I am thinking about RULES of fiction. Or storytelling, if you want to think outside of the written word.

I think that for single-book stories, the RULES are initially set by the GENRE but eventually also by the author’s STYLE.

I think that in multi-episode stories, there are rules intrinsic to the story. They may not always be apparent by the end of the first episode.

When people break RULES it makes the story shocking and unpredictable. But sometimes when the RULES are broken, they still secretly follow RULES that have not yet been communicated.

Some people claim they like and prefer when RULES are broken. Perhaps they do. I do wonder if they are instead applying RULES that come from another source and if there IS a way to unpleasantly shock them. Without making them say ‘this makes no sense’. Unless that’s what they prefer.

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I used to be at, but flakiness is one of my primary traits, and the domain expired. Apparently it was popular enough to be snatched up!

2 thoughts on “The RULES”

  1. I think the difference is, I don’t think of things like this as RULES at all. I see them as genre conventions, certainly, and shortcuts, and often as handicaps. Things like killing off major characters doesn’t break any rules at all in my mind – it’s just taking the story in a direction that some authors aren’t willing to go down. Because there are no such thing as rules, just stories that have already been written.

    You can get a lot of mileage out of convention, of course, but I’ve never really valued them for their own sake, just for their storytelling power.

    It never occurred to me that some people would frame it like this.

  2. I don’t think RULES is a great term for it but it’s what I had to hand. I think it’s important though, not just for genre conventions but for knowing what to expect from authors. I shouldn’t go into a Yuu Watase show and expect her to NOT horribly traumatize characters she’s made me love in ways that turn me off. She’s done it enough times before that I understand it’s one of her personal RULES, her STYLE. Watching a show and then getting upset and complaining that she’s done the same thing she did the last three times… well, that’s the point of knowing the RULES on even a subconscious level. Hopefully people embracing her third or fourth or fifth story have accepted the RULES of Yuu Watase stories and aren’t going to get burned anymore by hoping for things that just won’t happen.

    Likewise, multi-book stories often also have RULES. For example, you have a writer famed for his ability to do incredibly grim things that end the storylines of important characters. But after a few books, you can see the RULES that govern when he does that, you can go back and see the foreshadowing that illuminates it in advance, and so on. At this point if he breaks his own RULES, the story will jump its rails and crash. It’s not a matter of going someplace most authors don’t want to go, it’s a matter of telling a good story within the framework he’s created.

    One of my ongoing problems staying involved in Lost is that the overall framework remains incredibly loose and undefined. Obviously that doesn’t bother everybody, but I suspect that’s because the individual episodes themselves have a very strong framework. Well, for some of the people unbothered, anyhow. In a world full of sandbox games, there are plenty of people who are highly attached to an audience-imposed framework.

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