Thursday, October 9, 2008

Please Don't Touch the Butterflies: Writing Rules You Can't Resist Breaking

This photo comes from an excursion my son and I made to the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History during their butterfly pavilion exhibit this past summer. I'm not one to pass up ironic photo-ops.

The image got me thinking about those all too-tempting rules like "stay off the grass", "no swimming," and "no skateboarding" (well, for you skaters, anyway).

As writers, these types of rules can make some of us want to swim in the grass on our skateboards. There's no way we can resist what seems to us like a pleading invitation. Break the rules, break new ground, chart new territory!

What are some of these rules for you?

Here's some that come to mind (from a picture book perspective):

1. Don't write in first-person.
2. Whatever you do, don't write in first-person, present tense.
3. Don't write a wordless picture book.
4. Don't write a story that occurs over multiple days.
5. Don't write in rhyme.
6. Don't write a story with talking animals.
7. Don't write a concept book, even if it has a beginning, middle, and end.
8. Don't write a story in 25 words or less.
9. Don't write a story in which every word begins with the letter "Q."
10. Don't, don't, don't!!!!

Here's a final word to those ruled by rules: I'd rather do, do than be a dodo.

4 comments:

adrienne said...

Nearly every published picture book I pull off the shelves seems to break at least one rule. Sometimes I think the editors made those up so they'd have a convenient checklist when they send out the rejection notices!

Candace Ryan said...

Adrienne, I think you're onto something there...

Jill Corcoran said...

eeks! I guess i'm a rule breaker.

Candace Ryan said...

Never fear, Jill. Ultimately, it's the rule breakers who are the ground breakers:)