I don’t need your stinking rules, says Chuck Wendig over at Terrible Minds, and I agree. Fun post, also totally spot-on.
Chuck is, of course, referring to the Rules for Writers you see around and about, such as:
Don’t open on weather.
Don’t open with a character looking in a mirror.
Don’t open on a character just waking up.
Never ever use an adverb ever.
And for all that’s fucking holy, writing a prologue is a major biggum no-no . . .
Then Chuck takes all this apart, as well he should. Hey, remember when somebody criticized Lois McMaster Bujold for the look-in-a-mirror thing and the book was MIRRORDANCE? The critic just hadn’t noticed that maybe the mirror thing was appropriate in this particular case?
Patrick Lee’s THE BREACH opened with a character driving somewhere, a Bad Thing according to the Rules. Fabulous thriller, Lee’s truly gifted, btw; I have occasional plausibility issues with his books, but not with his writing.
I can’t think of a great book that opens with a character waking up just at this precise moment, but I’m sure there are dozens. Hundreds.
Anyway, after trashing the idea of rules, Chuck then adds the conclusion that makes the whole post true:
With this, I offer two very important caveats:
First, just because everything is permitted doesn’t mean everyone likes those particular things. . . . second, if you are going to break any of these prohibitions, know that they exist for a reason. Defying them is meaningful — an act of rebellion that says two things: one, “I don’t give a shit about your rules,” and two, “I am good enough to step on them and break their little bones.
Yes, it does. The only real rule is: You can do whatever you’re good enough to get away with.
Even write a prologue.