Writers are fond of finding exceptions. It’s part of who we are, I guess. I mean, if we were people who liked following rules we’d already be in a more “normal” profession. We’d be doctors. Or lawyers. Or terrorists. Anything but these free-wheeling weirdos for whom “Pants Optional” is a huge job perk.
So good luck finding a “writing rule” that really IS a rule.
IMAGINARY CREATIVE WRITING CLASS:
Imaginary Teacher: In writing we never use run-on sentences.
Imaginary Student Writer: Unless you’re Shakespeare. He did it. Like, all the time.
IT: Yes, well. Of course. So I guess you can use them. Just don’t use sentence fragments.
ISW: Everyone speaks in sentence fragments. And poets pretty much only use them.
IT: Of course. But one rule is that we never start sentences with a conjunction. And the reason for that is –
ISW: Uhhh… you just did that.
IT: Get out of my class before I kill you.
And the student leaves, usually makes a comment in his mind about how the teacher is teaching because he couldn’t make it as a writer, and goes off and, you know, writes. Usually breaking as many “rules” as possible for spite.
Upshot: no rules.
Except there are. There really are. Just a few.
Just three. And you can’t break them. Not ever. Not and hope to keep an audience.
And here they are. There are three. Only three, no more, no less. And every other skill I know, every other technique I use, hangs on the framework provided by one or more of these rules.
1) Bore Me And Die
2) Confuse Me And Lose Me
3) Make Me Better Or Leave Me Alone
Let’s talk about each…