Tuesday, June 4, 2013

On Breaking the Rules of Writing

As you ought to know, there are some rules to writing, and all of them are rules for a good reason. Most of the time, they exist to make your novel better.

However, there comes a point where following the rules may make you lose an opportunity to improve. I came to that point recently while working on Tornado C.

You see, in the novel, I have one main character and a semi-major character. I use both of their POVs. This arrangement has worked nicely so far to speed the plot along, especially when there's a bit of a lag in my main storyline.

However, there are three spots in my novel where I use two different point of views from the two normal ones, making four altogether. One is from the point of view of an old man (Ne'ram, if you've read the excerpt I posted a long while back), and the other two are third person omniscient.

Technically, that's bad writing, especially since the different POVs don't even occur for more than five hundred words. And third person omniscient POV is especially bad writing when the rest of the novel is in third person limited.

However, I wrote them anyway, because sometimes you have to break the rules to make your novel better.

Take the first omniscient scene. It is a few words of prose about an inscription my main character didn't notice. This helps the novel for two reasons. One, it heightens the sense of foreboding and foreshadows what is to come later. Second, it adds an “epic” and “narrative” scope to the novel.

The second omniscient scene has a similar purpose; it's simply a few words of description and dialogue between some very minor characters that would become relevant later on. More so than the previous scene, it foreshadows that something very bad is coming soon, heightening the suspense. And keeping the suspense high is crucial in keeping the reader's attention.

And the Ne'ram scene? Like the omniscient scenes, it adds to the dramatic impact of the story. It foreshadows something that is to come. Unlike the first scene, however, it has a definite emotional impact that would be missing if taken out. It gives the rest of that chapter the aftertaste of that emotive flavor, like adding salt to a burger.

While cutting these three scenes would make my writing more “mechanically sound” and uniform, I would do so at the cost of the dramatic impact of the story. It would be decreasing the suspense, making the scope of the novel smaller, and losing some of the reader's emotion—not good things.

Sure, they're just little scenes, but every word counts when you're writing a novel. So I'm leaving them in. We'll see what happens. If I can find a way to cut them and increase the impact of the story at the same time, then perhaps I will, but until then...they're staying.


Writer4Christ said...

That's interesting. It does depend on whether it makes the story better or not better, I suppose.
In one of my stories, there was a scene in which I thought would sound wonderful in first person, but then I didn't think I'd want to do the whole story in first person. But when I read this post, I realized perhaps I could do it for just that one scene. It might be like a journal entry, like Eustace's in Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

Bluebelle said...

I really like this, Jake! I've actually been thinking about the rules of writing recently, though not related to POV. It does indeed pay sometimes to think outside the box; ingenuity makes an impact. And just remember - Tolkien broke away to show Sauron's POV for just a couple of paragraphs in LoTR. :)