Monday, April 27, 2015

Breaking the Rules

"Devotees of grammatical studies have not been distinguished for any very remarkable felicities of expression." Bronson Alcott

When writing fiction, it's okay to break a few rules. Unlike political incorrectness, grammatical incorrectness harms no one, and in general is more pleasing to the ear. A narrative should flow smoothly, not read like a research paper.

I'm not talking about poor grammar, unless your character comes from that background. Even then, don't go overboard with dialect. A little goes a long way. In The Elements of StyleStrunk and White say, "The best dialect writers...are economical of their talents, they use the minimum, not the maximum, of deviation from the norm, thus sparing the reader as well as convincing him."

What I'm referring to is all those prickly little rules we learned in grammar school, such as never end a sentence with a preposition, and never begin one with a conjunction.

"I can see him, up above," is more likely to be said in real life, instead of, "Up above, I can see him." And because of this, I'd rather end that sentence of dialogue with a preposition. But did you notice how I just started two sentences with conjunctions? If you've broken a writing rule, but it passes the natural speech test, you're pretty safe!

Remember, smooth flow and naturalistic dialogue keep the pages turning!

Have you broken any rules of writing lately?

Thanks for stopping by, and have a great week!

3 comments:

William Kendall said...

It doesn't hurt to play around with those rules. As you say, natural dialogue works better than following formal rules.

shelly said...

I have a character who thinks in frags.

Norma Beishir said...

I break all of them. It's one of the great joys of my life!