Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Rules for Breaking Rules

This guy breaks all the rules. He did it in Ferris Bueller's Day Off and he's still doing it, one hotel room at a time.

Breaking the rules works for him. Do you even know how much money the man makes? His TV show gained viewers after all his antics.

Crazy, this entertainment business.

Do you even remember this scene? I do. And look at them now...Baby and Sheen, all these years later. Whooda thunk it?

Some other rule breakers weren't so lucky though....Poor Mel over there...He went all crazy like Sheen but it didn't quite work for him now did it?

There are a million reasons why. Sheen combined his sins but did it with an inebriated smile on his face. Using the same charm from Ferris Bueller in real life.

Mel kinda went psycho. Anti-Semitic Rants, boozed soaked diatribes, I don't have to re-hash. Tis sad really. Love the man's work, and as a child of the 80's his butt what the butt all other hunks' butts were compared to. Oh, how the mighty have fallen...

Rules are everywhere. We are bred to follow them and punished when we don't. Time-outs, butt whoopins, groundings, incarceration, the list goes on.

For aspiring authors the punishment is that you stay just that, aspiring. Never actually being.
Charli here is a rule breaker. Let me list them for you.

I have a prologue
My second chapter introduces an ensemble cast
It's over 100,000 words (working on that though)
I tell in places and show in others
Most passages are active but some are passive
Sometimes my characters do random things- no plan or goal, that's life

There are probably more.

Some of my most favorites books of all time have all of the above. So, all you aspiring writers out there, take heed. We read blog after blog and article after article about the rules, what agents want and hate. We revise our MSs in a state of panic and what is the result? A really bad revision.

You are the creator of your story. Sometimes you have to follow your instincts. Look at the books on the NYT Bestsellers list. Scratch that, read them. The rules are broken all the time. At the end of the day its all about a really good story that's weaved together in breathless fashion. Originality in premise, characters, or setting will make the difference.

There are basic rules to storytelling, yes. Beginning, middle end...story arc...plot...yada. But these other rules are not black and white.

My prologue is not a ten page diatribe. It's one page, a tease about the future, and I love it. My CP's prologue is action packed and a cliffhanger for sure. Some of my favorite authors have them and I really love the set-up.

I recently read a book that had a whole passage that was passive and telling. I liked it because it was insight about a specific past event. It was compelling and well written for a rule breaker. Another one had dialogue tags left and right and I didn't even care, the story was that good.

Learn the craft and to do that you must READ. READ. READ. READ. READ.

As someone who participates in Critique groups I can tell  you this... I  have read some really well written prose. No telling, no passives, they follow all the rules. And they were....okay. Nothing new or spectacular for the genre but not bad either.  I have read some work that was so rough it hurt to read. But guess what...the story was so awesome and the characters so crisp I loved it and wanted to read more.

So, for all you newbies out there or frustrated old timers don't read blogs, even this one, and take it as the end all be all. Do your research. Read, write, read and then write some more.

I thought I knew it all when I started in 2009. I didn't no shite. There is still a ton of shite out there I have yet to conquer.

Go out my young Padawans and Obie Ones and fertilize your minds with what you've yet to explore. Break a rule now and then, just be sure it's worth it and works for you...

Now, some clips to pay tribute.

Every girl loves the bad boy...

Danny Glover should have had an intervention with Mel this time around.


  1. Charlie Sheen's appearance was my favorite scene in all of Ferris Bueller. He's such a terrific actor. :D

    Sometimes breaking the rules of writing can lead to better results. :)

  2. Terrific post. Yes, learn the rules so you can learn when to break them--properly.

  3. Great post Charli, I agree, most of not all the books I have read break all the rules you mentioned and more. I believe, and always will, A good story sells! Write, write, and just write some more...they will come....

  4. You have a good point. Braking the rules can be essential. BUT: you must be able to justify it. Sometimes you love an idea or just a line and it just doesn't fit into your story. So a writer has to be careful, but I agree, we have to stand our ground and be persistent if we truly believe what we have is true (look at J.K.Rowling).
    Nahno ∗ McLein

  5. Nahno, you are right. I can justify my prologue but no one was buying my reasoning for comma splices, lol.

    Emma, love reading the rules breakers!

    Brenda, you properly break the rules when you get away with them!

    W.B., by far my fave Sheen character.

  6. Great tips and clips. It's like anything you've got to know how to do something before you can break the rules successfully :O)