Most obvious observation ever

There isn’t actually a “right” way to write. Even spelling, grammar and punctuation can be massacred for the appropriate reasons. Half of the characters in the Redwall series speak with an accent so heavy, Brian Jacques just made up his own spelling. Stephen King has a short story in Nightmares and Dreamscapes where the mental and physical capacity of a character degenerates to the point that his retelling of events becomes indecipherable gibberish. It’s my favourite story in the collection and never fails to make me cry.

Then there is slang and invented language, which doesn’t have any fair rules to break. It’s true that using slang or modern language will “date” a story, but so does proper terminology. I have been accused far too many times of writing, and also speaking, with archaic words, like they can somehow lose their meaning given enough time? I suppose so, but communication is all shaky ground anyway.

Things like this are the reason why so many people say rules were made to be broken. Because there’s always at least one instance of where a cardinal rule has been so completely disregarded with such amazing skill that you can’t imagine that work being written any other way. If there’s no clearly defined “right” way to throw words at a page, how do we know when we’re doing a good job?

Different people want different things from their reading. Some people like ongoing description that tells you every last thing about a place. I once counted twelve consecutive pages in a book solely of description regarding the landscape and farming in the locale, and absolutely nothing happened in all that time except a lot of info-dumping. This was in a very popular and successful author’s book, too. So some people like it when you’re wordy and droning. Others like sharp, fast-paced writing, where the sentences are short and punchy and there’s no real downtime in the story.

Each genre also has quirks that make a story “suit” the general target audience. Where you might be able to get away with a rushed description of a character in one genre because other things are more important to the story, you could find another genre that practically requires lengthy, gushing language about the people in the book.

So I come back to the question, how do we know when we’re doing it right? Take a look at any top selling books list and you’ll find titles such as The Lord of the Rings, The Da Vinci Code, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Gone With the Wind, The Chronicles of Narnia, And Then There Were None, Black Beauty, Twilight, Harry Potter, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Wheel of Time, Lolita, Discworld, it goes on and on. What do these stories have in common, beside being written works? They are vastly different books with varying degrees of appeal to every individual. They all did something right, but that right thing for each story (or series) was almost unique to itself.

~A