A couple of days ago, I wrote a post about past versus present tense, so when I came across a wish list of writing rules to break by Charlie Jane Anders at io9, I got a crazy, déjà vu feeling when I saw “No present tense” at number nine on her list. For the most part, Ms. Anders has supplied a compelling list of the dos and don’ts (often spoken of as if they were divine laws for writing) to break. For each “rule,” she supports her argument by providing examples where breaking the “rule” has worked for the writer and story.
Interestingly, I’ve had some heady “writerly” discussions about several of these “rules” and the value and/or potential drawbacks of breaking of them—topics like “unsympathetic characters” (item #10) and “no FTL” (item #6) have come up with some frequency in my writing group, Hopefull Monsters. Writers shouldn’t be afraid to break these “rules,” but I believe they should be broken deliberately and with caution. These “rules” exist for a reason—agree with them or not, there usually are “industry” reasons. I think it’s important to understand those reasons and their potential effects (negative and positive) on the story. As with all “rules,” (including grammar and structure), if done with conscious forethought and for the good of the story, breaking “rules” such as these can produce a powerful literary effect.