teen dialogue. I think that should, seriously, be a rule. ;-)

Mandy said...

The grammar rule is a toughy for articulate people! Sometimes proper grammar comes off sounding a bit stiff when reading, because it's just not how we talk anymore.

Conda V. Douglas said...

All rules are meant to be broken, Michelle--and I just attended the Willamette Writers Conference where one agent said the rule to "write in one genre" is dead--that they're looking for "flexible" writers who write in a wide range.

Michelle McLean said...

Ooo very good to know - because I have my fingers in a lot of different genre pies :D

Rebecca Knight said...

AHAHAAHA! That example is priceless. It sounds like me in high school. Why wasn't I popular again? ;)

Cole Gibsen said...

LOL - I love your example! Windex please! Great post :)

Eric said...

That's hilarious. And yes, I'm laughing with you, not at you. Your example is probably why I can't possibly write in that particular genre. I'm a grammar nazi at times (at least as well as I know grammar), and I'd be a terrible YA writer I think. Nice post though.

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

Love your example - it is a perfect illustration of how sometimes following the rules can lead you astray!

Annie Louden said...

Ha, I'm always reminding myself not to have characters talk like English majors. It's just not realistic.

Sarah Bromley said...

I was an English major, too. I agree. It's hard leaving proper grammar behind.

Kat Harris said...

LOL! It's no holds barred when you mix grammar and teenagers. I don't know how you could stick to the rules in a case like that.