Rules rule the rules

Rules. They are meant to be made, followed, broken and even disregarded completely. There are those that abide them to the letter and those that avoid the responsibility of even knowing them. So it would stand to reason that I would write such personalities into my characters.

The struggle to abide by rules is real, its tangible because most people have encountered a moment in life where the rules simply cannot apply.  There are self inflicted rules, rules imposed by others and rules imposed for safety or the law.

Almost everything is governed by rules:
How to write, how not to write
How to edit, revise and review writing
What to wear and how to wear it
Who to socialize with and when
What to eat and drink, when to eat and drink
How to do a job or task
How to drive
Basically how to live. The rules are never ending some serious and some ridiculous.

As a writer rules are everywhere, some I abide by, some I take with a grain of salt. A lot of rules “made up” are just that, made up. Somones over inflated ego passing off opinion as fact. However when it comes to writing about rules or implementing life rules in my writing, I am in charge, I choose who follows what and when. More importantly I control who breaks them and causes trouble.

I like to have someone straight laced be forced to break a rule or forced by circumstance to decide to break a steadfast rule they hold true to normally. It can be equally fun to have a rebellious persona find need to follow one too. The inner turmoil this might dredge up can be fascinating to both write and read.  All I do is think about how I personally feel when faced with a rule that is either holding me back or keeping me safe. I apply my state, emotions and reactions to my writing.  Not all rules are good some can be restraining, cause problems and even tension.

Scott stood outside Clifton’s office and glanced down at the article on his cellphone. He had the code to get in, in fact he had all Clifton’s security codes. It was easy to get the overly cautious boss’s codes from his overly snoopy spy program. Only because it was installed wrong and Clifton had no clue about anything. This would mean termination if he was found or caught, but he had to know.

With a heavy sigh he wiped his sweaty palms on his pants that bespoke his nervous state. He glanced up and down the hall then punched the three digit code into the pad and the door opened. Slipping in and easing the door closed behind him he let out his pent up breath. The computer was already on and not logged out.

“Idiot.” Scott whispered to the bright sunlight office as he sat and began his search.  “First things first.” He took out his cellphone with the picture of Baylor Crowen from he news. He thought he recalled seeing this guy before come in for a meeting. He showed up early, went into Clifton office and disappeared before Clifton even showed up. The boss was weird so nobody questioned it.
“Holy sh…” Scott leaned closer to the security footage of the day Baylor attacked Sasha. It was him, no doubt. Heart racing and palms sweating Scott glanced at the door as someone walked by. He could lose his job for this.

“No.” Amber shook her head and looked away from Scott.
“Ah come on Amb’s I need your help.”
“Oh like hell you do. You just want me to take the heat for your snooping like usual. I told you to let it go. I told you not to go into Clifton’s office.”
“Since when do you care about the rules?” Scott smiled sweetly. “I’d love it if you did this for me.” 
She narrowed her eyes. He was too attractive. Why Sasha didn’t jump at the chance to be with him she would never understand. She pushed Scott to pursue Sasha hoping he would realize she was as warm as a tundra stone in mid winter. 
“No. I can’t.”
“Can’t?” Scott tilted his head seductively. “Or won’t”
“Both. If you want to break into Valerie s personal email and the companies HR files you’re on your own.”
“But just think of all the juicy ammo you could get.”
She sighed. “Three days ago I’d be all over that offer. I can’t Scott. I hate that I even know. And for what? Sasha? She doesn’t like you. It’s pathetic that you moon over her, that you chase her shamelessly.”
Scott laughed loudly. “Oh hello kettle.” He wiped his eyes. “So rich coming from you!”
Clenching her jaw she threw the binder at him and stormed out of his office.
She couldn’t help her feelings. As she approached her desk she watched Dale work, engrossed in an edit he didn’t see her approach. Dale did love his work and he was exceptionally good at it. Did she help the wrong guy get the promotion? She looked back down the hall toward Scott’s office who laughed at her constantly then back at Dale who helped and encouraged her consistently. The sudden burning in her stomach made her turn toward the washrooms instead of her desk.

Breaking rules can be so much fun and can take a story in so many different directions. The options are endless and I’ll often think out a few different scenarios before committing to one.

My advice about Rules.
The same rules that apply in live, apply for writing life. Rules exist, they can be ignored and broken, followed and worshiped. It’s totally up to you how you want your characters to respond to rules and the potential of breaking them. 


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And the ugly

Ugly habits. I generally think of these as social habits, quirks and ticks. The kind that make someone ugly inside and out. Not like putting the empty milk container back or leaving the toilet roll empty for the next person to deal with. I mean the things that make someone seem just a little more rotten than the next. When I talk about ugly people I am not talking about physical looks but what’s inside. The hottest person can be hideous on the inside. (We all are if you take that literally, blood guts and organs. Blech)

Like good habits and bad, Ugly ones can give characters one more valuable layer to the complex network of attributes that make a person human. Everyone has an ugly habit to some degree. Whether they instigate, perpetuate or stand by and do or say nothing. Ugly habits can start simple and evolve quickly to a subconscious action.

