Thursday, September 07, 2006

Breaking the Rules

I’m always being told that there are rules for writing romances. Rules that must be strictly kept to on pain of total rejection. Rules that you break at your peril.

I was listening to the radio this morning and I heard an interview with Sir Peter Hall – founder of the Royal Shakespeare Company – on the topic of speaking Shakespeare’s dramatic verse and how it should be done properly. The interviewer, Samantha Bond aka Miss Moneypenny in James Bond, had heard the Sir Peter was a strict disciplinarian. That for him the verse had to be spoken properly or else. .

So what, she asked, are the rules . . .

And Sir Peter replied:
There are no rules. More trouble is done by people believing that there
are rules, that there is a way that dramatic verse should be
spoken - it paralyses actors, bores audiences . . .

So, substitute writing romance for dramatic verse, authors for actors, and readers for audiences and you’ll see why I stopped what I was doing and listened.
And cheered.

It reminded me of an article I wrote a while back for the Romance Writers of Australia magazine Hearts Talk – an article I deliberately entitled just as I've titled this blog - Breaking The Rules – but spent most of the article actually trying to find any real ‘rules’ that any editor had ever given me. In that article I ended up saying something very similar to Sir Peter Hall:

Writing by rules or formulas is to lose all originality. It destroys an author’s
voice, creates production-line books, all in the same mould, the same style –
the same. It creates books written by committee and no reader is going to be
satisfied with those for very long.

The only
rule in writing - whether romance writing or anything else - is that there are
NO rules. Would-be authors might talk about them,, critiquers may make out that
they exist but what an editor is looking for is a great story written as well as
possible – written in the way that the author creates the most sympathetic and
believable characters, and tells that story in the best, most exciting,
most vivid way possible. And so the only 'rule' is that the author writes a book
in the best possible way that makes that story the best story it can be


Kate Hardy said...

Hear, hear. (Nothing else to add. You've said it perfectly.)

Michelle Styles said...

I like what Robert McKee in his book Story -- SUbstance, structure, stype and the principle of screenwriting says on the subject:
Anxious inexperienced writers obey rules; unschooled rebellious writers break rules; an artist masters the form.

Romance writing like all other creative arts has certain FORMS, these are not FORMULA but principles. Archetypes, not stereotypes.

And Kate, you are truly an artist of Romance writing.

Kate Walker said...

Hi Kate - I thought you might agree

Michelle, thank you for quoting that McKee comment- I readit on your web site and really loved it then.

And thank you so much for the wonderful compliment - I'm honmoured you think that way


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