Hello and well met, gentle readers. Welcome to my writing blog. Things are still under construction around here, which means they aren’t looking as pretty as they eventually will. But that’s no reason for me not to provide you with gripping content, eh?
I assume that my readers are, by and large, aspiring writers. Therefore, it seemed appropriate to begin my blog with a list of some of the most common advice doled out to novice writers, with examples of how to work it into a piece. Do get comfortable and keep your hands inside the car as we embark on this Wacky Writing Wadventure.
1. Good writers write what they know
This rudimentary piece of advice has always fascinated me. Who could have guessed that Tolkien knew so many dwarves, or that Asimov hung out with so many robots? I like writing genre fiction, but as I have no personal experience with dragons, galactic empires, or mystic prophecies, I guess that’s off the table. Here are the things I know about:
-Disney channel original movies, 1996-2004
-The Bush administration
-The merits of stadium seating
Of these, meth-heads seem most likely to yield an interesting story. Also, I know the most about them, because I live in suburban Detroit. Let’s give this meth-head story the old college try.
Of Mice and Meth-heads
Mere minutes before the bus arrived, a crackhead stumbled into the shelter and sat next to me. His clothes were ragged and his affect was in tatters. I couldn’t help but stare. When he peered back at me, I hastened to avert my gaze.
Shit, I thought. He’s seen me looking. There’s no escape now.
2. Be meaningful/unexpected
The writer David Hale once advised: “Write only when you have something to say.” Don’t even think about writing for fun or keeping a diary to work through your issues. Proper writing has to be dripping with meaningful personal and/or sociopolitical commentary.
Additionally, you should be unexpected. Shock the reader. If your reader doesn’t have to take a handful of nitroglycerin pills halfway through the story, you haven’t done your job.
With those two rules in mind, I continue my story thus:
Drawing himself up, he addressed me. “Madam,” he said. “I was not always as you see me now. Once, I was a promising medical student with an eye to the horizon. My fall from grace was emblematic of certain social ills which, I think you’ll agree, are both important and ripe for discourse.”
Shit, I thought again. This is very unexpected.
To ease my awkwardness, I glanced down at my smart phone.
“Ours is an impersonal age,” the crackhead announced at once. “Though technology affords us the illusion of unprecedented interconnection, it has, in fact, separated us from one another. We are bereft of each other, just as sinners are bereft of God as they burn in the seven levels of Hell as described in the works of Dante Alighieri.”
The reason this works is that you would never expect a meth-head to be intelligent, much less to possess a working knowledge of Dante’s The Divine Comedy. By subverting your expectations, I’ve put you on the back foot!
3. Consider your audience
The demographic makeup of your audience can vastly alter how your story is received. You need to keep that in mind. For example, when I write for children, I always include a scene of the protagonist playing Minecraft or trying to learn how to use a toilet.
In this case, the audience is comprised of the members of my writers’ group. Most of them are in their thirties. Therefore, I need to include the sort of things thirty-somethings like—in this case, the TV show Modern Family.
“We have more in common than I thought,” I told the meth-head, blinking in astonishment. “Do you by any chance watch the TV show Modern Family?”
4. Surprise your audience again
At this point, your audience should be saying,“I’ve got your number, Little Miss Writer Pants. You surprised me with that whole ‘intelligent bum’ thing, but it won’t happen again. I’ve got a firm grasp on this story, and I’m not letting go.”
You know what that means: it’s time to pull the rug out from under them again.
Just then, I felt a sharp pain in my stomach. The meth-head had taken advantage of my momentary distraction to slip a knife between my ribs. As I pitched forward, he snatched the smart phone from my hand and took off running.
5. Don’t swear
I have attended at least two writers’ conferences—possibly more—and have heard the following advice from at least one literary agent: don’t use dirty words. Nothing turns a reader off like an errant “fuck” or a misplaced “shit.” The English language is full of interesting interjections that can be substituted for curses.
“Holy damn mother-frenching son of a buck,” I groaned, curling into the fetal position. “Come back here with my phone, you Little Brown Bustard.”
6. End it with a bang
Your final sentence should leave an indelible impression of the piece. Make it as original as you can. For example, I just made this up:
But the meth-head had already disappeared, like tears in rain.
I hope you have found these tips useful. Follow them all religiously, and you are sure to prosper in your future literary endeavors!