Blog Chain: Go on... break a rule like you would a mirror.

I am soooo late with this blog chain posting. So let's get right into it. Abby posted this question.

There are SO many writing rules, but sometimes we have to break one or two, just to keep things interesting. Is there a writing rule you've broken on purpose? Why did you choose to break it? And if you want to post a snippet of your writing as an example, even better!

Sandra posted before me, and because I'm late with this post Michelle M. has her post up already. Read both for there wonderful answers.

As for my answer, it took awhile to consider which writing rule I've broken. Sentence fragments is a big thing. I've also done dream sequences at the beginning of chapters. But I can think of one rule that is universal to all literary agents, editors, and publishers which is the biggest no-no for a writer to break.


Yes, I've placed the dreaded "character looking at herself in a mirror and describing her appearance" anti-rule into one of my novels. Why did I break the rule? No reason except that I could. This scene will play an intricate role in the plot later on. It was just a device I used to introduce the piece early on. Here is the excerpt in all it's horrified glory.



Jena’s tired eyes blinked open. The howl sounded through the wall on the other side of her as the image of the jail cell faded. The dark shape against the wall took on a more familiar one. Her long bedroom dresser. Upside down. She wondered about this as her back slid another inch across the covers, her hair now touching the carpeted floor. She grabbed the metal frame and pushed upward in a scrambling heave as Jena rolled up on the covers and glanced at the window. The sun had already faded. Yet the night still held back its full darkness while allowing those people to see their way home on this early Friday evening. A large mosquito danced across the mesh screen as the bug searched for escape from the world outside.

“It should stay out there and hide in the darkness rather than come inside. It should enjoy the freedom.” Jena sighed with envy. Below, her empty stomach whined for dinner. She shifted from the bed and walked toward the window, tapping against the screen to scare the mosquito away. She stared at her beat-up red Nova parked in the driveway before following the dark asphalt stretching from the cul-de-sac. The road did look so inviting, as it begged her to explore its far reaches. Yet she knew the sight was fake. She had no freedom, not anymore. She had squandered it away years ago.

She closed the window and then squatted near the heat vent on the floor. Soft sounds vibrated up through the ducts. Yet the phone was not in use. Not like when she had arrived here this afternoon, late, as Clare had scowled and Jena had made light of the situation by saying her transfer papers had gotten lost in the mail and vacationed in Aruba where the vice squad had to pick her up. When Jena had entered her old bedroom to unpack, the telephone’s red flashing button had told her that Clare had called someone. Jena had known after two echoed sentences that her brother Ted talked on the other end of the line. He was their grandmother’s golden child.

“Yes, Jena got here with her poor attitude. Finally! I swear, Teddy, why did she even bother? Everybody knows she won’t make anything worthwhile out of her life. I just don’t see the point of trying with her. It would be such a waste.”

Jena straightened and unlocked the bedroom door. Her first stop was at the bathroom while she smacked lips at the funky aftertaste from the diet Pepsi she had drank during her drive there. From her hygiene bag she pulled out her toothbrush and scrubbed her pearly whites clean. Then she reached toward the medicine cabinet.


The mirror door stayed in place no matter how hard she pulled. She glanced around the shallow cabinet and noticed a bit of silver over the connecting metal clasps. A lock. Jena spied the dark orange bottles through the crack along the edge. It appeared every medication in the house lurked inside.

Oh, Grandmother Clare, why can’t you trust me?

Jena placed the toothbrush in her bag while her appearance stared back in the mirror: brown hair slicked on one side and sticking out, twitching cheek muscles, and dark circles under both red eyes. She looked better now. If it were two years ago, she would not have recognized herself. A stranger would have stared back.

The mirror image opened lips. “Clare should know better than to store those bottles in here. Doctors warn about the humidity ruining the pills’ effectiveness. Make sure to remind her about that.” Jena’s mirror image smiled and she felt herself smiling back. By the time she entered the hallway, her smile had faded as a frown took its place.

“Go. Must protect family. Not bad. Never bad.”


  1. I think the mirror part works here because the locked mirror cabinet shows us something about Jena's character and past relationship with her family. It says something that she thinks she looks better now, even though she's still a mess. Good example!

  2. Great post, Michelle. I like the use of the mirror here, even if it is a rule (which I didn't know about LOL). You use it quite well and you also don't drag it out, so the rule-breaking is brief but effective. Nice job!

  3. Hi, Michelle. The rule, as I understand it, is not to have a character just arbitrarily look in a mirror as an excuse to have her ruminate on her appearance (in order to describe it—usually in too much useless detail—to the reader). However, when the mirror naturally fits into the story and when the character approaches the mirror as a realistic character would... that should be okay. There's no rule against having a mirror in your story—or at least there shouldn't be—as long as the mirror actually fits there. -TimK


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