Thursday, December 18, 2008

Unwritten Rules: Keep the Innocents Alive

When I read your post about “Unlikable Characters,” it sparked a question about likable characters who die. Although we know almost immediately the narrator in “The Lovely Bones” has died a violent death, Sebold’s novel went on to become a mega-bestseller. This seems to fly in the face of an unwritten rule, I thought existed, against killing children and dogs.

Oddly enough when I started reading Jodi Picoult’s “The Pact,” I stopped reading immediately after the father took the family dog into the woods and shot it (because it had diabetes). Yet, even though I knew the premise of “The Pact” going in -- a teenage couple enters into a suicide pact -- I would have read it had the disturbing incident with the family dog not occurred toward the beginning. This reaction confuses me even more.

So I guess my question is: how often and under what specific circumstances do readers, agents and/or editors pass on a project because an innocent dies in the story? I assume you’re going to tell me it has a lot to do with how the material is handled, possibly how “off stage” the death occurs. And then again, perhaps not, since the protagonists in “The Lovely Bones” and “My Sister’s Keeper” both end up dying. Other examples where children die are Ishiguro’s “Never Let Me Go” (one of my all‑time favorite novels and one I read all the way through) and Jane Hamilton’s “A Map of the World” (which I stopped reading when I sensed what was coming and knew I couldn’t handle it). I’m having trouble seeing a common thread in how these deaths were handled to make them acceptable other than the voice in each of these examples being very good.

Still, among the five books cited here, I wasn’t able to finish reading two of them. Why me and not editors or other readers? Are there any hard and fast rules with respect to these questions? I’d appreciate any insight you or your readers can bring to this question.

Rules, rules, rules. Do you know one of the biggest reasons I started BookEnds? I hate rules. Well, okay, I like making my own rules, but I hate living by those created by others. Stop living under this idea that there are rules in writing. There are no rules. There are guidelines and suggestions, but for those of you following a long list of rules, I’d like to know first where the rules came from and who gave them to you, and second, how much are they holding you back? The authors willing to bend the rules, break them at times, and explore their own paths are the ones who have success.

There is no consistent thread in the examples you give because they are all very different books. And there are no rules to how to properly kill off children or dogs. If you’re looking for why these authors could get away with it, the best I can say is that it worked. It fit the story and was appropriate to building both plot and character. Sure the voice might have something to do with it, but ultimately it was a heart-wrenching moment that fits and doesn’t feel gratuitous. As to why you couldn’t get through the books when others obviously could, I can’t explain that in any way other than the fact that we all have different tastes. There are many, many books in this world that I have not been able to get though, books that were published, acclaimed and even award-winning. There have been many books I’ve loved, laughed and cried over that I couldn’t find an audience for.



Anonymous said...

Well I know my current ms has broken some of those rules and I know for a fact it's part of the reason why I've been rejected in some cases. However, the story would just not be the same without that plot line running through it.

I stand a very good chance of not selling it because it is slightly contraversial and yet life isn't always pretty, I don't know why fiction must be.

Anonymous said...

"Rules, rules, rules. Do you know one of the biggest reasons I started BookEnds? I hate rules." Ahhhh... an agent after my own heart!

A couple of years ago I was having a conversation with author John Nichols (The Milago Beanfield War, etc.) I was complaining about the "rules" of fiction writing. John looked me in the eye and said, "Parker, there are no rules."

I've taken John's wisdom to heart with a sign just above my monitor--"Relax--There Are No Rules." Following this advice may not lead to publication but it frees my imagination to be brave and daring, to feel the passion and let the words flow like the river.

Anonymous said...

The death has to be integral to the story, not gratuitous (.e., used only for shock value). The reader may still choose to stop reading. Who needs more pain and anxiety in life? But Old Yeller and Bambi's mother died years ago, and they're still classics.

Maybe it's a case of "there but for fortune..."

Anita said...

I also have a hard time reading about deaths of some characters. I couldn't read LOVELY BONES and recently, I was reading WHEN ELEPHANTS DANCE and put it away because I thought a little boy in the story was going to die. I read a fab author interview on EDITORIALASS with the ELEPHANTS author and picked the book up again. SPOILER ALERT: Boy does not die and I loved the book.

Recently, I received a request from a potential agent to make the crimes in my cozy more hardcore. The agent wants a stronger murder, so I'm putting the sucker in.

