Meeka over on her blog worried about using prologues in her book, and thought it might disadvantage her somehow, and I was reminded about all the rules we as writers are supposed to follow in order to “be published”. Since I don’t like rules, and since things doesn’t work that way, I’ve never followed any rules beyond clarity and purpose.
I think that as a writer I have the obligation to say what I mean, and to mean what I say. There shouldn’t be any doubt about what I say in my words, and the reader shouldn’t have to leaf through a dictionary or thesaurus. Also, I have a duty to be consistent with reality, even if I write the most outlandish prose piece. Water does not flow upward, even on a world on the other side of the galaxy a billion years from now.
Sometimes clarity is going to require me, as a writer, to put aside Strunk & White, which have never been useful to me anyway as a fiction writer, and which I’m continuously surprised by the devotion to by fiction writers. If you want to write High School or Sixth Form essays, I suppose Strunk & White might be marginally useful. Even for that, I question its usefulness.
Writers aren’t here to confirm biases, or to conform to an already existing template, or to never stray from the path of doctrine and dogma of commercial fiction. J K Rowling didn’t do that when she pitched and mailed the first Harry Potter book to publishers. Nobody knew at that time that I, who write this, would have grown up with Potter. At that time Rowling broke many rules, and did many things her own way. Rowling had a huge success because what she did was different, fresh, a concept that it is nearly unimaginable to think now with hindsight.
The writers of those books which mirror only that which have gone before and which adhere slavishly to a formula may very well be published. But my bet is that those books will be bought for a pound at a bus stop and then forgotten about the next day. It’s the different ones, the rule-breaking ones, that stay with you. It is the rule-breaking and the difference that make you lie awake at night wanting to finish it.