Crono91 wrote:We all know people who write novels break a number of rules. One, because novels should read almost the same way as we talk. For instance:
I want to go home. But I want to stay here
Obviously, that should be one sentence, and the second sentence isn't a full sentence. But it looks, and reads better.
So my question--what are some rules writers should NEVER break, and what are some common rules writers break?
I don't think it looks better, or reads better. And how do you know people talk this way? We don't use punctuation when we speak, so it's usually very difficult to know whether someone says this as one sentence or two. Those two sentences call for a comma or a dash, depending on how long you want the pause to be. Or, while technically incorrect, even an ellipsis works better than a period. I don't know if this will make sense, but when a person says those two sentences, they say them the way you
punctuate them. Sometimes you can trust your ear, and sometime syou can't.
It's like thinking people say "should of" when they really say "should've". Those with poor ears start writing "should of" because they think that's what they heard.
Writers break almost every rule there is, but good writers always do so for just cause. I think the first rule is never break a rule accidentally.
You have to actually know
a rule before you're allowed to break it. The second rules is that you can only break a rule if you have a good reason. If you do know the rule inside and out, and if you have a very good reason for breaking it, then no rule is inviolate, but not knowing a rule is never a good reason for braking it.
Having said this, yes, novels should be written just as if someone
is speaking them. But who? Probably not the average person on the street, but, yes, as if a real person is speaking every word. A big mistake new writers make is trying to sound "writerly", trying to put down words no human ever said, or ever will say, because they think it sounds better. It doesn't. The moment an editor thinks, "No one actually speaks this way", or, "This character would never speak this way", or "This narrator would never speak this way", the story is dead.
In dialogue, the only concession to real speech should be removing a bit
of the garbage. Not all of it, not even most of it, but enough to make it read well on the page. And often none of it because not everyone speaks the same, and not everyone fills their speech with garbage. This is a complete myth.
This is the thing. Just because a novel should be written the way people really speak, both in dialogue and in narrative, doesn't mean you can write a novel the way you
really speak, or the way the mechanic down the street really speaks. But it should be put down the way the narrator you choose to tell the tale would really speak, were he alive and you met him walking down the street.
It's tricky, but even in third person limited, the narrative should not be far removed from the dialogue of the central character. A novel with narrative that sounds like an Oxford professor, but that has Joe Blow mechanic as the central character, probably isn't going to read well at all. Unless, of course, it's a first person novel, one the Oxford professor is telling about Joe Blow. Think Sherlock Holmes here. The stories are about Holmes, but they're told by Doctor Watson, and sound just like him.
Anyway, I can write a novel that sounds exactly like I talk, and I have. But more often than not, I write novels that sound exactly like the way my characters talk. This works very well, too.
Now, in a third person novel, grammar usually
should be grammatically correct, but many don't know grammar well enough to know what is and isn't a violation. They confuse rules of formal writing with rules of grammar, and doing so makes for poor, and usually boring, narrative. There is, for instance, no rule of grammar that says you can't use slang. Nor does any rule of grammar say you can't use contractions in narrative. There is no rule of grammar that says you can't split an infinitive, regardless of what your English teacher told you. The split infinitive rule comes from Latin, and makes no sense at all in English. And as Winston Churchill, a wonderful writer, supposedly said about ending a sentence with a preposition, “This is the type of arrant pedantry up with which I will not put.”
Worse, too many think grammatically correct automatically means a sentence reads just fine. This isn't true. Some of the worst sentences ever written have perfect grammar, and some of the best sentences ever written break a number of grammar rules.
Really, I think the Golden Rule of writing, the First Commandment of writing, is Thou Shalt Not Bore the Reader
After this, however, it's all about how good your ears are. Rules matter, and a writer should know them all, but a writer who follows them all is probably going to remain unpublished. You do have to write the way real people talk, but you have to realize not all people talk the same way, and so you have to choose your narrator carefully. But anyone who has read Huckleberry Finn knows better than to say you have to use perfect grammar anywhere. And anyone who has read many hard boiled mysteries written in third person knows the narrative does not follow the same rules of sound or grammar that you find in a Hemingway novel.
Anyway, learn the rules, all of them. But do not blindly follow any of them. You ear is what writes a good novel, and your imagination is what gives you a great tale to write about.