Friday, April 21, 2017

Writing: Rules

We never went as far as the picture shows, but when I was practicing medicine I saw numerous signs to turn off cell phones before entering an area, seeing the doctor, etc. Although sometimes the reason given was they might interfere with electrical equipment in the area, most of the time it was actually so they wouldn't interrupt the activity going on there. The rule might be expressed in different ways, but the reason was there.

When I first started writing, one of the first rules I learned was to choose active verbs, rather than passive ones. The reason, I was told, was to take the action forward at a faster pace, and this made sense. Then I was told to use verbs in a special way in order to keep the reader's attention. I never fully got the reason behind this, but I saw examples like, "Her fingers fisted" and "the artery in her temple pulsed." These, unlike the others, didn't make as much sense to me. I preferred the more conventional, "She made a fist" and "the vessel throbbed."

There are lots of rules in writing--some make sense, others don't (to me, at least). I suppose that's why I like the work of the late Robert B. Parker. He wrote in simple declarative sentences, and I never had to employ a dictionary to translate the words. Nor did I have to stop and think about the writing. It was clear.

Do you ever encounter writing that makes you take a step back and ask yourself why the words were put together that way? What is your opinion of rules? I'd like to hear.

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4 comments:

Gail H. said...

Personally I prefer plain and simple writings. I'm not impressed by big words that I have to look up to understand a passage. Im a plain and simple lady and that's what I like to read, no frills ( but maybe a few thrills, as in suspense )!
Love your books by the way!!

Richard Mabry said...

Thanks, Gail--for the comment and the nice words about my writing. I agree with you--writing shouldn't include words the reader has to stop and look up.

Patricia Bradley said...

Rules are made to be broken. My mantra since birth, I think, judging by the spankings I received. :-) I like words that flow, be they simple or complex. It's the rhythm. I like the way your books flow!

Richard Mabry said...

Thanks, Patricia. When I teach about rules (and I'll be doing this at the Blue Ridge Conference next month) I share my opinion that one needs to know the rules and have a reason for breaking them. I suspect that Picasso knew where the ears and eyes went, even if he chose to put them elsewhere...for a reason.