Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Franzen: Let Me Teach You How to Write Good
A lots of people ask me if I have any rules for writing, and over the months since I've been a dedicated novelist I've boiled the whole thing down to five simple principles.
1. If you run out of stuff to say, you can always have your main character or someone think about stuff. In my last e-novel, for instance, my main character Chet Barkesdale, Private Eye, spends twenty pages just thinking about what to do with all that lint that comes out of a dryer. And I tell you, it's fascinating! And when he stops thinking about that, he thinks for another ten pages thinking about the fact he's got nothing to think about. I could write stuff like that for weeks!
2. Write what you know. This is very important. For example, I try to base all of my characters off of me in some way. Like, you take Bart Chetsdale, Wild West Sheriff. He's exactly like me if I was a sheriff in the wild west and had been trained in secret Indian ways by Bear Breaks Wind, a full-blooded Pawnee medicine man and then taught to sling two six-shooters by "Bad Bob" Bobby Bad, the ornieriest six-shooter slinger ever to sling two six-shooters. And a lot of Bart's thoughts are just the sort of thing I think about all the time. Like dryer lint. Did you know it can be used for fuel? I held a match to some of that stuff, and it went off like, WHOOM! Singed off my eyebrows.
3. Always have a surprise ending. Nothing worse than a dull, predictable ending, which is why you got to be sure to do something different. For example, in my e-sci-fi thriller, after twenty pages thinking about stuff, Clarke Dalebeck, Starfleet Captain, foils the evil Nimrodians by throwing a flaming lint ball in their faces and burning off their eyebrows! No one saw that coming, boy!
4. Use plenty of exclamation marks! I don't know why more people don't do this!! You take an ordinary hum-drum sentence like: "Look at all that lint." You can make it a real hum-dinger by throwing some exclamation marks on it. "Look at all that lint!!!!" CAPITALIZING EVERYTHING WORKS, TOO!!!
5. If you completely run out of ideas for story, take something someone's already written and do a word search, replacing out all the names of stuff with whatever you want. I've already written several e-masterpieces this way: "The Lint of Mount Kilamanjaro," "Moby Lint," and "Checksbeck of the D'Urberlint."