How to break all the rules and create a longtime international best-seller!

So many agents, editors, publishers, fellow writers, and readers swear by certain lists of rules for creating a successful book. Don’t you dare creep above 100,000 words unless you’re Stephen King, stick to one protagonist, never depart from past tense, don’t kill off important characters, don’t use a nonlinear narrative, strictly obey all the rules until you’re making millions of dollars, do this, don’t do that.

But there’s a certain longtime international best-seller which breaks a lot of those rules, and many people don’t seem to mind. See if you can guess from the clues. Since I couldn’t figure out how to create an HTML spoiler hide/reveal, I made the text of the answer a color that blends into the background and is only visible when highlighted.

1. It uses first-person, second-person, and third-person narration!

2. It uses all the major tenses.

3. Wordcount varies by translation, but the average is around 775K.

4. Many sections recount dialogues or events the reader is well aware of.

5. Some events are depicted more than once, in different ways.

6. It doesn’t have one clear genre.

7. Some of it is straight narration, while other parts are poetry and songs.

8. Several back-to-back parts narrate essentially the same events, with the same protagonist.

9. The true authorship has long been disputed, and no author is credited.

10. The narrative follows a nonlinear track more than a few times.

11. A number of characters are depicted as having unrealistic lifespans.

12. Many modern historians and archaeologists doubt the veracity or timelines of some of the historical events and people depicted.

13. There are a lot of violent scenes.

14. Many parts don’t thematically lead into one another, but introduce entirely new characters and storylines.

15. The story doesn’t stay with the same characters or family for the entire narrative.

16. Sometimes there’s more telling than showing.

17. The bat is referred to as a bird at one point.

18. The endings of both Parts I and II may seem a bit in media res, instead of with a fuller sense of closure and having reached the end of the journey.

19. There’s a lot of name-dropping of characters who never appear as more than names in a laundry list.

20. One section repeats the same paragraph over and over again, with the only slight difference being the name of the person who’s doing this action.

Highlight the text below for the answer!

The Bible

Did you guess correctly? Is there anything you’d add to the list of literary rules this book has broken and succeeded in spite of? Can you think of any other popular classics which break a lot of so-called rules?


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