Last month I self-published a collection of flash fiction. My lovely Sprint Shack co-founders, Faye and Cristina, did me a huge favor by beta-reading the collection. When I received their infinitely helpful feedback and was reading through their notes, something Cristina said caught my attention. It was on a story titled “Greeting the Moon” – a piece told entirely in second person.
Cristina enjoyed the piece and commented: “Also, I’m going to pooh pooh any writer who says to stay away from second person, because I love it and I think this story wouldn’t be the same written any other way.”
This got me thinking. I’d broken a stylistic rule of writing and had barely even registered that I’d done so. The story just felt like it should be written that way.
I often write short pieces in second person – I don’t know if it’s because that’s how we often speak to other people in our day-to-day interactions, but that’s what comes easiest to me. I especially enjoy the ambiguity that second person lends to the narrator. I don’t always write from the perspective of a female narrator – and often I like leaving that interpretation open to the reader because the stories often read differently if told from a male or female perspective. And sometimes, gender doesn’t matter at all in the story so I leave it out intentionally/for that reason. Essentially, I have a lot of reasons for breaking this rule.
But I will admit that while it is comfortable for me to write in second person, it’s not always the best way to approach each story. Plus, as Cristina pointed out, tons of editors, authors, and readers turn their noses up at second person narrative.
So today I wanted to share my thoughts about breaking the rules with your writing: why you should and – most importantly – when you should.
Why You Should Break the Rules:
- Because sometimes rules stifle our creativity.
- Sometimes the story turns out for the better when the rules are bent or broken.
- Because you’re the writer. You get to decide what you write.
- Because some of the best writing you’ve read has broken the rules. Shakespeare made up his own words, for heaven’s sake!
- Who made these rules in the first place?! Who says what is or isn’t acceptable in the realm of creativity?
- Because it’s fun!
When You Should Break Rules:
- Once in a while. Do it sparingly. It’s not something to fall back on or depend on in your writing, but something to spice it up from time to time.
- When you know your story so well that you can objectively say that breaking the rules will benefit the story. People will notice when you break rules. And they’ll call you out on it. So you better make sure you break the rules for a darn good reason.
- When writing by the rules feels forced and unnatural – when it just feels right to break the rules.
- When you’re afraid to break the rules. Sometimes that’s when your writing can benefit from it the most.
What rules do you break while writing? Or have you yet to try breaking any rules? Let us know in the comments below!