My point: I am a wimpy reader, and I think that's OK. But when it comes to writing, if that murder/death should be in there, I've got to do it.

P.S. My kids and I are reading WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS aloud for the second time. We know the dogs are going to die (and we're prepared with tissue), but we still sooooo love the book, we had to read it again.

Keri Ford said...

Different readers have different tolerances for things. That's pretty much all their is to it.

For me as a reader? I don't care how well it fits with the plot, I do NOT like to see characters I liked and the author made likable killed off. I don't care if they're people or pets. The bigger downside is, I'm unlikely to risk my emotions on another book by the same author for fear of this happening a second time.

I'm not talking about the hero's beloved grandpa dying of old age during the book-there's typically forshadowing that it's going to happen. I'm speaking of deaths when someone is killed off with no warning.

And I still get teary when Bambi's momma dies.

Kimber Li said...

"I’d like to know first where the rules came from and who gave them to you, and second, how much are they holding you back?"

The rules come from reading agents and editors blogs and seeing what the new publishing deals are and what ends up on the bookshelves.

It seems to me aspiring authors are stuck with the rules until a published author breaks one and makes it 'okay.'

They were hampering my writing, but when the publishing industry had its financial crash I figured it didn't matter anymore. As a never-before-published author, I would have just as much chance at publication if I followed the rules or not and that chance is practically zero now.

So, I'm writing what I want.

Anonymous said...

I groaned when I read the author's question. Hellooo, ever hear of Will Shakespeare? Yes, Virginia, there has been a target market for tragedies for centuries.

Anonymous said...

"Rules, rules,rules..." A first ever entry into the world of writing rules was with a very "literary" crit group. Literay in the meaning as; "the more fromal balanced and polished language of literature". They were all (5) had educational backgrounds in creative writing, etc. and I oh the other hand had zeero. By the fifth chapter of my ms they had me so confused and despondent over all of their rules, I quit the group (on line by the way) and quit writing for three months. And guess what? I finished the ms last week without any rules. Now, maybe an agent ot editor can tell me if "my rules" are good or bad.
Jessica, I don't write anything you would be interested in, but I love your blog.

Anonymous said...

Ugh. I just read my own post and my brain must be in neurtal. Hope I don't offend anyone with those first incoherent sentences.

Therapist/Writer said...

I think a lot has to do with where the reader is at the moment, and of course, that is an uncontrollable variable. For instance, my father died in August and my brother has been diagnosed with lung cancer and I've been reading cozies ever since. I have no emotional strength to deal with strong emotions in a book. But that will change as time passes and I'll be ready to handle stronger themes and subject matter again. We can try to "follow the rule" on how to deal with controversial deaths but our readers' moods can't be predicted.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:20 - In your haste to be condescending, you completely missed the point of the letter: when is it okay to kill the kids and the dog? From the answers so far, it appears a lot depends on both how the material is handled and on the tolerance level of the reader. Some people shriek when they see a spider; others can't even look at a picture of snakes without recoiling. We all come to the table with different life experiences, varying sensitivities.

And yes, believe it or not, a lot of us have heard of Will Shakespeare. Some of us (Gasp, can you believe it?!) have even read many of his plays, not to mention many of the classics.

K J Gillenwater said...

Considering that "The Lovely Bones" was marketed as a book about a dead girl, I'm not sure why that development was so shocking to you as a reader.

Jodi Picoult is another writer who consistently chooses very emotional themes/plots for her books, so if you don't want to read those things, go elsewhere.

I think there is a big difference between authors who consistently confront uncomfortable and/or sad topics and those who just thrust them in a surprise fashion on the reader. Such as a romance ending with the death of the hero or heroine.

Readers of romance expect and want a happy ending. Readers of Jodi Picoult do not. They know what kind of writer she is and want that emotional journey.

So, I would say 'breaking rules' is fine as long as you make that clear to the reader/editor what kind of story they are getting.

Anonymous said...

