The other day I was thinking about the creative writing workshops I’ve attended. Whilst these were given by different writing tutors, they did have a certain thing in common – what I call “received writing wisdom”.
So take a common piece of advice given on Short Story workshops – a short story should only have three or four characters maximum.
I’ve heard this said by a number of tutors.
I was reminded of a short story I heard some years ago at a “writers” group meeting. One of the members read her story, which comprised approximately of 1,500 words, and contained seven or eight characters. When it was time to critique the story another member raised the following point, quite forcibly.
“A short story should only contain three or four characters at most”, she stated and some other members nodded their heads in agreement.
Yet a minority of us, including me, thought it was a very good story, which wasn’t at all confused by having more than the “regulated” number of characters. At the time I thought of a quotation I knew, “Rules are for the guidance of the wise and the blind obedience of fools”.
So, are there “writing wisdoms” that should be followed dutifully, like the number of characters in a short story, or does good writing take risks and flout the rules when appropriate? We’d love to hear your views in the comments below.