WRITERS: Know The Rules – and break them

I need rules!
I need rules!

In English, a double negative forms a positive. But in some languages, such as Russian, a double negative is still a negative. However, in no language in the world can a double positive form a negative.

Yeah, right.



Know the rules – and break them.

By carrying that computer around, he looks like he just might know something, doesn't he?
By carrying that computer around, he looks like he just might know something, doesn’t he?

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3 thoughts on “WRITERS: Know The Rules – and break them

  1. As a newbie ’round these parts (and as a former writing teacher), I would add: Knowing the rules and breaking them with skillful intent is a whole “‘nother” thing from knowing them and disregarding them because your writing teacher told you it was ok.

    I have no idea whose voice I’m writing in this morning, but it seems to be an overcaffeinated cowboy. This fascinates me . . .and most likely annoys anyone reading this. Bygones.


  2. Glad to have a former writing teacher in the fold! (And are you ever REALLY a former writing teacher? Don’t misplaced modifiers and stuff still pull your eyes to them?)

    I am of two minds on this one, maybe more, which is tricky this time of day because one of them has to drive. I had an English teacher who preached the rules of writing, but those weren’t necessarily the rules of good storytelling. I love starting a sentence with a conjunction, or starting a chapter or a book with dialog.

    But that kind of stuff drives the rulebound folks crazy.


    I write in passive voice occasionally just like a painter would use green or blue to effect a different emotion in a painting.

    But stuff like “whole ‘nother” – where did that even come from? We said it as kids in Ohio; Luke Skywalker said it in Star Wars. What gives? What the hell’s “nother”? He meant to say he’d have to wait another whole year to apply to the academy, not, “But that’s a whole ‘nother year!”

    I seem to recall that film did pretty well, though.

    There’s a business saying, “revenue hides all sins,” meaning if your branch office was bringing in enough money, nobody cared too much about turnover or a few extra business lunches, etc. That’s like a football team that threw some interceptions but still won the game – a win is a win is a win, right?

    Here, the deal is this: good storytelling hides a lot of sins. If people can’t put your book down, and they tell all their friends about it, you did well. Then you can use a preposition to end a sentence with. Sell enough copies and you’re a radical genius for telling the rules to go fuck themselves! (In comedy writing, we have to break rules just to make the point in a funny way. Rulesfolks hate that. They typically have no sense of humor, though, so who cares?)

    The trouble is when people break rules because they’re clueless (like me on occasion) and turn off readers unintentionally. If a writer knows what he/she is doing, it helps. A lot.

    Skillful intent. It makes all the difference. Well said.

    It’ll be good to have you chiming in and keeping us on the straight an narrow.

    Liked by 1 person

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