I, also, could not get past the second chapter in Lovely Bones. I have daughters close to the same age as the main character. On the other hand my oldest teen not only read it, she insisted I read it. I'm sure I'll give another go when I'm feeling emotionally stronger. KERI, here is my beef about not finishing a book if a character dies: How do you know that the character does not return, or that it doesn't make another charater stronger. I've always said "Everything happens for a reason". I believe that about real life, in books it is doubly true. An author, if they have any intellegence, is not going to put pain without a reason. If you do read a book that happens in, then I agree, I would be very unlikely to read another book by that author again. At the very least the author better make up for that pain in another way. As for rules, there is nothing I hate more to read an agents site and have them list what they don't want. Every MS should have a fair shot. Reject it because you don't like it or it won't sell, or bad writing, but don't reject a piece before you've even looked at it. And that is exactly what you are doing by listing what you won't except. I fully agree except only the genres you are interested in, but don't say more i.e. "there are too many vampire books" (I did not write a vampire book). I'm with Jessica, the only rule should be there are no rules. Limitations only limit the creative flow. Ignore the rules, write from the gut. I believe there was an earlier argument similiar to this on another post, where an author was constantly making changes to their ms because of what the agent wanted. Obviously there was something in that ms that caught the agents eye. So I would like to know who wrote the book the author or the agent. At what point do we say enough is enough? I am sure there are times when your agent is right, but how do we know the book wasn't perfect in the first place? How do we know that the world wasn't ready for that new style? An agent sees what is hot at the moment. Do we want to conform every book into one mold? or are we ready for something different? Jessica has a very open mind, but a lot of other agents do not. The same goes for publishers. How do you know the public isn't ready for something different? (I know I went a little off course) Life does not fit into one mold neither should books. I have a hard time reading about the death of children or animals, but not everyone does, and if it's important to the story then definitely put it in there!!!

Anonymous said...

Jessica: You are a fine writer in your own right. So beautifully and succinctly stated. You managed to make your point so clearly with such economy of words that it is easy to see you are a talented writer who should (if you don't already) be publishing your own work whether it be fiction or nonfiction. Heck, if nothing else, you might consider putting together a book on writing and publishing and use your posts as a guide. I'm serious.

Jake Nantz said...

Thank goodness. I read the title of this post and thought, "Damn, my protag loses his wife in a very violent way, and it's gutwrenching, but necessary for his character arc. Now I'm screwed."

Actually, I may still be screwed, but at least it won't be over some unwritten rule....

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:42, I'm a great believer in admitting when I've made a mistake. So I agree my post was unnecessarily condescending. However, I did not miss the point of the email. *My* point is that there will always be segments of the book market for tragedies and segments for comedies, depending on personal taste. To me, it seems the death of a sympathetic character is what makes a tragedy. So, when I read the post, I couldn't understand why the writer sought rules to define what works and what doesn't. Of course how any plot point is handled makes all the difference in the world. Finally, I used Shakespeare as an example because I knew everyone would be familiar with his works - not because I'm some sort of literary snob. I'm not - and I do apologize for the snarky tone.

Valerie Geary said...

I was at a conference and attended a class by writer Eric Witchey- he said something that changed everything I knew about writing: "The only 'rule' in writing is Affect The Reader Emotional. Everything else is technique." Brilliant. It really allowed me to look at writing with a whole new perspective!

Kate Douglas said...

We all read for different reasons, and we all take different baggage with us when we read a book. For me, reading is pure escapism from reality--I don't want to read a book that leaves me in a state of depression, and since reading can be such a visceral experience for me, I try to avoid the ones that kill off characters. As an author, I insist my own stories have a happy ending, but that's just my personal issue. As far as the rules--they were everywhere when I was starting out. RWA panels are notorious for setting rules on how to write! I had to unlearn a lot before I actually got published, and I did it with a book that managed to break just about every "rule" going. I don't write my books for my readers so much as for me. I can't possibly meet everyone's expectation, but at least I know the stories will satisfy my own needs in a book.

Anonymous said...

When I wrote these questions to Jessica, I was thinking out loud so the letter comes off as a stream of consciousness. Rather than looking for a set of iron-clad rules (which I know do not exist), I was hoping to elicit reactions from other writers to guage how others react to the deaths of innocents and the handling of those deaths. I wondered what percentage of Jessica's readers find them acceptable and under what circumstances. I'm still looking for more input on the importance of voice. The voice in Ishiguro was very quiet and calm, I felt it was what kept me reading. Ishiguro sets the reader down very gently in the end. We don't land with a terrible, bone-jarring thud.

