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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Rules of Fiction

There are no rules except the ones you make up. The rules knock down fiction. The dream has to be allowed to flow because without the flight of fancy you cannot go where you have to go. We see the rules of fiction in college and in high school. They are given to students who follow the road map and never know what real fiction is. In my sons writing classes they tear apart stories like building blocks and then assemble them like Legos. The problem is the teachers don't understand fiction so how can they teach it?

This is not confined to high school. I taught at a renowned college for fiction writing and there were clear rules. There was even a method copyrighted by the  head of the department. I wasn't allowed to teach the core fiction classes because I didn't use the method. In my classes I got the rejects who couldn't or wouldn't adapt .They complained bitterly about the constraints and then wrote like Gods when I told them to write about whatever they wanted. They eventually tossed me out as a nonconformist.

And of course we are taught to look for the rules. Art has none and so to instruct someone on how to produce art is impossible. When I was in college I received a D in composition because I could not follow the assignments. Every time my papers came back they had the same thing scrawled across the top. DID NOT FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS. I even had to take summer school to make up for my D. I was passed after one essay. The rules for one did not seem to apply to the other.

But even after many novels you still have to remind yourself there are no rules. Just the ones you know are right for what you are doing. These are the rules you must follow: your own and no one elses. Then you have a chance at fiction.

Books by William Hazelgrove