Writing musings, taken…

Writing musings, taken from a discussion on my list.

I've been thinking about this some more, and I do think John and J have a valid point -- it's easy to mess up both present tense and second person. They're slightly more difficult to handle well than past tense and first or third person, and so may be a bit ambitious for a new writer to attempt. I think it's fair to warn writers of that, just as you might warn them that they're using too much description rather than action ("show, don't tell") or that they're relying on inane conversations between characters to fill in a lot of backstory ("As you know, Bob..."), or that they've got too much history/fact/exposition in one place (infodump).

I'm wandering off the subject. What I'm trying to say is that there's a reason for the 'rules' -- they're there to warn you of traps and pitfalls, so you can try to avoid the mistakes of your forerunners. On the other hand, remember that they're not really rules -- they're guidelines. Any guideline can be broken, and the best stories are often those that break one major rule really really well. (There's a sf story about a writer who sold to a major magazine that published a lot of rules in their guidelines. Each month he'd pick one of their rules and deliberately/flagrantly/beautifully break it. He sold every story to them.)

Of course, then we move to Conrad's practical question of HOW we effectively break the rules. And there is no simple answer, my children, much as I'd like to hand you one (or have one handed to me). One clear path, however, is to read lots of good stories that do break the rules. People ask me where I learned to write, and while I've taken many workshops, they didn't teach me how to write -- they simply refined. I learned (and learn) to write by reading. Learning by osmosis -- it really works, you know. It just takes patience.

Note: two of my stories are in second person, present tense. "Mint in Your Throat" and "Composition in Cream and Chocolate" both use that style, for different purposes and with different effects.

In other news, I have a cough and cold, but I am determined to work today regardless. I have a long list of things to do; if I get through a third of them, I'll be happy. I'm about to have my tea (El thoughtfully brought me chai yesterday, since I'd been complaining about not being able to find any; it was delicious, though I will stick with my Ceylon Breakfast first thing in the morning (do you know about chai? What I'm really referring to is masala (blend of spices) chai (sweet milky tea). Most masala chais are made with ginger or cinnamon or cardamom. The Masala Chai Co. brand actually uses ten different spices (ginger, nutmeg, mace, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, allspice, cardamom, pepper and star anise). Chai in general tends to be more invigorating than regular tea, even when it's a decaf version.)).

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