Sheila's comment about the requirement that the death be integral to the story is well taken. I felt shooting the dog was gratuitous (didn't get far enough to know for sure) while the child's drowning was integral and unavoidable. Even so, I couldn't read that book.

I did read My Sisters Keeper and The Lovely Bones all the way through. I believe I found them more readable because the writer clearly expects us to suspend disbelief - both are narrated by young girls who are dead so it's not reality.

However, when I sense a child is about to drown or an innocent animal is marched out to the woods and shot, there is no opportunity to suspend disbelief and I must close the book.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Sheila Conolly, who said, "The death has to be integral to the story, not gratuitous." The best deaths are innocent deaths, as long as they mean something. The fact that the conflict has advanced to the point that an innocent person has been killed in cold blood is truly tragic, and in many cases it's the motivating factor for the protagonist to resolve the conflict brilliantly (à la Doctor Who).

Anonymous said...

I don't mind deaths in a novel, but they have to advance the plot in some way or another. But I also don't like reading books that are consistently depressing--which is why I have a hard time with books like Wurthering Heights. I also understand that life isn't all cotton candy and puppies, so realism is needed.

It really depends on the mood I'm in and how the author relays the story and the death in it. I know in my book, I'm having a very likeable character die--but his death is to show how incredibly ruthless the bad guys are as well as creating another minor conflict with one of the characters. I know I have to work on it a great deal because now it's kind of sudden and written pretty poorly, but I know the goal I'm aiming for.

Robena Grant said...

When I was reading Bob Mayer's book, Lost Girls, a group of us discussed the story on his blog. I commented that I got to a part that involved a dead dog and something that I thought spoke of cruelty to animals. It wasn't gratuitious and was very much a part of the story but I had to put the book down. Everyone convinced me to keep on reading. I did, and the irony was that what I'd imagined would happen was far worse than Bob wrote. Hah.
Anon 11.22 I'm like you. I put the book down, shut my eyes if I'm in a movie. Heck, even if I'm watching the Animal Channel on TV and see an attack (just survival of the fittest) I can't click on the remote fast enough.
But on the subject of rules, learn them all then throw them away.

Anonymous said...

I can read books with children dying without any problems, but one animal dies and that's it for me. I can read about horrible things happening to people and be okay, but if a character who is part of a romantic pair dies, that's it for me too.

For me it's about genre more than voice. If I'm reading a crime novel and someone I like dies that probably wouldn't phase me. If I'm reading a romance, it really depends on my mood, if I wanted to read something darker or not. (Usually you can tell if it's darker or not by the blurb or author though.)

There are all kinds of people out there, so I think it's obvious authors should write what is appropriate for the story. I may not read it because an animal dies. I also might not read it because the setting doesn't interest me.

Anonymous said...

Glad to knnw I'm not the only "wimpy" reader or writer out there. I have a few murders in my mystery, but I could not kill off a stray cat and changed it in the end. Like many people, I read to escape, as well as to be educated and entertained...not to be depressed. If I want to be depressed and despondent by violence and needless death, I just turn on the news. A half hour of CNN is all I can take.

Aimlesswriter said...

I confess. I killed Willy in the first half of my book. This really upset my daughter.
While sitting in the movie theather waiting for the show to start she says, "I hate that you killed Willy."
I replied, "I had too, he was in the way."
"But still, I liked him. He was kool."
"He had to go." I said again.
"But did you have to do it so violently?"
"Yes, it was the only way."
At this point the man sitting in front of us got up and ran out.
We moved to another section of the theater.
Rules are for the weak!

Anonymous said...

Aimless Writer,

It seems you may be on the inconsiderate side. Not for your writing, but for ruining someone else's theater experience. Being heartless won't win you any points, including with your daughter! And it's not something to be proud of.

Aimlesswriter said...

Perhaps next time I'm having a converstation I'll check with everyone around me to see if they're eavesdropping. Would that be better?
Nice name by the way.

Julie Dao said...

I think I'm mostly okay with reading about death. "The Lovely Bones" didn't bother me because I thought the story was handled beautifully. I like your explanation in this post - as long as the scene isn't too obviously gratuitous and it fits the story, it's acceptable. I see what you mean about there not being any rules to writing, too ... being a reader is all about being subjective. What might be okay for some, definitely won't be for others. I guess that makes publishing a gamble because even if your MS fits with what they're looking for, you can't always plan on who will be reading your story and where they're coming from. Thanks for the great post!

