Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Following the Leader

Every few months writing magazines and web sites put out a list of no-nos for writers, what not to do when writing a book.

1. Never start a book with the main character waking up. It's boring and banal. Then there's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich written by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, which is an excellent book where the story begins with the main character waking up in a Soviet gulag.

2. Books based on role playing games, like Dungeons & Dragons, will never be published. One of Andre Norton's best selling books was Quag Keep where the characters were role playing gamers who were caught up in time and space and transported to a world where they became the characters they played in a board game. There was a sequel that was equally successful, Return to Quag Keep.

3. Writing about dragons is passe. Anne McCaffrey cannot be improved upon. Along comes Eragon which was an instant best seller written by a teenager. Yeah, that advice was definitely good.

I could go on, but I won't. The point is that whenever someone sits down and writes a bunch of rules, there will always be someone who comes along and shatters the rules, making the rule maker eat his words. I live for those moments.

Everything that has been done, and done superbly, cannot be surpassed. That's like saying the four-minute mile is impossible or a quadruple axel cannot be done. Uh, yeah, they can.

When it comes to writing -- and to live -- read the rules and remember them, but don't live exclusively by them. A time will come when you could be the one to break them and set a new precedent. That is what precedents are all about.

If something can be measured, it can be exceeded. The sound barrier has been shattered and bettered many times over. The speed of light cannot be surpassed and that means books featuring hyperdrives are not based on science fiction and are squarely in the realm of fantasy, and yet there is a speed faster than light. It is the speed of thought. As long as it can be measured, it can be broken.

Just because the universe seems to follow certain rules doesn't mean that those rules are unbreakable. Rules are made to be broken and broken they will be. Don't follow the leader, follow your heart and your instincts. They will seldom fail you.

That is all. Disperse.

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