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Writer’s Glut

A little BWA pro-tip: When I get like this, I shoot myself in the face with a gun. That usually gets the ideas out.

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Don’t read this. Write instead.

[Censored: I replaced all profanity with references to “Deepthroat” by CupcakKe.]

Why are you reading this? What the Deepthroat by CupcakKe is wrong with you? WRITE SOMETHING. ANYTHING. Get your Deepthroat by CupcakKe off the internet and onto Microsoft Word, or better, a yellow legal pad. Come put it down. Why are you still reading this Deepthroat by CupcakKe? What do you think is going to happen? You’re not going to magically become some kind of Deepthroating writer by reading CupcakKe advice columns. GO CAKING WRITE, you stupid cup. Get the lick, lick, lick, lick out of here. Why are you staring at me with your mouth wide open like I was a dentist? GO.

Okay, now you done cupcakKed. You done cupcakKed now. You cupcakKed up. You must be some kind of dumb mother-deepthroater. You must have an IQ of 1.3. One point to know how to read, and .3 to be smart enough to do it with your eyes open. You probably can’t even speak a sentence.

Okay, so what I’m going to do, is end this article early so you can go write. And you better do it. Don’t you dare read the rest of this stupid updates-once-a-year website. Throw your phone into oncoming traffic. Toss your computer monitor into the county morgue. Get away from people. Take off your clothes. Arch your back. And keep only one thing – this poetic advice on writing by one of the world’s most profound writers:

“Don’t need a pen or a pencil

All I need is my body

… My fingers in it, gentle.”

Bad Writing Advice IX, “4 Ways to End a Chapter that Will Make Readers Squeal Like Stuck Pigs”

Rick Riordan once asked me how to end a book chapter properly. Actually Rick asks me how to do a lot of things, such as how to start a story “en media res,” how to craft a great anti-hero, and how to microwave popcorn (not the brightest, that one).

Usually I tell Rick to go fuck himself, but lately I’ve been desperate for attention, so I’ll go ahead and answer his inquiries for your benefit.

Today we explore the methods for properly concluding any and every section of a book. I’ve read some terrible chapters in my time, not all of them by my fiancée (sorry, bae, but having a back tattoo and unrelenting sadness does not instantly make you “an auteur”) and lately I’ve begun to unravel a surprisingly banal pattern: tons of books conclude their chapters with arbitrary or ambiguous details in some kind of gambit to appear creative. But I would retaliate that this decision isn’t mysterious, isn’t meaningful, doesn’t instantly elevate, and instead hampers what could be responsible and precise communication.

To give you an idea of what I mean, let me refer you to the last paragraph of a chapter from Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood:

I ate a light lunch in Shinjuku and went to a telephone booth to call Midori Kobayashi on the off chance that she might be home alone waiting for a call again today. I let it ring fifteen times but no one answered. I tried again twenty minutes later with the same result. Then I took a bus back to the dorm. A special delivery letter was waiting for me in the mailbox by the entry. It was from Naoko.

The writing is inadequate and boring. It’s the equivalent of asking a friend how their day went and getting “well, I woke up, then I turned off my alarm, then I brushed my teeth, then…” In fact the passage is not even clear about what’s going on. Just who is Midori Kobayashi? Who is Naoko? What’s so special about a letter? I’d have to read the rest of the book to find out. Finally, it’s mundane, old-fashioned. Who uses telephone booths? Who writes letters? I thought Japan was the forefront of innovation.

So let’s write better, shall we? After all, writing is fairly easy, especially if you just plagiarize Harry Potter and mix in the Greek pantheon. The hard part is writing well, as anyone who is Rick Riordan can tell you. That’s why I’ve compiled four methods for ending a chapter in a way that will leave readers drooling, but not in a help me I’m turning into a shirtless werewolf kinda way.

The Promise

One way to finish a chapter is with a promise. Basically, you (the author) promise that good stuff is on the way if the reader keeps reading. The best way to do this is to leave a note, maybe a post-script or if you have the budget an actual post-it note, along the lines of “it’s going to get better, I swear, please, just keep reading. Please. I have a [insert opiate enema of choice] addiction to maintain.”

