No one likes rules.
Well, I never did. And even though I am now a parent and responsible for laying them down and upholding them, I still don’t like them. But they are everywhere, and in some cases, they have to be. As I get older, I appreciate that simple truth.
But what about in writing? Do we need rules in writing? And are these rules global or do we each latch on to our own preferred cache of writing laws to hone our craft? And what happens when a highly-admired writer “breaks” these rules we hold dear?
I have recently posted about the preferences for/against any dialog tags other than said or ask, as well as the use/misuse of adverbs. If pressed, I would say these tenants are some of my “rules” in writing, as in, the ones that I believe make my writing stronger and tidier and better-crafted when I can adhere to them.
Or do they?
Just the other day I started Jonathan Franzen’s new novel Freedom and within a few pages, there they were: tags and adverbs!–and not just once, but several times! Egads! Someone mused (optimistically, I might add), another person teased (and teased again within a few sentences). I was confused, I was shocked, I was wickedly thrilled! How could a writer of such esteem use adverbs, and tags other than said or ask, when all my writing life I’ve believed that doing so was frowned upon?
Now make no mistake, I am not a purist. (Well, except when it comes to eggnog, Whoopie Pies, and to not tweaking the original Star Wars movies–George, did you have to replace the aged Anakin in the final Jedi ghost group shot? Really?) There are plenty of times in my novels when I have used more than my quota of adverbs. Many, more more. LITTLE GALE GUMBO will indeed greet the world with several that I simply couldn’t bear to cast off. This is not a critique, simply a curiosity. An observation. Maybe even, a bit of a relief.
So what about you all? What happens when a writer you admire, or even one you know 90% of the world’s population admires, breaks a writing rule you hold dear? Does it make you rethink your rules? Or does it make you believe even more firmly that rules in writing are as individual as writers, or better yet, just made to be broken?