When my manuscript for Dissension was in its early stages, I had a friend of mine read it so she could give me some feedback. She wasn’t adept at critiquing novels, but had a good amount of experience with copy editing essays and such.
So when she finished reading it, she first told me how much she loved it. (Thank you!) Then she went on to tell me about all of my grammatical errors that needed fixing. When she said that I should never, ever begin a sentence with the words “and” or “but”, I had to disagree with her.
I mean, sure – I went to school and I really do know all of those kinds of basics in the English language. However, when it comes to writing fiction, I feel like we authors have the right to word things in a more artistic manner. I have read plenty of novels that have a lot of sentences beginning with the words “and” or “but”. I also will have a sentence break with “then” instead of the proper “and then” every once in a while just because it sounds like the sentence will flow better that way.
I believe this should especially apply to dialogue. People do not go around saying things like, “Jimmy and I are going to get ice cream. Would you like to join us as well?” Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with someone saying something like that. But realistically, the average person would say something more along the lines of, “Hey, we’re gettin’ some ice cream. Wanna come?” The more unique you can write a character’s dialogue to their talking style, the easier it will be for your readers to understand who is saying what. A good example is the dialogue I used above. You can easily make a guess about the kind of characters with those two different sentences. One might say the first quote is by someone who is more educated/sophisticated. The second could be by someone who’s more down to earth/easy going.
We had a little debate in my critique group the other day about something grammatical. Person 1 said that person 2’s paragraphs weren’t correct. Person 1 thought that person 2 should turn a three sentence paragraph into two paragraphs because the context shifted slightly in those sentences. Person 2 didn’t agree, and both turned to me to see what my take on the matter was. I simply shrugged and said that I thought it was a fine enough detail that it should be the author’s prerogative to choose what they liked best. That seemed to satisfy them. They agreed with me that it is part of an author’s artistic style in how they use grammar.
With all that being said, do understand that I’m not saying anything goes here. You can’t write a novel without basic spelling and grammar used correctly. I have looked at some people’s work that they’ve posted online and been appalled by some of the things they wrote. So please, don’t read this and think that you can have your manuscript looking like it came straight from texting or from Twitter! 🙂
The point that I am trying to make is that there are certain areas in fictional writing that can be altered to match an author’s writing style. If I were trying to write my work to be perfect in the grammatical sense, I wouldn’t sound like me. I would sound more like a text book or like I was trying to write an essay instead of describe characters and plot.