Marilynn Byerly said...

There may be no "rules," but woe unto the writer who fails to meet genre expectations, including the death of characters.

Readers of standard happily-ever-after romance are much less tolerant of death of any sort than readers of fantasy and science fiction.

SF/fantasy prides itself, in fact, on characters dying because dying is "real." That's why the editor in charge of the STAR WARS book franchise insisted that Chewie die some years back.

I have never killed off an animal or a child in any of my books, I probably never will, and I've decided that I won't kill an established character without a solid reason to do so. The character must die nobly to save others, or his death must bring about change so it has meaning.

In the last few days, little Adam Walsh's death has been in the news again, and John Walsh and his family have talked about their campaign to help lost and abused children so Adam's death won't have been without meaning.

In life and fiction, such an ending is much stronger emotionally, and as one of my professors once said, "The primary difference between fiction and real life is that fiction must make sense."

Spy Scribbler said...

"Rules, rules, rules. Do you know one of the biggest reasons I started BookEnds? I hate rules. Well, okay, I like making my own rules, but I hate living by those created by others."

I love that you say that! I always wrestle with this, because I think it's hard to have a voice without breaking rules. But then I become chicken and edit half my voice out. Then I put it back in. LOL!

Keri Ford said...

KERI, here is my beef about not finishing a book if a character dies: How do you know that the character does not return, or that it doesn't make another character stronger.

Because when the author writes, The window shattered and John fell in my lap, blood soaked my clothes and chunks of stuff spread over the dash...,
I can pretty well figure that John isn't coming back. And if John does come back, the author has just lost believability with me--so I'd put it down anyway. If I’m not sure on the death, then I might read a few more chapters, but if John doesn’t return, then I’m through.

I read fiction for enjoyment. It’s the same reason I don’t read Stephen King or watch horror movies. I don’t find having the daylights scared out of me all that entertaining. I might be missing out some great books, but that’s okay by me, because there’s thousands others out there that meet my standards just waiting for me to devour. As Annon said above, if I want to cry, be depressed, shocked, upset, or whatever, I'll crack open a newspaper or flip the tv on one of the many 24hour news channel.

Like I said at the beginning of my first post, different readers have different tolerances. Killing off a character out of nowhere that you've made me fall in love with goes above my tolerance level. I don't care how it might be good for a different character in the long run. At that point, I don’t much care for the rest of the story if someone I'm relating too isn't going to make it to the HEA. Like I said, I’m talking about characters that are in the book, not fianc√©’s or children that died before the book started on pg1.

Maybe it's the romance writer in me.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Aimless Writer,
I guess I was being a dense reader. I assumed the gut thought you were talking about the movie, but now I realize he probably just thought you were a murderer. Which I guess in a way you are, of course so am I. The only difference is I don't kill off the good guys. As far as my name, it gives out the same information yours does. You are as anonymous as I am. I just didn't have time to create a fictitional name.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Aimless Writer,
I guess I was being a dense reader. I assumed the gut thought you were talking about the movie, but now I realize he probably just thought you were a murderer. Which I guess in a way you are, of course so am I. The only difference is I don't kill off the good guys. As far as my name, it gives out the same information yours does. You are as anonymous as I am. I just didn't have time to create a fictitional name.

Unknown said...

Like Jessica, I get turned off by animal cruelty and child abuse/murder in books. Yes, it's real life but I also find that authors to often use such situations to keep their stories moving and their readers awake.

I rarely recommend such books to other, even if I was interested throughout. I prefer nonfiction stories that entertain and provide insight into areas that I never thought I'd be interested in. Jessica, I'd like to hear about some of your favorite recent nonfiction books.

Heather Moore said...

Great insights. I've found that breaking the rules sometimes works. You just have to know the rules first. (And who is setting them in the first place?)

There are so many books that I'm not going to spend time reading ones that break one of my rules :)

Julie Weathers said...

There are guidelines and suggestions, but for those of you following a long list of rules, I’d like to know first where the rules came from and who gave them to you, and second, how much are they holding you back?

I've seen commentary before about how unpopular it is to kill off dogs, kittens, children and favorite characters.

