Breaking the Rules

If you've been learning the craft for a while, you've heard the rules. Don't start with a character waking up. Don't start with dialog or the weather. Don't use a mirror as a device to describe the narrator. Et cetera.

Lies.

There's a book you might have heard about called THE HUNGER GAMES. You know what it starts with? Katniss waking up.

You may have heard of Natalie Whipple, whose X-Men-meets-Godfather debut comes out next Summer. (If you haven't, you're welcome). About her novel, she tweets, "TRANSPARENT opens with a flashback, then moves on to a mirror scene while she is getting ready for school."

I love that. You may argue that means Transparent isn't good, but then you haven't read Natalie's stuff and you would be dead wrong. I can't wait to read Transparent, and I love that it breaks the rules.

My own novel AIR PIRATES starts with dialog. While it hasn't gotten me an agent yet, it has generated a lot of requests which, if nothing else, tells me the beginning doesn't totally suck.

Listen, the rules are good things. You should know them. But don't be afraid of breaking them. Just know why you're doing it. Are you breaking the rule because you couldn't think of anything better, or is it because that's the best way to do what you want to do?

If it's the latter, I say go for it! What do you think?

(Hm. I just realized Post-Apoc Ninjas starts with the weather. Maybe I have authority issues?)

8 comments:

Seriously Though said...

Just stumbled upon this blog. I am interested in writing and appreciate your posts.

Adam Heine said...

Thanks for taking the time to comment, Seriously! Glad you found this place :-)

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

I definitely have authority issues. LOL

My favorite "rule" about breaking the rules is this: don't break them unless it makes your job as a writer harder. (i.e. writing a waking up scene that was fantastic and TOTALLY NOT CLICHE was wicked hard, and just the beginning of the awesome writing in HG)

Bane of Anubis said...

Rules don't much matter as long as you write something interesting. Figuring out what is interesting and how to optimize that interest, now there's the key.

Matthew MacNish said...

Just make sure that when you break the rules, you're doing it on purpose, and with good reason.

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

The rules are mostly just there for beginning writers, who don't yet understand why these things can sometimes create problems. Paranormalcy also starts with dialogue (though i actually had an issue with that) and it's looking more and more like my next novel will start with dialogue as well

Nancy Thompson said...

They're not rules, just guidelines & I've never heard of not breaking the guidelines. And besides, guidlines are meant to keep you on course, but it's not the only road that'll get you to your destination. A nice detour can be both interesting & thrilling.

Keriann Greaney Martin said...

I like when a book starts with dialog, dang it! Get me right into the action is what I say :).