Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Blog Chain: Breaking the Rules

It's Blog Chain time again!

This round, the lovely Kate started us off by asking the following question:

"What writing rules/advice - whether it was a matter of cannot or will not - have you broken?"

The awesome Cole answered this question before me, so please go check her response out as well :).

Well, well, well.

Rule breaking. How to begin?

I've always been a Follower of Rules mostly because I want to make sure I do things right the first time. I'm impatient and something of a perfectionist, so I'm eager to be the best right out of the gate. What better way to do this than to learn and follow the rules, right?

However, there is a second part of me that is also a little weird. I'm a creative person, so I have that streak in me that reads a rule and says "Ooh, but wouldn't this other thing work much better here? Aren 't these more like 'guidelines' anyway?" Sometimes I itch to break the mold and stand out by doing so.

So how do we walk the line between being Rule Followers and Rule Breakers? What path is the right path? IS there a right path?

I think there is.

I'm a big believer in one big guideline: You Have to Know the Rules to Break Them.

There is nothing worse than a sloppy rule-breaker. You know the kind I'm talking about. The folks who think they're rebellious when they're really just making up their own words and writing novels from the POV of a ball of earwax.

Let's take a little quiz!

You know you're a sloppy rule-breaker if you break writing rules for the following reasons:

1) Spelling is hard. Who needz it? Wat do all dese red lines in Wurd mean anywayz??

2) Grammar are hard. Grammer is reaaaal hard, right guys? Why do need I it?

3) Sentence construction. And, punctuation are: hard. It totally doesn't have any--impact on the "sentence" anyway. Whatever

4) Any other writing rule is too hard to learn and therefore dumb.

You have to know what you're doing before you can be unique!

After all, you're not unique if you don't know what the status quo looks like.

A good example of this would be Pablo Picasso. The dude started a whole new movement and rocked the world with his experimentations in cubism. Go, Picasso!

However, he didn't just randomly draw squares on the paper because he couldn't do it the "right way." Pablo knew how to follow the rules and paint like the pros of the day--but he chose to rebel!

For example, look at this painting from his Blue Period on the left.

This woman is very realistically painted--Picasso has obviously mastered his craft. You're a stud, Picasso!

Oh, wait! What's this??

In one of his later, more experimental works to the right he's definitely breaking some rules.

Isn't it crazy that this is the same guy?

Picasso's proficiency and creativity combined are what made him the genius that he was.

Sometimes I think people use "rule-breaking" as an excuse to stop learning or trying to improve.
However, those who've taken the time to learn the norm and excel at it, can do whatever the heck they want, and sometimes change the world :).

Rule-breaking must be purposeful.

Going back over my manuscript in my revising/editing stages I knew the rules. Show don't tell. No adverbs ending in -ly. Fragment sentences are naughty. However, I left a few of these things in. Heck, I even have a prologue.

The thing is, I double and triple checked each one of these "rule-breaking" instances to make sure I was doing it for the right reasons. It had to add to the tension, enhance character development, or create something beautiful that moved the story forward. Sometimes breaking the rules enhances what you already have and makes you stand out. In my book, I hope I've accomplished this.

However, my point is that I did it carefully. I made sure each instance counted or it was cut.

Rule breaking must be purposeful. It must never call to question whether or not you're professional or that you're working to master your craft.

So, break away, guys! Go nuts! Break a few rules well, and stand apart from the crowd.

Just remember that there has to be a combination of proficiency AND rebellion to make your work truly shine.

How do you all break rules in your work? Do you agree with me? Disagree?

I'd love to hear from you!

(Photos courtest of www.Artchive.com)


christine said...

Love it...The pablo Picasso reference especially *wink*

cipherqueen said...

Love the pictures. I constantly flip cliches- as in, "you're a rare person, but no, you don't get to be a hero and go on a magical quest, sorry!" Picture a tiny consolation prize. It's a chemical blast.

B.J. Anderson said...

Fantastic post and so well thought out. I think you really said it. And I love the Picasso pics!

Lisa and Laura said...

The Picasso comparison is perfect! Great post!

Cole Gibsen said...

What a great way to illustrate your point! Well done :)

Abby said...

Great post! Breaking rules is hard for me, but I'm working on it. :)

Mandy said...

Fantastic post! I love the way you used Picasso to get your point across. Well done!

TereLiz said...

Yes, Picasso was the penultimate rule breaker. But he followed the rules long enough to have paid his dues.

Once he'd done that, he made up his own set of rules, his own new style.

Love this post!

Rebecca Knight said...

Thanks, guys! :D I'm glad this made sense to someone besides me. LOL.

Also, Abby--maybe you can be a rule-breaker by NOT breaking the rules! Whoa... I think I just blew my own mind :).

ElanaJ said...

Proficiency and rebellion... I love that. And it's so true. Writing must be purposeful, not lazy.

Sandra said...

Gee, I was going to say how much I liked the Picasso examples, but I see several people have already commented on that. Perhaps I could offer up the Beatles as an example of a group of musicians who first learned the rules and then broke them. It's amazing I didn't put them in my own post, considering I'm such a big fan.

But yes, I agree you must learn the rules before you can break them correctly. ;)

Rebecca Knight said...

Love the Beatles example, too! That is so true :).

Eric said...

Great post. You're right though. If you're going to break the rules, you better know what they are so you break them "effectively". Nice job.

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

I had to LOL at "grammar are hard". Love your visual Picasso example as well. Truly great post!

Annie Louden said...

Nice post. I'll keep the Picasso example in mind.

Sarah Bromley said...

Great post. "I made sure each instance counted or it was cut." I like that. It's the way most of our MS's should be. This self-imposed rule makes the writing better and tighter.