Rules in Fiction
Some people, and authors, claim there are certain rules to be adhered in writing fiction. I remember sitting in my formal creative writing courses in college, listening to professors discuss the do’s and don’ts of writing fiction. “Avoid adverbs,” was one of them I distinctly remember. I read Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, and it was rife with adverbs to describe character action. Is it considered one of the greatest novels? Of course it is.
Edgar Allan Poe, master of the short story, and one of the greatest writers to ever grace the page with a pen, was guilty of the same “vice”. His ornate diction is somewhat out of style to today’s reader simply because it’s difficult to comprehend. As advised, no reader wants to constantly have a dictionary in hand, looking up words they don’t understand. Looking up words causes a reader to feel detached when the aim is to get into the meat of the story and feel a part of it.
Ernest Hemingway is considered one of America’s greatest authors. His diction is simple and wordy for the most part. His themes are often hidden, left for the reader to ascertain meaning in the story, rules sometimes advised not to violate. He also uses little punctuation in his prose.
My aim is not to take away from either of the two authors I’ve used as examples, but to shed light on the simple fact that we need to break rules to get our message across. Hemingway is one of the most descriptive authors I’ve ever read, allowing the reader to feel present in the story. His diction is usually simple, but vivid and enthralling. Language is everything in writing because that’s all that exists on the page. To limit what words are to be procured is to limit the action of the function and imagination of the writer. No writer, or anyone for that matter, has become great by following a set of prescribed rules.
Writers use specific words, adverbs or not, and frugality with punctuation, as a part of their plan to convey a message. The message may not resonate with everyone, but that’s the beauty of writing, that a specific style will touch the minds of readers at all.
“That’s all we have, finally, the words, and they had better be the right ones.”
— Raymond Carver