Writers Must Follow Their Own Path
Is This You?
In a very real sense all writers are rebels, are they not? While the sane walk around us, working their daily jobs, playing games, drinking of the daily elixir of life, we sit at our desks and dream of things that never were. We inform, we cajole, we inspire and we anger. We tilt at windmills, we entertain, we reflect and we spread hope. Nine to five is for losers, baby, and although we may be a strange lot we sure ain’t losers.
Honey Boo Boo or write another chapter in our book? No contest! Clean the house or write a new article? No contest! We stay up until the dawning hours working on the “perfect” line; we enter the writing tunnel and do not see family and friends; we laugh at financial security in lieu of listening to an inner voice that continues to prod us, poke us and haunt us.
We are rebels and damn proud of it!
When I first started writing this article I almost titled it “Writing Rules For Writing Rebels” but then realized that rebels follow no rules, so I quickly changed it to “tips” so at least you would read this far.
Yes There Are Rules of Grammar
Without a doubt there are, and a writer would be wise to follow them most of the time….but…..the great writers of the past, and the great writers of today, and the great writers in the future, found a way, or will find a way, to break those rules so that it benefits them and by extension benefits us, the readers.
So what I am about to suggest are rules that you might consider breaking from time to time. If nothing else it will be a good writing exercise. Quite possibly, however, you just might fine-tune your writing style and come up with something that will elevate you to the next level.
Are you ready to break some rules?
Words of advice from King
PROTAGONISTS DO NOT HAVE TO BE LIKEABLE
I have mentioned this before but it is worth repeating. I have two words for you regarding this tip….Hannibal Lecter! Enough said!
One of the great literary protagonists and there wasn’t a good bone in the man’s body…but boy oh boy did we love him.
It’s not necessary that your readers like your protagonist; it is only necessary that your readers find them fascinating. If your writing makes us care what happens to your protagonist then you have done your job as a writer. We can make friends somewhere else; we don’t read books to make friends. We read books to be entertained, so make your protagonist entertaining and don’t worry about winning popularity contests with him or her.
DIALOGUE CAN BE SHORT, LONG OR IN-BETWEEN
I read once that dialogue should not be longer than three lines. Well I say bull to that! What dialogue should be is engaging. What dialogue should be is intelligent and intriguing and informative. If it takes more than three lines to achieve that then I say go for it!
If you write well then your readers won’t care how long the dialogue is. If you write poorly your readers will be begging for brevity. Pretty simple, eh? I have poked fun from time to time at Russian novelists, but the truth is that some of them are among the classics of this business, and they achieved that level with dialogues that would be considered rambling if done by a lesser writer. Their talent made it work, and yours will as well, provided you have talent. J
YOU DON’T ALWAYS NEED A VILLAIN
It all depends on what you are writing. Of course, if you are writing a murder mystery, you need a murderer. Of course if you are writing a thriller about terrorists, it would help to have a terrorist. But what if you are writing about personal struggles?
My mind immediately thinks of Citizen Kane. No antagonist in that story at all; just the internal struggles of the main character and that is all that was necessary to tell a classic tale.
In some stories, the setting is the antagonist and not a person at all. A man lost in the wilderness does not face a flesh-and-blood foe but rather nature for survival.
Great article on this topic by Sheila
- An author rebels against the established rules
If you're an aspiring author, your research has probably led you to a multitude of rules for writing and getting published. You don't have to follow those rules to be an author.
Are you a writing rebel?
FULL CHARACTER BIOGRAPHIES ARE NOT NECESSARY
Without a doubt we want our readers to know our characters and to associate with them as real people but….rambling on for pages with a character description is not necessary. You can achieve the same thing by using snippets of information, or by using visualizations, or flashbacks, or…..
The point is that you need to trust your writing style. If your style is good then the reader will learn about your characters through the magic of your story construction.
Think of it this way: when we meet a person for the first time, we do not ask them for an autobiography so that we can get to know them better. We learn about them from constant interaction with them. We pick up bits and pieces about them and through those bits and pieces we get to know them as a person.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO BE ORIGINAL AND CUT YOUR OWN SWATH
Do not avoid complicated. Do not avoid unpopular genres. Do not avoid the ugly. In fact, do not avoid anything that is out of the norm simply because it is out of the norm.
I have this theory about writing and it goes something like this: if your writing is exceptional then it makes no difference what you are writing about…people will read it. I have a story in the back of my head that is just waiting for the right time to escape. It is about a child molester, as ugly a man as you would ever hope to meet. I want to write it in such a way that it turns your stomach and makes you want to vomit, but at the same time I want it so powerful that awareness of this sickness will be raised to higher levels.
I’m not a good enough writer yet to do that, but the day will come.
Make your own path in writing. Do not follow the crowd simply because it feels safer to do so.
HAPPY ENDINGS ARE NOT ALWAYS NECESSARY
There are not always happy endings in real life so why should there always be a happy ending in stories? I read a book awhile back, and I really associated with the protagonist. He was a guy who simply could not get his act together, and he continually made the wrong decisions and of course had to pay for those decisions. He finally met the woman of his dreams, and fell in love, and it appeared his struggles were coming to an end…and then he died in a random robbery at a convenience store while shopping for a snack for his new love.
Realistic? You bet it was, and the ending left me feeling sad, but I’ll tell you something else about that ending….it stayed with me for two years and I still think about it from time to time.
Be consistent with your story and your characters. Do not tailor your ending to make everyone smile just because you think they deserve to smile.
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That’s Enough for Today
That should give you something to think about, so I’ll stop for now. You can bet I’ll be back with other tips and suggestions for you to ponder the next time you sit down to write.
Can you rebels summarize this entire article in less than ten words? Let me give it a try….
Follow your own path and work your craft.
2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”