Thursday, June 16, 2011

Can I Bum A Rule, Just One Rule?

So if you've read my last post Are You A Writing Lemming, you’ll know that I’m kicking writing rules. I’ve been off  rules for a couple days now, and I have to say I’m Jonesin’ for some limitations. I need a fix of red pen scratches littering my page. Quitting cold turkey, letting my writing hair down to write whatever I want, with whatever punctuation I want, ain’t so easy. Look. *holds out shaking hand*

My w.i.p. has seen better days too. This morning I found a wandering adverb mingling with a dangling participle. I like a dangling participle as much as the next gal does, but there’s a time and a place, if ya know what I mean.

My sponsor doesn’t seem to help much either. She’s encouraging me to overload my script with lively tags. 

“Throw in a ‘hissed.’ That’ll spruce it up.”

“A hissed?” My lip quivered with memories of past critiques gone wrong. Flashes of non-hissing dialogue barreled at me, one after the next, whizzing by my ear. I shook them off and tried to refocus. Must refocus back to freedom and no rules. Rules are bad. Rules dampen our creativity, right? Rules . . .  

Maybe just one rule wouldn’t hurt.

One rule. No one will know. I’ll slip in my one rule and then go back on the program—I promise. I’ll still have some freedom. But which one should I choose? I have so many favorites.

There’s the opening line with weather talk in it. I don’t like that. Or the dialogue tags that aren’t really tags. I hate those. You know, the “I love you,” she laughed. Or what about manufactured drama using ellipses. Yep, I hate that too. (“I walked into the bar with one thing on my mind . . . to murder Professor Plum.”)

So many choices. Passive voice, show vs. tell, P.O.V. consistency, tensing, lackluster verbs, yada yada yada. My head is spinning with possibilities.

If you were me what would you chose? What one rule would you cling to like a raggedy ol’ teddy bear?


M.J. Fifield said...

Oh, I really don't like the drama manufacturing ellipses. I find them to be rather ridiculous.

But I really, really don't like adverbs in dialogue tags. She said defiantly. He said happily. Blech.

mooderino said...

If it's a first draft then the one rule I would suggest is keep writing till you get to the end, no stops for editing. If you're rewriting the one rule I would suggest is read each chapter out loud after every revision.

I think all the other grammar rules and story techniques are pretty much down to the specifics of your story and your voice. I say story first, style second


Sarah McCabe said...

Here's the thing about rules: you make your own.

That's because every single writer is different and what works for one won't work for others.

So what you have to do as a writer is experiment until you figure out what works for you as a writer and then you make rules for yourself based on that. But you never think that your rules should be rules for other writers as well.

Diana said...

@M.J. Ellipses are addicting, who doesn't love a little dot, dot, dot in their life, right? But be wary. I'm also not a fan of the adverbs in dialogue, she said agreeably. ;)

@Mood Great advice. Can't get caught up in the little stuff if the big stuff needs a whole lot of help.

@Sarah I agree with you for the most part, except for the big ones like passive writing and such. I think there are a lot of writers who clutch the rules from blog to blog or book to book and then pass on to another writer, those may not be rules necessarily just stylistic devices. And we definitely need to master our own style.

Julie Musil said...

You totally crack me up. I vote for ellipses. Dot dot dot. Do you watch the Bachelorette? There was a dot dot dot moment, not that it relates to anything.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

I'd swap them around and give them all a turn, one a week, so it seems like you've banished them. Then you can get on with the writing!

Elisabeth Hirsch said...

I LOVE it :0)

One rule to cling to (you know this is coming) no MM's LOL!

Vicki Tremper said...

Oh my gosh, your examples had me laughing so hard! No M&Ms? That's harsh. Which rule are you missing the most? Not so helpful, I know, but my brain is fried. Good luck!