Writing Rules written by guest-blogger Rachel Hauck. Unlike many pieces about The Rules, this post doesn't go over the top in either direction and lays out some basic arguments in a clear way.
I liked the post so much, I started writing a comment. Three paragraphs later, I felt my response would be better served as a full blog post.
If you haven't read the post, you should. It's not very long. Go ahead. I'll wait. (And if you don't make it back here, I'll understand. There's some good stuff over there.)
I like the architecture analogy, and I want to take it a step further. For most of history, designing buildings was a craft. Not until recently has it become a science. What's the difference?
In a craft, the knowledge of practitioners is passed down as tenets, maxims, and guidelines: "The ratio of a column to its supported beam must be x." This knowledge is gained by trial and error. This allowed building designers to build strong structures that looked pleasant. The apprentice's buildings looked very similar to the master's, but you didn't have buildings collapsing all over the place.
With the advent of advanced mathematics, physics, material science, and other disciplines, building design moved from a craft to a science. We now know the underlying LAWS that govern the building. We can model new ideas and test them without building the whole thing. We discovered that some of the previous RULES end up being hogwash, some were unnecessarily strict, some were good rules but based on faulty reasoning, but most were good advice and are still followed today.
I propose that fiction writing is a craft. This is why people can ignore the rules and still make it. This is why some advice conflicts with other advice. And since a broken story isn't as dangerous as a broken building, we have many people trying new things and discovering new rules.
I still hold that the rules are important. Not because they are the end-all-be-all of story. But simply because following them will maximize the chance for telling a successful story. After all, they have been handed to us by some of the best masters in the field.
Question: What rules do you think are most important? What rules are hogwash?
* Cathedral picture by Steve Parker can be found on Flickr.