Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The art of writing fiction



"The true enemy of creativity is 'good sense'." Pablo Picasso

 There is a tendency to lure writers into thinking there is only one way of doing things when writing fiction. There is some advice out there  that has been repeated many times. This advice should be regarded as an idea on how to edit your story. Yet it is perceived as a set of rules or rigid principles. 
  I think there is an overuse of some of these imaginary "rules".
  Award-winning writer Julia Glass said that she never followed the popular writing advice. I recently finished reading her first novel, so I believe her. The only rule in fiction is to captivate your reader. Bear in mind that your reader may be part of an audience, and remember that not every reader of a certain genre will enjoy the same story.
   I will challenge some of these so-called “rules” that I find on the blogosphere.
 "Show, don’t tell":  I know this has been written hundreds of times. The reason why books on writing fiction mention this suggestion  is that there are higher chances of boring your readers when you tell too much. Yet there are stories that tell and don't show and they are still  riveting.  On the other hand, I've had the chance to read boring stories in which the writers make every attempt to show everything. These stories are devoid of original insights, thoughts and reflections. We have to keep guessing what is going on from the characters' body movements and facial expressions. Some writers are obsessed with the “show, don’t tell” idea. (Excuse me, I’d be better off watching a movie...). Mind you, personal tastes differ. The secret is to entertain the readers and opinions on how to do it  differ. If you don't believe me, read  both the good and bad reviews of a best-seller. You will be shocked.
Adverbs:  I know that writers are not supposed to overuse adverbs, but some new writers take this suggestion to the extreme. They delete every single adverb they write. Adverbs exist for a reason. Some of them are necessary and they need to stay. Use your judgment. The same applies to adjectives.
Dialogue tags: I know everybody is told to use “said” to be on the safe side. Occasionally, however, you may be better off using another word. For example, you may need to mention that the character snarled. There is a difference between saying something and snarling it, right? 
 "Characters need to undergo some kind of transformation": really? I disagree. Most characters may experience some kind of transformation, but this does not happen in every story. Each character is a unique complex human being. Why do they all have to be transformed? Perhaps the reader's views on a certain matter shift after reading a thought-provoking story in which the character is too stubborn. 
"Your story needs action": there is a specific audience that is fond of action, but most readers prefer character development, tension and conflict. In fact, no single story will interest every reader. As a reader, I am entitled to express my own opinions and I know some people will share my views while others will disagree with me. This is good. Diversity makes life more interesting.
 Let me end this post with a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson:
"Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail."
Share your opinion.

10 comments:

  1. I agree with your thesis in general. But I clearly dislike dialogue tags that are impossible: "Look at that beautiful sunset," he winked.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Richard. Yes, I agree with you... Now you left me thinking: why on earth did that guy wink?

      Delete
  2. What I like about writing is that there is no "right or wrong" way of doing things. Each author has their own style and there own way of what works for them. To me, that's what makes writing so unique and beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good point, Keith. These rules are obsolete when they guide your writing.

      Delete
  3. Hi Julia .. it's writing to enamour your audience - give them something that they want to read, as well as add a little to the knowledge base ... and titillate them so they stay to the end ..

    I just write .. and let it be ... cheers Hilary

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your comment made me smile, Hilary. I love the suggestion! Thanks.

      Delete
  4. Hi, Julia. I saw you mentioned on Madilyn's (Jersey Lil's) blog, so I decided to pop over. And I'm glad I did. My opinion: Works of art create their own rules. If they didn't, they wouldn't be works of art.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I couldn't agree more with you! Thanks.

      Delete
  5. All really good points, Julia! I also worry about these rigid rules that "everyone" follows because, well, it's become the law. And I hate reading a book that seems more like a movie script to me. That being said, I do find myself trying to show more than tell and decreasing adverbs (though not eliminating them entirely), so I suppose some of these new writing commandments to rub off on us somewhat.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Kimberly. It is good to know that you find this post useful.

      Delete

I appreciate each and every comment. Thank you.