There are plenty of guidelines for increasing your chances of creating a marketable novel or short story, and we hear about them all the time. Create three dimensional characters. Use dialogue tags and punctuation marks. Avoid run-on sentences.
That last one really got blown out of the water with Absalom, Absalom. This book is a masterpiece, and the sentences can run for pages without a period in sight. I remember the amazing sense of freedom I felt when I realized, “Hey! He’s not following The Rules! He’s just doing exactly what he wants with language, and it’s working.”
That’s not to say that guidelines aren’t helpful. They often help you see where your work can be improved. But they aren’t laws, and they can cripple your writing if you let them overpower your intuition. If your story calls for you to break The Rules, do so. Then stick to your guns.
Be fearless. Write the story that’s been growing in your mind, and write it your way.
So thanks, Faulkner, for teaching me this writing lesson, the most valuable one of all.
Other notable writing rebels:
Cormac McCarthy – His use of punctuation is eccentric, to say the least. He’s been compared to Faulkner for his beautiful and demanding sentences.
Mark Danielewski – House of Leaves doesn’t follow the normal print layout. It’s supposed to make you feel like you’re following the protagonists on their journey into a labyrinth, and it works.
Which authors stand out to you as free spirits, throwing The Rules to the wind in search of Art? I'd love to hear your insights!
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