Breaking Rules

There are no writing police. Yes, there are gatekeepers, but those editors and publishers and markets make what they want clear by what they publish. That’s one reason I’m doing the 300 published stories challenge over on Patreon. (Come join me!)

I’m also reading down my TBR-pile. Currently, I’m working on the re-read of Pullman’s His Dark Materials series (I planned to finish in 2018 but didn’t), and I’m deep in the middle of The Amber Spyglass. Pullman is a master at camera work. He chooses words that conjure an entire scene in the readers’ imaginative eye. And, he breaks so-called writing rules while he does it.

In this scene, Will is forced to suspend his hunt for Lyra for a day by a priest in a small mountain village. There’s an underlying, unexplained threat present in their exchanges. Will has finally stood up and declared that he can no longer stay. Here is the priest’s response:

The priest pushed out his lips, in the thicket of his beard, and frowned; but then he shrugged and said, “Well, you shall go if you must. But before you leave, you must drink your vodka. Stand with me now! Take it, and down all in one, like this!”

He threw back the glass, swallowing it all at once, and then hauled his massive body up and stood very close to Will. In his fat, dirty fingers the glass he held out seemed tiny; but it was brimming with the clear spirit, and Will could smell the heady tang of the drink and the stale sweat and the food stains on the man’s cassock, and he felt sick before he began.

“Drink, Will Ivanovitch!” the priest cried, with a threatening heartiness.

Look at that wasteland of broken and bent rules! He frowns and shrugs and cries, he uses very, and could and felt and was, and he tells us things. He (deftly) wields the semi-colon to create long sentence structure in a kid’s book. It’s a criminal masterpiece.

And yet, the tiny details and exacting verbs make the camera focus and the reader see.

thicket of his beard
hauled his massive body
brimming with the clear spirit
heady tang
fat, dirty fingers
the food stains

Similar to setting, character and sensory details put the reader into the character’s shoes. You can’t help but be present in this scene. Pullman doesn’t clog up the narrative. Despite the length of the sentences, this is economical. Everything is shaped in your mind quickly and clearly with tiny brushstrokes (like Addison in the Goblin Emperor!)

It’s falling with style!


So, write for your audience by knowing your audience. Read the markets where you want to publish. What creative product supercedes the rules for them? Find an editor who won’t edit out your voice by fixing all your transgressions. Loosen your tongue and take chances.

The rules are just there to get you started.



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