Skip to main content

Breaking the Rules

While Zac takes some time off, today's Promptly guest post comes from WD Editor Jessica Strawser.

--
Back when I was a student in journalism school, I took an advanced magazine feature writing class. We began by studying selections from master feature writers—our visiting professor among them—and discussing what made them such exemplary pieces. Then, each of us undertook an elaborate article project that involved extensive research in the field or, in my case, at the local library, studying local newspaper archives on microfilm to research the history of a Main Street theater that was under restoration.

When it came time to workshop our articles in class, I felt fairly confident about my story. I'd interviewed owners and employees, past and present. I'd drawn a narrative thread of the building's transformation from performance hall to Vaudeville house to movie theater through various eras in the small town's history. When it was my turn to garner feedback, I fidgeted only a little in my chair.

One of my classmates raised her hand. "I think when the overall writing is strong like this is, it's OK to have broken some rules," she said. Others nodded.

Because the consensus was generally positive, I smiled self-consciously and looked down at my own copy of my story. I hoped no one could read the baffled expression I was concealing. I hadn't been aware that I'd broken any rules. Which ones?

It nagged me for days—if I didn't know what they were, how would I know whether or not it was really OK to break them again? And how could I not have known in the first place? I was at the top of my class—but had I missed something crucial on the way there? I was too embarrassed to ask.

Ultimately, I decided that it didn't really matter either way, as long as I was doing something right. My new rule, I decided, would be to keep making my own. But I can still remember the details of that workshop today—perhaps because, truth be told, I still don’t have the slightest idea what they were referring to.

Which leads me to today’s prompt.

WRITING PROMPT

Write a story about unknowingly breaking a rule, in 500 words or fewer. (Feel free to break some "rules" in writing it, too.)

As always, feel free to post your response (500
words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments section below.
By posting, you’ll be automatically entered in our occasional
around-the-office swag drawings. If you're having trouble with the
captcha code sticking, e-mail your story to
writersdigest@fwmedia.com with “Promptly” in the subject line, and we'll
make sure it gets posted.

Happy writing!
Jessica

--
For more inspiration to go your own way in the writing life, don’t miss my interview with bestselling author Elizabeth Berg in the March/April issue of WD, on newsstands now and available for instant download right here.

David Adams Cleveland: On Truth Revealing Itself in Historical Fiction

David Adams Cleveland: On Truth Revealing Itself in Historical Fiction

Award-winning novelist David Adams Cleveland discusses the timeliness of his new novel, Gods of Deception.

Lisa Jewell | Writer's Digest Interview Quote

The WD Interview: Lisa Jewell

The New York Times-bestselling British author discusses creating thrilling plot twists and developing characters in her 19th novel, The Night She Disappeared, in this interview from the Jan/Feb 2022 issue of Writer's Digest.

5 Tips for Successfully Pitching Literary Agents in Person (That Worked for Me at the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference)

5 Tips for Successfully Pitching Literary Agents in Person (That Worked for Me at the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference)

Author Anat Deracine found her agent at Writer’s Digest Annual Conference. Now she’s sharing what she’s learned to help other writers become authors. Here are her 5 tips for successfully pitching literary agents in person.

Tips for Reading Poetry in Front of an Audience

8 Tips for Reading Your Poetry in Front of an Audience

Poet's Market editor and published poet Robert Lee Brewer shares eight tips for reading your poetry in front of an audience.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Strength Lost

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Strength Lost

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, let a character lose their powers.

Sharon Short | Point of View Quote 1

Managing Point of View: Mythbusting

In the first of this three-part series, novelist and WD columnist Sharon Short breaks down 7 of the most common myths about choosing which POV is right for your story.

Channel Your Inner Authorpreneur for Your Writing Labor of Love

Channel Your Inner Authorpreneur for Your Writing Labor of Love

As self-publishing continues to become an attractive and popular options for writers, it’s important to know what you’re getting into and to have the right expectations. Here, author and entrepreneur Tom Vaughan shares how to channel your inner “authorpreneur” to help your book find its readers.

Mark Kurlansky: On Coincidences Driving Memoir

Mark Kurlansky: On Coincidences Driving Memoir

Award-winning author, playwright, and journalist Mark Kurlansky discusses the experience of channeling Ernest Hemingway in his new memoir, The Importance of Not Being Ernest.

In-Between: Writer's Digest 2nd Annual Personal Essay Awards Winner

In-Between: Writer's Digest 2nd Annual Personal Essay Awards Winner

Congratulations to Alyssa Rickert, Grand Prize winner of the 2nd Annual Writer's Digest Personal Essay Awards. Here's her winning essay, "In Between."