TASTE

Eight Simple Rules

Kurt Vonnegut once wrote down a list of guidelines he personally abided by when writing short stories. I’m trying to keep them in mind with the NaNoWriMo yarn, even though the finished product will presumably be a novel rather than a short story. Brevity is a particular quality in fiction-writing I’m striving to improve upon.

  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

The Bullhorn of SILVER BROWN

Now Playing: Chapters Eleven & Twelve

Chapters Eleven and Twelve of SILVER BROWN are presently being cast into the Twitterverse for the reading pleasure of the good people of Planet Earth. My normal shtick is to tweet these chapters at a rate of one page a day, but I think this time around I’ll do something a little bit different and only do that for Chapter Eleven. Twelve is an offshoot of Eleven, a by-product of the many countless rewrites Eleven underwent. It consists of only two pages, and reads more like an epilogue to Eleven than a chapter in its own right. So I might just tweet Twelve in its entirety in one fell swoop as a grand finale.

These are the first chapters in the book that are narrated by any character other than Florys MacNab. Both are written from the point of view of the story’s villains. To accentuate that point, the narrative styles of each of these chapters are a pronounced departure from Florys’ characteristic vernacular. Chapter Eleven is written in epistolary form, while Twelve has more of a stream-of-consciousness vibe to it. David Wong (a.k.a. Jason Pargin, the former editor of Cracked.com) used this technique to great effect in his comic horror masterpiece John Dies at the End, which featured nefarious entities from other dimensions that were introduced to the audience through excerpts from (fictional) textbooks. Some variant of that technique was bound to find its way into my own yarn.

Machinations of the SAAZMOL organization that were only casually alluded to in the earlier chapters are portrayed in all their eldritch unglory at this point in the story. There’s a remote chance these chapters might be high-octane nightmare fuel for some people, but I would opine they’re way less frightening than the current zeitgeist. Compared to the news headlines of any given day in 2020, these chapters are about as scary as the scariest episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.


tenor (13)
Writing these chapters felt like this for me. Or at least a version of this without the unfortunate transphobia. I’ll just leave it at that.