Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Breaking the rules. Is it OK?

I recently finished reading Charlie Huston’s Caught Stealing. Great book.  It’s a rollercoaster ride that takes off on Page 1 and doesn’t stop. It’s brutal and profane, but it’s a ton of fun.  I loved the voice, and I loved the structure of the novel. It’s not written in long chapters, but shorter chunks. Sometimes they are only a few lines long. They really helped establish the book’s pace – which is rocket-like.

One thing you’ll notice reading the book, though, is the lack of quote marks. Instead, Huston uses dashes at the beginning of a line to indicate someone’s speaking. There are no dialogue tags either.
It was something I thought would bother me when I first started reading, but a page or two into it I was fine without the quotes. I did get me wondering, though, what others thought about this kind of rule bending.

How much are you willing to put up with something like creative punctuation in a novel? Does it bother you when an author breaks the rules?


  1. As long as it's clear the author knows the rules, I don't have an issue with them breaking the rules. I might not like the style the author chooses, but I wouldn't have a major issue with the author experimenting.


  2. This is not common, but has been done before; William Gay did it in one of his later novels. It assists with the immediacy of the action, and i think it works on a less conscious level than 1st-person present tense.

  3. I'm with you, Neal. I also like for the writer to be consistent with his or her rule breaking. Do it all the way through a piece and it's easy to adapt too.

    Oh, and don't go breaking five or six rules. Stick to one. Then make sure everything else in your book/story is near perfect.

  4. This may very well be a good way to go in the twitter generation.

  5. Which part, Court? The dropping of punctuation or the shorter chapters? Or is it both?