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Reading Lists and Rule Breaking : Writers' Block Party • Writing Forum | WritersDigest.com

Reading Lists and Rule Breaking

What's going on in your writing world? Connect with the writing community here and talk about whatever's on your mind.
Gooblink
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Reading Lists and Rule Breaking

Postby Gooblink » Fri Feb 03, 2006 7:18 am


Gooblink
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Posts: 3659
Joined: Wed Oct 12, 2005 9:12 am

Reading Lists and Rule Breaking

Postby Gooblink » Fri Feb 03, 2006 7:18 am

I've been on a mission this year to read more fiction. I set a goal of 2 novels per week which include popular authors that I'd not previously read. So far, I've done:

God of Small Things, Roy
Bag of Bones, King
Blackwood Farm, Rice
Hollow Kingdom and Close Kin - our own lovely Miss (Curious) Clare D.
A Million Little Pieces, Frey
The Weight of Water, Shreve
From a Buick 8, King (currently reading)

So, I'm a book or two behind, but I started the year with a couple of non-fiction writing books, too.

The 2 books that I found the most surprising were God of Small Things and A Million Little Pieces. These were both good reads - though I found myself doing a lot of skimming over God of Small Things. However, talk about breaking the rules! I couldn't help but think that had either author submitted an excerpt to our critique forum, the grammar police (including me, for my part) would have had steam whistling out their ears! :)

Any thoughts you'd care to share? On Reading? Writing? Breaking the rules?

jasipper
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RE: Reading Lists and Rule Breaking

Postby jasipper » Fri Feb 03, 2006 7:36 am


Gooblink
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RE: Reading Lists and Rule Breaking

Postby Gooblink » Fri Feb 03, 2006 7:48 am

Yes! it is annoying. That's a good word to describe the experience. I found that the more enjoyable books - the ones where I tended to read every word - followed traditional rules of grammar. An occassional sentence fragment doesn't bother me, though. Rice can be a little wordy and her characters' dialog Victorianesque - but they're Vampires so what can you expect?

Having said that, I won't be one bit offended if a publisher picks up my work 'cause it's raw! :)

Curious
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RE: Reading Lists and Rule Breaking

Postby Curious » Fri Feb 03, 2006 7:58 am

Writing in a unique voice isn't really breaking the rules. Grammar rules are designed to regulate the ebb and flow of formal prose, to convey perfect clarity of meaning. But fiction often isn't attempting to convey perfect clarity or logical reasoning. Often, it's attempting to convey something else entirely, like strong emotion or the fragmentation of internal thought. After all, we don't ordinarily think in perfect prose as we're wandering around the house watering plants, feeding pets, etc.

In the case of first-person narration, grammatical perfection is probably the last thing an author should strive for. Even well-educated people are seldom flawless in their grammar when they're speaking one-on-one. A flawless narrator would probably sound pompous.

Clare

JessicaLeigh
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RE: Reading Lists and Rule Breaking

Postby JessicaLeigh » Fri Feb 03, 2006 8:16 am

It's interesting this issue should be brought up--as I am grappling with it right now. I read King's On Writing and he drilled Strunk & White's Elements of Style into me. Being an English major, of course I hopped on board: I have done everything I can to erase the inappropriate use of "that" from my writing; I cut my novel's ms down by almost 40,000 words by eliminating uneeded adjectives and tightening up sentences; I became hyper aware of correct use of the question mark (no more "Daniel?" when I really meant, "Is this Daniel?")

I am reading Alice Hoffman right now & though I worship her...she's breaking every rule I know!

What's the deal???

Gooblink
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RE: Reading Lists and Rule Breaking

Postby Gooblink » Fri Feb 03, 2006 9:07 am

The reason Stephen King ended up on my reading list this year is because I read his writing book and wanted to see if he was 'eating his own dog food,' so to speak.

I keep coming back to his advice to stay honest. Be honest to your character and write what you know. I think he does this extremely well. His blue-collar folks talk like blue-collar folks. As Clare pointed out, these aren't 'rules' so much as voice.

Would your character say "Is it Daniel?" or, more likely, "Daniel?"

You're right, I suppose you can get so focused on being proper that you neglect the story. Oy vay. :)

jasipper
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RE: Reading Lists and Rule Breaking

Postby jasipper » Fri Feb 03, 2006 9:18 am

The annoyance I'm talking about comes more from the aspect of the writer not using his/her own ability to round out the story. Dialog is something entirely different. I'm pretty loose with mine as many writers are. But, when grammar rules are flouted in the narrations and internal portions of the script, I get bothered.

But, hey, nobody's perfect. And what I like, someone else might hate...So, there you go.

JessicaLeigh
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RE: Reading Lists and Rule Breaking

Postby JessicaLeigh » Fri Feb 03, 2006 9:28 am

Oh yes, I agree dialogue should not be held under the constraints of grammar rules. It goes hand-in-hand with that unsavory liile battle taking place elsewhere on the forum-the one about profanity in one's writing.

jasipper
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RE: Reading Lists and Rule Breaking

Postby jasipper » Fri Feb 03, 2006 9:34 am


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