A Study of Rangers (Part 2)

I just burned my finger taking banana bread out of the oven.

What does that have to do with writing? Absolutely nothing. It just hurts. Potholder wasn't as thick as I thought.

So, yesterday I went on too long about the dialogue in the Ranger's Apprentice books. Today I want to take a look at the description and plot-wording. I'm not sure what it's called.

     "...There had been plenty of occasions in times past when he and Horace had been waiting for a battle and Will's Ranger training had made him seem calm and unconcerned. Horace had even remarked on his ability to sit unmoving for hours waitinf for the enemy. So why did Will find it so difficult to remain calm and unconcerned today?
     "He realized that, on other occasions, he had been sharing the danger with Horace...But this was different. This time, Horace would be facing the danger alone, with no help from Will. And that was almost unbearable for the young Ranger. He would have to watch his friend risk his life -- twice. He would be unable to take a hand to help him -- all the while knowing that it was in his power to dispatch both of Horace's opponents in the space of two heartbeats. The feeling of impotence was overwhleming." - The Ranger's Apprentice, Book 8: The Kings of Clonmel, by John Flanagan (Chapter 40)
If you haven't read the book and this looks angsty to you, just know that it's not. The book is action-packed, witty, and suspenseful, but it's not overtly angsty.

There's a lot of paragraphs like this one in The Ranger's Apprentice books. I like them. However, I'm very aware that they come across rather cheesy. Or cliche. Or over-explanatory. Like, shouldn't it be obvious - maybe more obvious - with a short sentence or bit of dialogue to convey this than a paragraph of emotional explanation?

I've written some paragraphs like this. And I've always deleted them. It felt like there should be some better way. I assumed that anyone who would read it would think it...too much. Yet here is John Flanagan, who has sold more than a million copies of his books, getting away with it. And getting away with it quite frequently, and quite effectively.

How does he do it? Why? And why do I tolerate it? Because I normally wouldn't. I would dismiss it to poor writing skills, except that John Flanagan is not a poor writer. He has amazing dialogue skills as well as great plotting with the right amounts of twists. He's not a poor writer. And he writes this.

Logic says that this explaining paragraph is not poor writing either.

John Flanagan is breaking all the rules I made and getting away with them. This excites me. It gives me hope that even when I break a couple of grammatical/writing rules in the interest of story and character, I may not result in an agent scornfully shaking their head. Because the story is what matters, the story, the characters, the voice, the creative use of language.

Have you ever broken the rules, even rules you thought you obeyed, in the interest of voice/plotting/character/story? Was the result productive, or did you decide to change it back? What authors have you appreciated that don't follow the rules? Why did you like them?

I've got a bit more to say about John Flanagan, but that will have to wait until tomorrow. And then I think my Ranger's Apprentice gushing will be complete.

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