Rules, like plates in a Greek Restaurant are made to be broken.
Have you ever read that book, or seen that film and just gone "How cliched, how passe!"?
Maybe not in that arrogant tone - but slouched infront of the sci-fi channel, or reading that book you picked up at the airport, and just thinking I've seen that, read that before.
My theory on this is simply that people are conditioned into thinking and acting and doing things in a set way. So a book ends up:
Description of place.
Description of person.
Action of person.
New person description.
Why?! So break those rules. Reinvent them.
Which is more memorable a film? Fight Club or The Proposal?
How do you break the rules and get away with it though?
Firstly by not throwing out the rulebook. If anything, you have to be more aware of the rules of writing than any other author. When you break a rule you must know which rule you are breaking and why. Not breaking the rules to be anarchic, just breaking the rules to make a point. To put the reader, viewer, on the back foot.
"Jack and Rebecca left the office following the meeting.
They smiled at each other before going their separate ways.
Jack kept smiling as he walked away. A business trip with his attractive and nubile work colleague was a great opportunity to, well, mix work with pleasure."
Nothing groundbreaking or interesting to speak of. Read it 100 times before. Now lets break the rules!
"Jack and Rebecca promptly left the office, shared a smile and then left.
That is to say that each smiled at the other. The smile was not connected, or attached in any way, nor handed from one to the other, and so was not shared in the strictest sense. They did both, however, independently and spontaneously smile. Whilst looking at the other.
As soon as Jack was alone, he glanced at me suspiciously.
I knew what he was thinking, largely because I am about to write it.
He suspected that I threw this in as a Deus Ex Machina, in order to generate a situation where he and Rebecca were thrown together."
Breaking the rules. Dissecting the narrator's use of common turns of phrase, making Jack aware of the narrator's existence.
It gives the piece a style that people won't be ready for.
Why not make your characters aware they are in a film?
Constantly self-flagellate over your failings as a narrator?
It may not help you get published, but it can be fun to try.
At the very least, if and when it doesn't work, you will understand why the rules are there, and help you understand the rules and use them in better, less formulaic ways in the future.
Go on. Be naughty. Break some rules.
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