Forget about it! — Rule #32 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever


I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #32

32: If something works, forget about the rule that says it shouldn’t.

When you read long articles like this, don’t you just hate it when you get to the end and an author puts in a disclaimer like this?

I’m going to go out on a limb and say MOST of the rules in this series are very important, and should not be broken… but, some can IF DONE CORRECTLY.

Let’s talk about Rule 28 that I morphed into “Don’t make your MC unlikable”.  An unlikable MC is possible, if done VERY VERY well.

Ever watch the television show HOUSE?  What a jerk that guy was.  But a lot of people tuned in, because he was portrayed in a way that made us LOVE HIM anyway.

I WOULD NOT recommend this approach to a new writer.  It’s hard.

I’d stick to the rules as closely as you can.  Yes, any rule can be broken. Best Selling authors do it all the time.  But remember… best-selling authors are not searching for agents or publishers.  They’ve “done their time” so to speak.

Save the deviance for later in your career.

So that’s it!  All 32 Rules of Hunting Down the Pleonasm

Which one was your favorite? 

Which did you learn the most from? 

Which do you close your eyes and pretend you don’t know about, ‘cause you don’t wanna listen? 

Let’s chat!



9 responses to “Forget about it! — Rule #32 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

  1. I think House is a tragic figure. He’s smart, solves medical mysteries and saves lives even though he’s crass. Yes, he’s likable because he has flaws. He’s tragic because, though smart, he is hooked on Oxy etc. but cannot help himself.

    My favorites of the 32 rules:cut adverbs and ‘be’ verbs.

  2. Established authors do have more leeway—whether or not they should is perhaps another post topic. 😉 I also think rules can likely be broken successfully only by people who understand the rules in the first place.

    But I’m probably going to ignore the one about not repeating the past perfect tense. To my ear, consistent usage in verb tenses cuts down on ambiguity, and I’d bet most readers wouldn’t be aware of the “extra” words unless someone pointed them out.

  3. Gillian Flynn is known for creating unlikable characters. It worked for me when she did it in Gone Girl; I loved that book even if I didn’t really like the characters. I still wanted to know what happened to them. It didn’t work so well for me in her novel Dark Places. I have one more of hers on my shelf to read. I’ll see how I feel about that one.

    This was a great series. Thank you!

  4. I challenge you to take this post a step further. You have told us “that” house is likeable. But can you figure out “why” house is likable? I have a guess, but I am going to hold onto it until I see what you think.

    • I think he is likable because he has a tragic flaw. But over and above his tragic flaw, he is brilliant. He is ruthlessly brilliant. And in the end (in most episodes) everything turns out okay. As a reader/watcher, we want to see how that happens… and experience the horror of his personality from the safety of our own home… where we can escape. That’s my take on it, at least.

      This is NOT a character that I would take on at this out in my career… if ever.

      • thanks very much. i agree with what you’re saying and i’ll add to that his physical disability. perhaps that was intentionally given to gain sympathy.

        do you watch “mad men”? don draper is a well-liked character, but i find his business practices and womanizing despicable. what makes him likable?

  5. I actually like #32. The poet in me reads extra data from placement, so having it last rather than first implies a process of applying all the rules then polishing where the rules have not produced the best result.

    The rule that most had an effect was probably the one that suggested trimming out any ‘that’ that was not actually necessary to avoid misinterpretation; over the last several months I have shed the decades of legal drafting which pushed me to include words unless there was no possibility of misinterpretation.