Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Rules and Story

When it comes to Story and rules -- there is one cardinal rule -- The Story Rules All.  The Rules don't rule the Story.
Get your mind around that and you can see why certain published authors are able to *break* so many cardinal rules. Their story telling talent is such that they are able to hold readers in the palm of their hand and make them turn the page. And when they have finished, the reader wants to read MORE.
It is one of the big problems with writing, particularly when you are learning to work with your voice and talent  -- how do you showcase your talent.
You can write a story that follows all the rules but feels flat and someone else can write something that on the face of it should not work but does and works really well.
The question becomes why.
And the technical answer is that it has a lot to do with how the micro tension is presented and how questions arise in a reader's mind. The reader needs to want to turn the pages.
The non technical answer is : A lot of writing is instinctual and therefore impossible to give an exact paint by numbers. It works because it works and the author has made the reader care.
Can writing be taught? Or can talent merely be honed?
Some of it is about learning the why behind the best practice and understanding how things work but still loving the mystery of the process. A good exmple is a rainbow -- I understand why a rainbow happens and what it is made up of, but I still get a thrill every time I see one. I still appreciate the beauty of it and I look for rainbows whenever I can.


Anonymous said...

I think it's alchemy. Or like making a cake. Two people can put in the same dozen ingredients and one will get a flat, tough lump and the other's will be light and fluffy. It's not just about a recipe, it's about knowledge and instinctive touch there, too.

Mmm. Now I'm hungry. :) Maybe I'll go make scones and eat them while I work on my WIP!


Wendy S Marcus said...

Great post, Michelle!
I find I'm a different reader now that I'm a writer. While I still love a good romance, I'm more apt re-phrase sentences in a way I think is better. I also notice when a writer breaks the rules....the repeated use of was, repetitive words, frequent POV changes.