Especially potent is the inclusion of a cute animal, preferably one at peak cute face.

riley face
Please keep reading.

The great thing about the promise is that there’s no obligation to fulfill it. If the reader chooses to finish the book, then it’s too late anyway – money’s in the bank, boiii! If they’re frustrated at your deception, well, they shouldn’t have been so flipping gullible. Next time, don’t finish a book that includes desperate pleas from the author to finish that book.

The Shocker

The second way to finish a chapter is by including something shocking, after which it’s probably a good idea to write “Shocking!” or have someone shout, “Why, that’s positively unprecedented!” I’m not sure what to do specifically to create surprise, but if your reader is shouting “Oh what the fuck, what the, seriously, what the fuck. Oh shit. Shit shit shit shit, oh fuuuuuuuuuuuuck” then you’re doing it right.

So shock the shittake out of your reader. Kill the main character, and the main character’s daughter. Kill everyone in your story. I don’t know. A virus, or something. Start over. A race of sentient animals. Bear people. They walk on two legs and wear biker gloves. One of them discovers a human baby in the woods and he has this dilemma. Should I inform the kin and risk them mauling the baby to death, or leave it to the elements? Shock again – the bear shoots the baby in the face. Then somebody shoots the bear. The Bears have found guns in the armories. Revolution. The world keeps turning.

Another shocking thing you can do is toss in a formative assessment. Ask the reader if you’re doing okay, then create an interactive environment by leaving a few lines for them to respond. Here are a few suggestions:

Hey bub, how’s the story? Everything all right so far?

Is the plot too good or too sappy? What about those pesky characters? Peaking your interest?

Finally, to really make them jump out of their seat, include a graphic image.

yepPut the above photo in your book. Go on. Don’t think about it, just do it. I dare you. Because nothing would be more shocking than to be reading about a child’s first experiences with systematic and societal racism in the Deep South as she watches her articulate father fail to defend an innocent black man before a biased jury, only to turn the page to a photo of a snake eating a deer, under which is a caption from the author that reads “Oh, I got you, you silly fuck.”

The Question

Ending on a question is another way to motivate a reader to stay in the general vicinity of your writing. Just make sure you don’t provide the answer immediately following the question; instead, and here’s the trick, don’t answer it at all. That’ll drive readers crazy and keep them engaged. Questions should be less vague then “what the?” but not as specific as “how many nose hairs does this whore have?” If you ask a question about what a character will do, such as “would she ever find love?” craft intrigue through a vague rejoinder such as “maybe” followed by “or maybe not.”

IMG_3285
Will Puppy ever go on a walk? These are the important questions.

Questions are also a great placeholder while you’re trying to think of what’s going to happen next. And if you’re really stumped, you can use these questions as a writing prompt to which you’ll write the following chapters.

A famous example of the question would be from Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None in which she wrote the word “whodunit?” over and over again for twenty pages. Then there’s the breathtaking first chapter of Stephen King’s The Stand, when in a moment of intense violence and deliberation, the author suddenly breaks from the narrative to ask “how will our intrepid hero escape this one? Find out in the next chapter of Stephen King’s The Stand!”

Get a Celebrity Endorsement

Everyone has that one celebrity story. Maybe they met Brad Pitt on an elevator. Maybe they met Benedict Cumberbatch on another elevator. So why not give your reader that special celebrity anecdote through your writing? After all, you’re making it all up – why couldn’t a celebrity just show up at the end of your chapter?

kanye west bookNow, here’s the thing. Celebrities are trademarked or something, so you can’t just have Kayne West show up to fight demon umbrellas. If you want a celebrity but don’t want to get sued, then have that celebrity enter your story endorsing some philanthropic subject. What exactly they’re endorsing isn’t important; all that matters is that in real-life, if that celebrity objects to their literary cameo, then you can retort, “what, are you saying that you don’t care about starving orphans in Tibet?” or “so you want the government to chop down national rain forests? You monster.” Most likely if their appearance raises awareness and makes them look good, they won’t object.

Plus, it’s your world, so if you don’t like the celebrity, you can dump a bucket of slime on their head. Oh, that’ll get them. A big old bucket of slime. Oh I can see it now.

