For the latest Fictional Lesson for an All Too Real Life, Hannah Lokos joins me. Hannah is a sleep-deprived biology major college student who became a published author at age 19. Her novel, Labyrinth of Lies, is chock full of adventure, romance, and unexpected twists, and is available for purchase on Amazon.
When Liz graciously offered to let me write a piece for her site, she asked me to write an article taking something that I learned from my book and from my characters and show how that applies to real life.
In my novel, Labyrinth of Lies, Theseus faces a problem. About twenty years before, the island nation of Crete had gone to war with the city-state of Athens, Prince Theseus’s future domain. The cruel king of Crete, King Minos, utterly crushed Athens and instituted a treaty demanding that King Aegeus of Athens send 14 youths annually to Crete. Once in Crete, these 14 Athenians were locked inside a maze and then slain by the Minotaur, a hideous half-man half-bull beast. Then, one day, Theseus decides that this terrible tradition needs to end. His father explicitly orders him not to go. However, when Theseus’s own love is taken, things reach a more personal level. Theseus is faced with the decision to either go after her and risk war with Crete or to obey his father’s orders and let her die. Ultimately, when he gets there and enters the maze, he discovers that the Minotaur isn’t exactly what he had expected it to be, it is more terrible by far—but that is another story, and precisely why you should read my book ;).
If you’ll stay with me, I think you’ll see how this applies to real life. Even though many of us will never have to make a decision that might incite a war, there are multiple occasions ever single day where we have the opportunity to rise to the occasion.
I’m a rule-follower. In class, the professor gives the assignment, I do it exactly as he/she stipulates, I (usually) get a good grade, and nobody gets hurt. Rules are necessary and they are usually helpful. So there is a time to follow the rules, but there’s also a time to break out and break those rules. The same is very true of writing. You need to know the rules. You need to study grammar, because without a familiar standard to abide by, people will have a difficult time understanding what you are trying to say. Yet, sometimes, as a writer, you may choose to avoid the familiar. Instead, you may aim for startling, unusual, fresh, or even just something that makes your readers think hard. There’s a time for rules, but there comes a time when you need to branch out, be bold, be a little different, and aim for a little bit more.
Protocol is important, I mean, for the most part, rules have been put there for a reason. We need to respect regulations, and our superiors who make them, but sometimes we also need to think outside of the box. Growing up, I often competed in the arts and crafts division of our county fair. I have also competed in some scholastic, writing, and fashion competitions as well, and let me tell you something: every competition I’ve ever won has been won by taking a step back and thinking of ways I could go against the grain, weed out the cliché and the overdone, and give the judges far more than they were expecting.
So, in the end, I suppose it’s not as much about breaking rules as it is rising to the occasion. Whatever you’re doing, whether it’s writing a killer story or saving the woman you love, your main objective is NOT just to break the rules. Anyone can do that. Rather, a good goal would be to rise to the occasion, no matter what that “rising” demands, to do more, to give more than is expected, to do everything you can to the very best of your abilities, even if it means defying convention. When you’re brave and fresh and hard working and persevering, you just might prove victorious—just like Theseus (spoiler alert!). And in the process, you just might earn the respect of those around you in a way in which they will never forget you or your actions. The key: to surprise them, be brave, and give them more than they are expecting.