Two Little-Known Reasons Rhetorical Continuity Is Bad For Fiction

Rhetorical continuity, in this instance, represents an unchanging landscape of persuasive arguments in support of a cohesive life philosophy.

You might think that rhetorical continuity would be a good thing in your book. Consistency of tone, you might think, and a general aura of building-towards-one-picture-of-life, should all be markers of  competent writing. These are excellent markers of the very beginning of a piece of fiction, but will, if drawn throughout the entirety of the story, become bland and repetitive to the reader.

Bad fiction presents an unchanging, coherent picture of characters and life.

Good fiction starts out with a coherent picture, and a complete emotional state, and then breaks that whole picture into fragments.

Excellent fiction takes the fragments from the initial disruption, and weaves them into a new, and much more vivid photograph of life.

If you are encapsulating a consistent rhetorical tone throughout your work, consider bringing out the big jackhammer of character initiative, and smashing your novel’s rhetoric into tiny bits. Then see if the characters in your story are capable of forming a new rhetoric and social structure from the decimated rubble of your opening.

Here are two reasons to avoid rhetorical continuity in your writing:

One. Rhetorical continuity is bland, boring, and static.

Two. Readers are always searching for meaning. You can contribute towards meaning by demonstrating the potent creation of a new rhetorical norm from the shattered pieces of an old one.

Story beginning:

Michael lived in a quiet street at the end of the wrong side of town. Most of the prostitutes left him alone, but there was one creature, Christoff, who made a habit of lingering near Michael’s stoop. Michael had never been able to determine the original sex of Christoff, and he was not brave enough to ask the sometimes-man about his flamboyant costumes. Michael’s mother refused to visit his rented house, which formed his main motivation for keeping the place.

Rhetorically Continuous ending:

Michael missed seeing Christoff’s constantly changing attire every day as he approached his front door. It is too bad that the aliens took Christoff, Michael thought, as he unlocked his front door. The house was quiet; Michael’s mother still refused to visit, though she claimed now that the aliens had left a funny smell around the whole block. Michael poured himself a glass of stiff orange juice, and sat down in his purple armchair with a contented sigh.

Rhetorically Disruptive ending:

“Man, I told you not to come back here!” Christoff’s eyes widened, as the heavy velvet skirt slushed against the wooden porch.

“It’s my house, Christoff.” Michael drew his glowing green key from his pocket, and unlocked the alien mechanism over the door.

“Dude, your mom will not leave me alone about my hair. I want you to move,” Christoff protested. Michael raised an arm, blocking Christoff from entering the house. “I’ll totally tell the overlords that you’re back,” Christoff mumbled, the thick mascara lowering passive-aggressively over the powdered cheeks.

“You know what I’ll do to you if you talk to the overlords again,” Michael warned. Christoff glared at him. “Just let my mom frost your tips. You might like it,” Michael said, pausing on the doorstep.

“I don’t want to be blonde,” Christoff muttered. Michael glimpsed the flush of a tender blush.

“Hey, she cares about you. I care about you, too. Now go home,” Michael said. He shut the door in Christoff’s face, and dropped his glowing key into his pocket. It’s good to be back, he thought, as he stepped into the generative resting pool of his new living room.

Beware of rhetorical continuity. Break the world of your story, and then rebuild stability from the pieces.