Don’t just use one of these methods – use them all! After all, most books have more than one chapter. If you use these methods, then you’re guaranteed a best seller (at least, a New York Times Bestseller, because every book is one of those). Don’t forget to promise, to shock, to question, to include a celebrity endorsement, and to not sleep with Joe Biden, and your writing will be puppy-approved.

puppy hate
Puppy does not approve of any of this advice.

Bad Writing Advice VIII, “De Profundis Among Us, or Writing About Yourself Because Why Not?”

Stories used to inform us about humanity. One might read about lions in Africa and it’d be about the human condition in some sick, twisted way. Today’s stories have become glorious spectacles with the implication of relevance but no true depth, like a cocktail that’s all umbrellas and no juice. That’s a good thing, because it’s much easier to purchase mini-umbrellas than to learn how to mix drinks properly.

So go ahead and write about smoking pot and how that guy you’re sleeping with probably doesn’t love you. Who cares if it’s just a series of sensations ordered to have the appearance of a narrative? Just call it post-modern. Call it stream-of-consciousness. Call it free verse. Call it personal narrative. If you have trouble writing extensively, call it anecdote.

Puppy calls it filthy, filthy smut.

Don’t worry about saying anything bigger than your beer gut. Write from your life and about your life. Start with the here and now. Write about this very moment. About how you’re reading a writing advice blog because you’re too scared to start writing yourself. About how you’re distracting yourself from the real work you need to get done, because you know that once that work is done, you’ll have to face your purposelessness on this planet. And if you’re depressed and closing this tab to explore happier realms, write about how you’re tumbling through imgur and reddit like they’re the endless tales of Sherazade. Write about how you’re probably going to die without accomplishing anything. And even if you were given the chance, a couple hundred years of healthy living, you probably still wouldn’t be a great writer.

Why is all of this important? Honesty is the first step in telling a good story. So go look at yourself in a mirror and be honest. Note the pimples, the moles, the awkward ears, the unexplained peeling. The acne snuggling beneath your skin like ocean polyps. Have you gained a few pounds? Is your hair receding? Are you ugly even when you look your best?

What you’re seeing are the concrete details of your existence; the facts that everyone sees. These are your descriptions, which you should take pride in even when they disgust others.

Puppy loves her toy despite teddy bear's addiction to synthetic marijuana.
Puppy loves teddy despite teddy’s scoliosis.

Once you learn to see the cracks in your face, you’ll be able to see the cracks in your own writing. Even a quick skim will make you want to throw up. In fact, you’ll know you’ve made it when you wake up late in the night, panting and sweating, and you begin tearing apart your latest short story. Your significant other will ask what’s wrong, and you’ll push him/her away, maybe head into the bathroom to look at yourself in the mirror. You’ll pound a fist into the grotesque mask that responds you in an attempt to free yourself of its burden.

Can you see death in that face? The leering skull, hidden by folds of fat and well mostly fat? The portent signs, the end of things, and with it the suddenness and inevitability of your last gasp on earth?

Good! You’re well on your way!

 

Dear BWA, I want to write great stories but I get intimidated by how many books are out there. There are so many. I’m scared.

Look, puny human, you’re not alone. I too want to get out a few literary quickies before I give up the ghost but am intimidated by the great minds that have come before. How can I write anything that compares to Milton’s Paradise Lost or Arthur Miller’s The Crucible? Or even those poor-grade writers who churn out an ebook every six months?

Unfortunately, by allowing other writers to intimidate me into awestruck paralysis, I’ve played right into the hands of the Literati – a conglomerate of scholars and publishers that want me to buy classic books, and consequentially books about classic books, without making any impact other than a light wallet.

In retaliation to phallogenic capitalism, we must ignore all literature that comes with a price tag or bar code. Ignore even the free pdf, lest you be tempted to err. Don’t give in to the exploitation of the ancient writer! Just look at how the Literati has commercialized the scratch work of a dyslexic pervert like James Joyce. Let’s honor his wishes and put Ulysses to rest from prying eyes.

Read in the now. Write in the now. Don’t let claims of criterion or canon lead you astray, and you might even churn out the next 50 Shades of Grey.*

*Naturally, if you follow my advice you won’t know what a 50 Shades of Grey is, but that’s for the best.