WinterForestIn his introduction to Story Trumps Structure – How to Write Unforgettable Fiction by Breaking the Rules, Steven James states, “the greatest storytellers aren’t afraid to break the rules”. Where, one has to ask, does he think these rules came from if not from studying stories by great writers? In other words, great writers, by example of their work, have made the rules that he suggests we break.

James would have you think your story must be liberated from structure or rules if it is to become “unforgettable fiction”. The way to do it is to adhere to a different set of guidelines, his

But after telling writers to break the rules for writing fiction, assuming you know and adhere to them, the author then writes a very detailed book about the same rules he says you should break.

James takes well-known literary lessons and, more or less, renames them. His “organic writing” is no more than going where the story leads you, something most writers have experienced and adhere to.

Or, as Norman Mailer put it, “Until you see where your ideas lead to, you know nothing.”

Though I doubt a seasoned writer will come across any writing epiphanies, Story Trumps Structure is extremely thorough and is “how to” explicit on almost every story situation imaginable. The book is well conceived, designed and readable and would be a good resource book.

Can creativity be taught? If you could apply all the conveyances in this book will you become a better writer?

Maybe, but as T.S. Eliot says,

“Between the idea,

And the reality


Between the motion,

And the act


Falls the Shadow.”

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