Guest blogger: Rachel Hauck
I’m just going to say it: Writers do need rules. Rules apply to structure – how a story is crafted and told. Voice and style are flexible. But story structure definitely has rules, and they give the author freedom to create.
A friend of mine was studying architecture. She loved drafting and creating beautiful buildings. She hated the rules and the math. Her professors would look at her designs and say, “Ruth, it’s gorgeous, but it’s going to fall down. You have to learn the math.”
She caved. “Once I learned the math and the rules, I had more options and more freedom to create what I wanted!”
The same applies to writing. A good story typically has certain elements:
Motivation, conflict and tension
A story question and epiphany
A climax or black moment
A satisfying ending
I work with beginning writers who ignore rules and their stories are weak. Once I get them to understand and write to the rules—then throw in some bling such as pitting the protagonist’s greatest fear against their secret desire—the story comes alive.
You can’t build a house without a plan. Neither can you write a story without a plan. I know few authors who “just write” without an eye for any rule or structure. They’re great story tellers. They have a unique voice. But they also struggle with the writing process.
It’s a dark, harrowing day when you’re two months from deadline, three-quarters of the way through the book and you decide the motivation for the heroine is all wrong. Planning your story’s building blocks ahead of time actually makes it easier to be creative with depth. In my own writing journey I had to learn more about crafting stories than crafting sentences. I had to buckle down and write to a structure.
Voice, dynamic characters, engaging story are all developed through good old fashioned work. There is just no way around it. The more character and plotting work I do up front, putting my building blocks into place, the better the story!
I know how frustrating it is to break into publishing. There’s so much to keep in mind with the craft, never mind trends and market shifts. But learn the rules of story crafting. It is the foundation to the freedom of telling your story, your way.
So, how do you feel about the “writing rules”?
Rachel Hauck has written over fifteen novels, won a few awards, and hangs out with the gang over at My Book Therapy.