Novel Matters: Walking The Highwire And Other Techniques

This post, from Sharon K. Souza, originally appeared on Novel Matters on 8/19/09. 

I really enjoyed Debbie’s post on Monday about artistic license in story structure, and I enjoyed the several comments to the post. Katy said, "I love it when authors walk the high wire." I love the image that conjures, because, really, don’t we all feel like we’re working without a net from the first sentence we write to the last, every time we write a novel?

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Nicole said, "Rules were made to be broken in my world." We’ve all heard that saying, of course, along with the caveat that you must know the rules in order to break them. And I completely agree on both counts. But Nicole goes on to say, "If (emphasis mine) the story works, bravo to the one who told it in a different way."
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Ah, therein lies the rub.
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Because in taking artistic license, we take the chance that it won’t work. And not simply that it won’t work, but that it could fail miserably, and do so even before it gets past the pub committee.
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And then there are the copycats who think "because a long, rambling letter worked for Marilyn Robinson, it’ll work for me." Well, probably not. Because the whole idea is to be unique in our breaking of the rules. And once it’s done, it’s old news. That’s not to say another novel written in the form of a letter can’t work, and work well; it just means it must break the new rules established by the former rule breaker. See how complicated this becomes? Yet, what’s the alternative? Tried and true, safe, ho-hum fiction, of which there’s already for more than enough in the world.

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Humorist Chris Dunmire writes, "A rule is 1) A guide or principle for governing action; 2) The usual way of doing something … While guides and principles are in place for good reason, ‘the usual way of doing something’ as a rule in your creative work is flexible and open to change." http://www.coachingyourcreativity.com/

Read the rest of the post on Novel Matters. 

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