You know you thought about it in college, that idea of experimenting a little…you know…moving outside of writing your lame poetry and going into some sort of weird death metal flash fiction swing where you would only write stories composed purely of song lyrics written by Satan worshippers…
Okay, maybe that wasn’t everyone…
But here’s the thing: today, there is one major flaw in most authors’ attempts at writing. They think there are rules to be followed when crafting fiction.
Guess what. Rule number 1 of crafting fiction: There are no rules regarding how to craft fiction!
Sure, there might be some guidelines, those stupid little things that agents like to pump out over and over again on twitter. Things like show, don’t tell, or don’t overuse dialogue, or be careful of how much description you use….honestly, the list could go on for forever, and the longer the list goes on, the more you’ll find tons of it conflicts with each other.
Authors also like to give out these rules, as though they are the hard and fast truths to literary success. Hemingway, for instance, claimed adverbs to be completely worthless in writing and shouldn’t be included pretty much ever.
But here’s the thing…none of that matters. Sure, you should probably be aware of some of the general pitfalls of fiction writing, but in the end, there are a whole lot of different ways to tell a story that works.
Last week I talked about flash fiction and how fantastic is really is for experimenting in storytelling methods. Today, I want to focus on how important experimentation really is.
Because it’s REALLY important.
Main reason why: without experimentation, you’re more than likely going to just write books that are exactly the same as every other book out there. But if you experiment and try to grow your craft, you could create something completely new and unique and intriguing and…well, you get the point. Take Danielewski’s House of Leaves. If you strip away the experimentation, it’s really a fairly straightforward mystery thriller. But it’s those pieces of experimentation that make the book a masterpiece, something that has many sites trying to unravel the enigma that he created. The story itself is rather ridiculous…but the way the story is told is where the magic really happens.
But experimentation doesn’t need to be that big of a deal…for instance, I like to experiment a bit with my own writing, but the methods I do so might not even be things you would think are all that experimental. For instance, when in the initial planning stages for Agora Files, I immediately became aware of how boring a story about a kid running could be. I mean…have you ever run? It’s hella boring. But then I took some of those pieces about running, those things that runners use to spice up their run (specifically music (and evil government officials?)) to try to craft the emotion within the readers minds.
And you know what? The music is the one thing people talk most about after coming out of reading the book. There’s some fairly incredible stuff going on in the pages of that book, but the music seems to stick with many of the readers, even though they don’t actually hear a single note while reading (unless they decide to stop reading with every new song selection and load it up on their MP3 player or whatever).
That’s what experimentation is…using different methods to achieve the same end goals. Sure, I could have simply stated that Cyrus was feeling exceptionally depressed and lonely now…but saying the song Teenage Wasteland came up on his music player does so much more (at least for those familiar with the song).
But experimentation, as an author, doesn’t even need to be that involved. It could simply be to step outside the boundaries of your usual genres. You might find that you have a lot to add to a completely new genre just because of the fact that you aren’t accustomed to writing that style of book. Take, for instance, my work in progress The Right to Liberty. There isn’t a lick of action or science fiction within this book, it’s really more of a political commentary than anything else…but I think my experience in writing action scenes lends well to this style of story (which, I haven’t even figured out what genre it fits in yet), simply because it keeps long scenes about how people survive through the winter short.
Anyways, I could go on for forever on this topic, but the bottom line is…try something new. I have many author friends out there, but the ones who keep me wanting to read more are the ones who aren’t afraid to step out of the confines of their previous books. They’re the ones I feel have the best chance of success because each book is like a little present to the reader…a surprise that you just won’t understand until you get it opened.
Not to say that it’s not nice to find a book that you know exactly what to expect as it moves forward, but, well, I’d much rather be surprised 🙂
Alright, have fun out there!