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Five Rules Grade School English Teachers Teach that Creative Writers Should Forget!

Didn't we all used to have one of these?

I was just reading over the list of rules for writing an essay to turn in to my professor and scoffed at half the rules because many of them are rules I break when I work on my novels. It’s so hard to transition back to being formal when all you do is creative writing. Then I thought of all the things I do in writing that my English teacher in grade school (or my mother) would have surely marked with red ink and took off a point for. Lol. Well I say, “O yea writers! Rules are meant to be broken!” And these are definitely five rules I quite often throw out the door in creative writing.

1) No Run-on sentences and Fragments

This was one of the first things every child learned when forming sentences. Every sentence should have a subject and a predicate and there are only for sentence structures; the simple, compound, complex, and the compound-complex sentence (I’ll make a post on that later if I lost you). And then there was the run-on and the fragment which should never ever be used… in formal writing people, and even then I have a problem. Adding Run-ons and fragments give the writing an informal feel, the story feeling. Being so proper can make the story sound stuffy and like those research articles I have to find for my essays in school. It’s a story, and it’s for entertainment, so occasionally it’s fine to have a run-on or a fragment here and there. It’s one of the things that makes a reader relate and makes the story sound real. I mean, all thoughts don’t flow in perfect sentences. Sometimes, they run-on and sometimes it’s fragmented (which was the point of the modernists, but moving on). And fragments… You gotta love ‘em. They sometimes just make the perfect punch when you need them, and I mean the short phrases, not the long run-on fragments. Correct those. But the short one to three word phrase? Perfect.

 These two sentence structures also help the story rhythm. Using all six sentence structures give the story a musical feel and makes it flow so the reader keeps reading. Don’t believe me? Ask Rick Moody. He said it to everyone at a writer’s conference.

2) Don’t use “But” or “And” at the beginning of a sentence

Let me tell you something. If it makes the story sound good, the writer can use any word they damn well please at the beginning of a sentence. If it keeps the flow use it and if the writer thinks it can be done without, hey, that’s what revising is for. But seriously, don’t stress over the use of conjunctions and other words that aren’t supposed to be at the beginning of sentences. Formal writing is about being proper. Informal writing is about flow and keeping the reader reading. It’s alright. I do it all the time to create effect and so do many other writers. It’s okay every now and then.

3) No Contractions

I get in trouble for this in my school essays all the time. I keep saying it, and it makes me wonder why in grade school there weren’t two separate English classes; the creative English class and the formal English class. Tell me this? How many people in real life do we know that don’t ever speak with contractions? There are a few, but not many. Not using contractions, especially in a fictional entertainment work set in modern times where the characters aren’t part of some aristocracy, can alienate the reader because the voice sounds stuffy and not down to earth or real, especially in dialogue. People use contractions. So when writing dialogue, unless it’s just that type of character, use the contraction. Even use them in description if that’s what the voice and style of the novel call for. Voice and Style... That’s an entirely different post I’ll get to later. Anyway, the point is that this rule was and is for formal writing.

4) Don’t end a sentence with a preposition

How many of us know what a preposition is anyway…? Just kidding and if someone doesn’t know, email me or Google it. Anyway, this is the same case with “and” and “but” at the beginning of a sentence. It works sometimes and it’s okay to use it at the end of a sentence. I think I used ‘for’ up there once. It’s not necessary and usually, the preposition at the end can be crossed out and the sentence reads fine, but it can be used for flow and style.

5) Don’t Use Ambiguous Pronouns

Now this is a new one for me that I learned in my World Lit. Class. Apparently, I’m not allowed to use the words it, this, these, those, that etc. in my writing, even if I make clear what it’s referring to. Again, my essays for college are formal writings, although I wonder how formal a person can get when they’re twenty-something years old and a sophomore in college. Really? If you haven’t heard of this rule, continue to act like you haven’t heard of it. As long as it’s clear what’s being referred to, ambiguous pronouns like these are fine. Hell, even if it’s not clear what’s being referred to, it’s fine if it’s being used as a creative device to convey a certain feeling.

In fact, the breaking of all the above ‘rules’ is simply the use of creative devices to propel the story, and keep the reader reading. They’re fine to use, but again, like all creative devises, just use them in moderation, like one would use salt and pepper in food. It gives the writing flavor and keeps readers entertained. So if you ever need a person to edit your work, get someone who understands creative writing devices, not someone like my mother who’s a stickler for formal writing.

P.S. Picture courtesy of school-clipart.com

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