The first rule of Write Club is: There are no rules.
Ok, that sounds better when Brad Pitt says it in Fight Club, and you can see those yummy stomach muscle thingies above his jeans. But it’s true.
There are no rules, but how does that work?
Think of lawyers. How do they manipulate laws and navigate loop-holes? They study the law. They know it inside out. They know every piece, every aspect, so that they know the best angle to build that case. They write briefs. They test their theories. You should do the same. With stories though, not the law. Shudder. Unless of course you are John Grisham. He seems quite comfortable with both. The same is true for writers.
Study the rules of fiction.
- Read as much as you possibly can. Read everything. Read good books, even read bad books (not too many though).
- Study structure, character, and plot.
- Read books about writing.
- Go on courses.
- Join discussions.
- Learn the rules.
- Follow them.
Only once you have mastered them are you successfully able to break them.
How do you do this?
Let’s look at characterisation. Study characters types, and start by following them to the letter. Create, for example, a traditional detective. I think we’ll call him John. These guys are mostly well, guys. Slightly bald, almost 50. His dad was a cop, his Granddad was a cop. He is on his third troubled marriage. His adult kids actively avoid him. The only person he has a relationship with is his partner and he has unexplained feelings for the pretty medical examiner. Now flip it. You could, for example, change the sex of the detective. An ageing troubled female detective sounds interesting.
You can do anything.
Once you’ve done your apprenticeship and you have become that accomplished writer you are able to manipulate the rules. Change them around and make them work for you. You can do anything as long as you do the work first.
by Mia Botha
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