Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Principles question

Hey, can you all help me out? I'm writing an article (maybe?) about conversation, and I need to talk about principles and how to deal with them.

Can you all just tell me some principles? I know that makes me sound unprincipled. (I gather others don't think "Don't start a book with a line of dialogue" counts as a principle. :) But I figure if I have a lot of examples, I can come up with some Grand Unified Principle about Principles.

I'm looking for two kinds, and if you could just write out examples in a sentence, like an edict, that would help.

1) The sort we'd identify as principles, sort of bedrock rules, political, moral, ethical, like "Never wear white shoes after Labor Day." (You laugh, but there are women for whom that's a moral principle. :) Or "Always cut taxes." Or "All human beings deserve respect." You see, I must not have a lot of principles, because I can't come up with good examples! See why I need help?

2) Personal life principles that we live by which aren't necessarily things we want to be public about, but shape out lives anyway. "Never let them see you sweat," or "Family first," or "You can only trust family," or -- boy, those all sound so primal.

Anyway, if you could just give me examples, I'd be appreciative!



Unknown said...

Make the identity of the speaker clear, either by dialogue tag or distinct speech pattern.

Melissa Alexander said...

I draw a distinction between rules and principles. A rule is a specific application of a principle.

"Treat people with respect" is a principle. "Greet adults older than you are by their last name until invited to use their first name" is a rule.

Principles tend to be inviolate. Once someone really internalizes a principle, they may be able to break a rule without violating its underlying principle. If the person doesn't yet understand -- truly understand, at a gut level -- the principle underlying a rule, then that person has no business breaking the rule.

I find these definitions hold up as well in writing as in life.

Melissa Alexander said...

In writing "Capture the reader's interest immediately" and "Don't confuse the reader" are principles.

"Start with action" and "Don't start with dialogue" are rules based on the above principles.

Edittorrent said...

You and I are on parallel tracks this morning, I see.

Melissa has some great points.


Edittorrent said...

Okay-- that makes sense. I wonder if we focus on the rules when we ought to figure out what the underlying principle is-- the rule can probably be modified even if the principle can't.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

You guys have made my eyes cross.

Which is showing, not telling. And is a rule.

Corrie said...

I'd say one principle is not making the dialogue an end in itself. Like dialogue with crazy accents you have to speak out loud to understand, or flowery dialogue the author loves, but draws too much attention to itself. Or maybe those are rules.

Alicia Rasley said...

Okay, can we get away from writing principles to moral and ethical ones? And life principles?

Riley Murphy said...

Hmm... how about: You're only as good as your word (or, in the case of a writer - your words :) )


Riley Murphy said...

Drat! Missed your last comment before I posted - and NOW you post a picture of your gorgeous face??? Sheesh! We could have used that last week. :)


Riley Murphy said...

-Believe in yourself.
-Use your talent wisely.
-Give more than expected.
-Honor your parents.
-Consent should be freely given.
-Challenge yourself.
-Never kick a man when he's down.

And my personal favorite?

-Get busy living your life because you ain't getting out of here alive.


Anonymous said...

- do unto others as you would have them do to you
- don't jump the queue!
- take turns
- be aware of other human beings
- be honest when it counts

I love Murphy's favourite though, lol!

Karen said...

What goes around comes around

Every cloud has a silver lining / When a door closes a window opens

The one I like best: If you really want to do something, you'll find a way. If you don't, you'll find an excuse.

Fortune cookie wisdom I saved:
A handful of patience is worth a bushel of brains

writtenwyrdd said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
writtenwyrdd said...

"do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is my main principle in life.

Also, "what goes around, comes around."

I find it interesting that a lot of life's "rules" are trotted out in memorable and/or cutesy little phrases.

Wes said...

Don't piss into the wind.

Alicia Rasley said...

Those are good! I was thinking about Polonius: To thine own self be true.

But when I think of my own life theme, "What goes around, comes around," that's it!!!


Edittorrent said...

How about some principles you don't necessarily think are positive? "The market is always right--" that was the principle that ruled the business dept next to the English dept (where the principle was "Author intent is irrelevant-- only the text matters" ).

Edittorrent said...

"Author intent is irrelevant-- only the text matters"

Bet there are a few folks around here who think that one's not positive.


MLR said...

"Respect has to be earned" is a negative in my book. I believe you respect people until they give you a reason to think otherwise.

If you have enough moral doubt about an action to ask someone else if it's the right thing to do, it isn't.

writtenwyrdd said...

I think Murphy's Law is a less positive principle. And so is "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus." That's so divisive it makes me want to slap the author of that book.

Edittorrent said...

When a door closes a window opens--
Karen, that is what I've been telling myself all summer!