A published writer and I were talking about the business and she said she isn't even trying to sell her book. It involves a very large snake who eats pets and nary an editor would look at it. She thinks it's integral to the story and won't change it.

In DANCING HORSES, my suspense novel, it opens with a scene where a champion cutting horse has been "accidentally" electrocuted. There was a lot of gritching at the writer's forum about this. Many people said they refused to read a book that began with the death of a horse.

My fantasy novel spares few, favorite or not. If it furthers the story, they might have to give their all. This includes the heroine's beloved horse at the end. Barbara Rogan did convince me to spare the heroine.

I don't like reading graphic violence, sex, torture etc and I won't write it, but sometimes the implied is more powerful than a blow-by-blow account anyway. I won't add any of those elements for the shock value, but I've seen the story in my head. I'm not as concerned with what is politically correct as I am with being true to the vision.

Now, if my agent or editor were to make some suggestions, I would certainly listen. I hope they would also listen and we would find the middle ground.

Dal Jeanis said...

I will not continue a book after the author loses my trust.

Depending upon the tone of the book, killing a child may be the item that kills that trust.

There was a western comedy-satire, written by a black writer, with a racist white narrator and a black bounty hunter main character. It was quite funny, and the white narrator seemed like he was likely to learn something by the events in the book, chasing after his stolen wife with help he has swindled from a black bounty hunter. So I read it and enjoyed the first half.

Then the white narrator let a black child die. The book lost my trust, but I kept reading. Bad mistake.

The main challenge of the book --recovering that kidnapped wife-- was never satisfied, and the black bounty hunter suddenly transformed in the end from a realistic character to some superhuman avatar, and it all collapsed into metaphor and hyperbole.

The ending was so unsatisfying -- enough that I'd almost apply the word "racist" to it -- that I decided never again to continue reading when an author lost my trust. Killing that child meant that the author was promising something other than I wanted, and there was no reason for me to continue reading.

And, if I remembered the author's name, I'd never read another book of his that had a white character.

On the other hand, I've just completed reading "The Pesthouse" by Jim Crace, a lyrically pestilent book where he starts by telling us everyone in Ferrytown is going to die, then introduces us to a 9-10 year-old boy who lives in Ferrytown, and shows us exactly what happens. In Jim Crace's post-apocalyptic America, nature is merciless, and so are the people. Even the baby who the main character cradles through the book is at risk of its life. (...But no spoilers here...)

The difference is, that was part of the promise.

There is only one unbreakable rule: DELIVER WHAT YOU PROMISE.

In my estimate, the promise is the first 1/6 of the work, perhaps the first 50 pages of a typical novel, the first 20 minutes of a typical movie. That's how long you get to set your own rules.

After that, YOU MUST FOLLOW THEM. If you change the rules, you've violated my trust, and there's a trash can with your book's name on it.

Anonymous said...

Your a genius. That was a perfect way to explain it. And yet someone published that book. Go figure. It goes to show, not all agents and/or publishers are that smart.

Jenna said...

Wow, I guess I'm just a different animal.

I read a lot. I read to escape. I've had a really crap experience with death and loss. I now expect death and loss, and a fluffy happy-ever-after just doesn't satisfy always. I know it's baloney. Someone has to die eventually. Fido will not live forever.

Atticus Finch was defined as a character when he shot a rabid, dying dog to put it out of its misery.

Last of the Mohicans has an awful lot of hunting in it, and thereby animal death. This is aside from the human brutalities.

I suppose a vegan could want to toss a book that mentions a character having eggs or steak as a meal. I suppose a mother could have a really hard time reading a book where a child is murdered. Heck, as a sophomore in high school, I didn't make it past page one of The Color Purple. But I try not to limit myself. Stuff happens. People die. I have little respect for fiction that doesn't adhere to that, because I know that life isn't all happy and we aren't immortal. I can't appreciate the beauty without the knowledge of pain as a juxtaposition.

When I want happy fluffy, I go look at some lolcats. That's about as much happy fluffy as I can handle in one sitting. I detest Sex and the City. Too shallow. I want life, the good, bad, and ugly. The author who fails to deliver a true representation is left on the shelf with all the romance novels that I don't buy either.

Marjorie said...

My blog rejects all rules. I reject all rules. I am a 62 year old retired teacher who blogs. I have joined the club.