Rules (was: soliloquies)

Philip.Belben at Philip.Belben at
Mon Jan 31 08:50:24 EST 2000

Alice wrote:

> Oh, Elise, I'm so glad you put the word "should" in quotation marks! One of my
> most deep-seated annoyances with creative writing instructions is when people
> trot out ideas like this and call them RULES. My own particular grievance is
> against the "rule" that in prose description, Simplest is Best. These things
> are not RULES; they are STYLES. Maybe it's a petty distinction to insist upon
> -- they are the styles that are most popular in modern writing, and perhaps
> hasn't a hope of being published or produced without adhering to them, but
> still I balk at referring to such things as "rules". It's such a historically

I've seen this expressed in various ways.  I meet it most in music, but it comes
up elsewhere too.

"The first rule is: There are no rules" (Daryl Runswick, composer)
"Always let your heart rule your head" (Steve Montague, composer)


Any robot can follow rules.  It takes creativity to break them.  But I'm firmly
of the belief that unless you know the rules, you won't understand when and why
to break them.  Unfortunately it is easy to teach the rules.  It is not easy to
teach people to break them creatively and effectively.

Hope this makes sense.


PS: Alice's Romeo story:

Like it.  Creative solution achieved by breaking rules.  Just what's needed.

PPS: The classic example of rule-breaking:  One is always taught never to use a
mixed metaphor, however great the temptation.  But what un-mixed figure could
compare with the power of Shakespeare's phrase "to take arms against a sea of

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