December 13, 2018 in Dag

I’m not afraid of the story bullies

Do you know about the story bullies?

If you spend any time in any sort of writing community, you won’t be able to avoid them.

They seem to be everywhere. Appearing in writing forums in social media. Posting up articles on the web. Filling the halls of creative writing classes in universities.

They say many different things. They tell you why you have to show, not tell. They inform you of the evils of adverbs and ‘state of being’ words. They say how a story must be structured, and what must be included in the opening chapter, and what you should never ever do if you really want to hook readers in. And they’re especially clear on how long or short any kind of story needs to be.

They come from many different places. Some of them are part of the mainstream publishing world, like editors or agents. Some of them are well established independent authors. Some of them are people offering professional services, presumably trying to show off their knowledge in order to drum up business. And some of them are – well I’m not sure what some of them are, apart from people trying to push themselves out into the writing world and hoping this is one way to make themselves heard.

However, these story bullies have one thing in common. They all have some kind of amazing internal vision about how a story must work. They all suggest that their way is the one true way to write a story. And if you don’t listen to what they’re telling you, you’re bound to fail as a writer.

As for me, I don’t have a lot of time for this stuff. Partly, it’s because I’m a natural contrarian. If anyone tells me this is the way to do something, I’ll tend to default to an opposing position fairly quickly. But mainly because I don’t think it’s correct. I reckon there’s no one way to tell a story. A particular set of rules may work well for one particular writer, telling a certain type of story, but they won’t necessarily hold for another. Sure, there are principles of good writing, and I try to follow them, but beyond basic grammar and structure, they’re much more vague and fluid than many people claim.

It’s possible that I’m wrong. Given that my nonconformist approach has not led to any particular success, at least not in a material sense, I might be better off paying more heed to these rules. But I don’t think I could. I feel like to write the stories I want to write, I need to set my mind free, rather than forcing it to conform to a bunch of rules. And besides, I’ve seen too many great stories that don’t conform to these rules at all. Hell, many of them were written before most of these rules even became a thing, and they’re still going strong.

So who’s afraid of the story bullies? Not me.


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