Artemis Fowl and Breaking the Rules

My son, who is eight, and I are still in the habit of reading books together. He reads on his own, and enjoys it. But we save some books for the two of us. It’s going to be a hard habit to break–for me at least. But perhaps if I tackle it in phases I’ll be able to let it go by the time he’s thirty.

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

Anyway, our current book, as you’ve probably guessed by now, is the first book in the Artemis Fowl series. It’s a lot of fun and breaks some rules–both my own and other peoples’–with great success which is always oddly satisfying.

First, we are in the midst of this protracted face off between Artemis and the LEP (a kind of fairy security force ). I won’t regurgitate the plot for you, but the scene goes on for more than one chapter–many, many pages. I often find myself telling people to change settings when they switch chapters–and in many cases I think this is sound advice. But I realize, reading this, that I don’t give this advice because a new chapter needs a new setting, but because a new setting is just one way to refresh the narrative. The face off here remains interesting because there a lots of jokes, changes in perspective and zippy dialogue to keep the reader engaged.

The second rule that’s broken is the more obvious one–the character is twelve, but is like no twelve-year-old I’ve ever met. It’s not just that he’s super smart–there are some smart twelve-year-olds kicking around–it’s that he’s very sophisticated, self-possessed and verging on sociopathic. And it works. You know why? Because the writing is good and my son likes the story. He recognizes that Artemis has a few character flaws, and still he enjoys reading it. ¬†This brings me to a very important lesson for both publishers and writers: It is not our job to represent Everykid or to present an ideal role model for every kid. Were that the case, we’d only produce bland characters whom nobody would find very interesting. ¬†It’s our job to write stories that are fun to read.

That’s my summer reading and writing diatribe for the day. Carry on….

What rules do you know of that have been successfully broken in novels you have read? Let me know in the comments.

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