Ugly habits

  • Gossip/spreading rumors
  • Snide looks of disapproval (Generally scoffing the quality/value of someones attire)
  • Selfishness
  • Self-serving behavior
  • Blaming others or setting others up
  • Sabotage
  • Put downs, insults and barbed comments
  • Grandstanding
  • Over-talking others (Speaking over someone stealing their moment or putting them in the background)
  • Talking down to others
  • Hiding or stealing small items to cause inconvenience
  • Eavesdropping

Creating ugly people is fun, they cause trouble, but in the background. They can inspire others to be like them and teach them the habits of tearing others down. Ugly people can spur change for the good two. One step too far and the protagonist will push back or beat the ugly at their own game. There always seems to be the one, the ringleader that inspires the others to be nasty or maybe they fly solo and make everyone miserable.

Holding her laptop bag in one hand and briefcase in the other Sasha approached the trio around Scott’s desk. They stopped talking, the guilty ‘we were just talking about you’ looks unmistakable. Scott gave her his customary once over and smiled in his cocky flirty manner. She didn’t blush, not this time.
“Good morning Scott, Dale, Amber.” Sasha nodded as she approached.
Dale bit his lips as if stifling a laugh. She never noticed the derision before, she had only noticed Scott’s flattering and distracting leer. She was too focused on the presentation this afternoon to be affected by it.
Amber smiled too brightly. “Don’t you have a meeting with Getty Shoes today?”
“I do and I need to go prepare.” Sasha furrowed her brow when Amber smirked and raised her eyebrow.
Shaking her head Sasha continued on to her office Sasha had to prepare and didn’t have time for Amber’s games today. The Getty account was potentially a big one and she was nervous. Amber had wanted this one and had been snippy that she didn’t put her on the team. Amber was the office easy and jumped into bed with anyone that could benefit her position. Or so the rumors went. Sasha hated rumors so ignored them, even if Ambers flirting was over the top more often than not.
With everything ready, Sasha double-checked everything as the department head, Alexander Mozar, entered.
“Mr. Mozar.” Sasha was surprised to see him. “How may I help you?”
He looked her over and lingered on her feet. “I don’t think you should present today.”
“What? Why not?” Sasha set her notes down absent-mindedly.
“An alternate design was brought to my attention, as was the suspicion that you were not taking this account seriously.”
Her mouth fell open. Alternate design? The pieces were moving into place.
“I don’t understand sir.”
“Do you own a pair of Getty shoes Sasha?”
“I… Ah…” She looked down at her feet. What did it matter? She thought back to earlier that week as she prepped the layouts. Amber had gushed over her Dahlia shoes she wore. They cost a mint even on sale and she rarely wore them. ‘Oh Sasha you should wear those next time you present, they make you look strong, powerful and sexy. A sure fire winning combo if you ask me.’ Then yesterday. ‘If I were you, I’d dress to impress tomorrow.’ All week had been small comments from her and from Scott. Small comments, subtle moves.
Without even thinking, she wore the Dahlia shoes. She was a pawn.
“Sasha, Dahlia is owned by Banes & Co. who are Getty’s biggest competitor. Do you have a change?” Checkmate. “No sir.” He shook his head slowly. “Scott and Amber will take over the presentation. Give them your notes and fill them in. They will present your idea and Scott’s. The client can decide. Waste not want not.” He opened the door and waived them in. “Next time Sasha do your research.”
Both Scott and Amber sported Getty brand shoes and smarmy little grins. Scott was too impressionable to be so sneaky. She underestimated Amber’s determination. A costly oversight. Sasha handed over the notes, gave them the rundown and left with her feelings hurt, fury bubbling and her head held high. The snickers behind her nearly shattered her fractured pride. She wanted nothing more than to stick her head underground like a cartoon ostrich.

Small or large the impact of devious ugly behavior can really muddle things up. I love adding the type of people that frustrate the reader just a little. “Ugh that person needs to go down!” so eventually when Sasha does indeed rise above, get her bearing and her backbone in place she can indeed take Amber Down. The “Yay!” moment will come eventually. Sasha’s a mess and has a long way to go yet.

The ugly’s make for great side stories and interactions. They are the impactful ones and the ones you want to strangle, but they usually aren’t the main villains of the story. Ugly not pure evil.

My advice about ugly people.
Write them like you want to punch the living daylights out of them. As if they are the most frustrating people on the planet because they always get their way. Until the eventually don’t. Give them lots of rope to hang themselves and have fun bringing them down. *Insert evil laugh of triumph*


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