It’s his use of the word ‘rules’ that’s got everyone’s goat. If there’s one thing I’ve learned while studying the supposed rules of writing is that there isn’t any. Yes, there are basic laws of grammar, storytelling, dialogue, etc. but beyond, it’s all theory. Time and time again writers have broken established ‘rules’ with brilliant effect. Franzen should have known better.
When somebody suggests such ‘rules’, I see it as their way of offering advice on the practices that have suited them best. Is it arrogant to call them rules? Probably. If you’ve been in this game a while you’ve no doubt seen plenty of these lists of ‘rules’ to understand what they really are. There are no rules, or at least strict, black letter rules.
The danger is for new writers, who in their stage of absorption, can read misleading advice and then grow frustrated down the line when people tell them otherwise. I suppose that’s a lesson in itself, one all writers have to learn: what works for one writer may not work for another.
All this discombobulating has given me an idea: an examination of these rules from the perspective of those ‘bound’ by them, the writers.
What rules do you detest most? What do you find yourself breaking often? What ones do you not see the point of? Which do you regard as outdated and no longer relevant?
What intrigues me most of all is the why. Please share the reasons behind your hatred!
Over the next week, I’ll be conducting polls and posting questions across social media in an effort to see which ‘rules’ are the most hated. Once we have our list, I’ll be seeking to uncover the reasons why.
Your opinions are very much appreciated and valued. The more I get, the more useful this research will be.