Rules. Sometimes y’gotta break ‘em. Like eggs. You’ve heard the old saw about not being able to make an omelet without breaking eggs, right? Well, sometimes you can’t write a great story without breaking a few rules.
So (never begin a sentence with so) here’s what got me thinking about breaking rules. Rules are like a bad box of chocolates. All caramel. All fudge. All maple. All strawberry. How on earth could Forrest Gump ever have made a hit by saying “Life is like a bad box of chocolates. All the same. Every day alike. Nothing ever happens. Boring.” No! A good box of chocolates is a mixed box of chocolates. Because (never begin with because) it does teach you about life—and writing! Chew it. Swallow it. Get over it.
Anyway… I’ve read recently where quite a few writers are coming around to “Hey, yeah, that works. You can get away with it.” Call it Writers’ license. Which is NOT an excuse for sloppy writing. You need basic rules. You need to master the alphabet and be able to whip them into a delicious mousse tasty enough to tickle the mind and hook the eater—uh—reader. Something new comes out of any daring attempt to do a thing in a different or previously taboo way.
Take Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, a meandering set of tales whose protagonist, a married nurse named Claire, goes back in time from the 1940s to the Scottish highlands in the 1740s where she meets Jamie and… cue the violins, fade to the bedroom door, so to speak. The epic work not only overlaps genres, it ties them in knots. The series should have its own shelf in stores and libraries: Science Fiction-Fantasy-Historical Fiction-Romance-Adventure. And I thought I ran into trouble by describing my two novels Déjà Vu Dream and Beyond Déjà Vu as Romantic Suspense novels!
It stuck with me that someone described the Outlander series as Game of Thrones meets Downton Abbey. And if anyone is sour-grape-ing on the success of Gabaldon’s mammoth undertaking, let me throw in another old saw—she’s laughing all the way to the bank! So are the movie-maker moguls. And (never begin with and) how did she skyrocket next door to J.K. Rowling’s castle in the air? Chutzpah! Rule-breaking! Gabaldon will tell you she decided to write a novel just for practice, to learn by doing, to see if that was the craft she wanted to focus on (oops-preposition!) Note: with a BS in Zoology, MS in Marine Biology, PhD in Behavioral Science, and as founding editor of Science Software Quarterly, she did have an edge in literary mousse-making. However, as all writers know, the shift from nonfiction to fiction is not easy for many. It appears Ms. Gabaldon has done it successfully!
I think the advent of self-publishing loosed the chains traditional publishers clamped on writers’ works. While self publishing gets a bad rap for all the slush out there, it allows some unsung good writers a chance to be heard—or read—or both. And have a shot at a movie deal. So! Write On!
And stay tuned for RWMTBB … Part 2