Tuesday, September 17, 2013


If you must. But no Budweiser!

(1) Don’t describe sex, eh, blow by blow. At the very very most, close the door and talk about the thumping against the headboard or something, but don’t even do that. I once heard a novelist (who had a lisp) read a scene: “He gasthp’t, she gasthp’t!” Enough said.

(2) Don’t say Budweiser ever in a story, especially if the “hero” is drinking it. For that matter, don’t say tall boys, long necks, dead soldiers, Coors or Miller. If you want to say Tuborg Gold—okay, okay, okay, Tuborg Gold.

(3) If you have to have a weeping character, don’t say “the tears rolled down his cheek”. For god’s sakes, man, quantum physics dictates that, in one out of every 100 crying jags, the tears will roll up the cheek. Especially if the dude is bawling upside down.

(4) There’s something in mainstream American fiction about “quiet” stories with vases of flowers on a dinner table. Really? I hereby outlaw flowers, vases, and tables.

(5) Avoid overuse of the verb “to be”. Was this, were that, be this, is that, been who, are what? The sentences start to was, was, was, was, were.

(6) If you’re going to write-in Irish characters, please don’t have them say “fook” or “feck” half the time. I doubt Irish people in general say “fook” or “feck” half the time, but even if they do, it doesn’t automatically make for good fiction.

(7) If something bad happens, say, an assassin hopping out of the curtains, don’t instruct a character to say “Nooooo!” in response. Any of the following—“Huh” or “You don’t say” or “I’ve waited for this all my life”—would be more surprising.

(8) I’m all for odd character names but let’s not get too crazy, okay? A woman named Bubonia or Boeing may be accurate on some level, but will the reader be able to maintain appropriate decorum in the face of such a nom de guerre?

(9) If you don’t have a first sentence that establishes a situation, conflict, or problem, then you don’t have a good first sentence. “Obvi!” 

(10) Okay, so if your story describes two characters having sex in a room filled with Budweiser empties while one character is crying with his tears going up his cheek while a vase of flowers marinates on a table-top—was it? were it?—and the other character said “fook me!”, just before an assassin named Boeing jumps out of the curtains, forcing the other character to say “Nooooo!”, all of this in the very first sentence, then yes, okay, that might make for a good story. Congrats.


tpw said...

I love this piece. It's a poem, but you probably knew that, you fooking c-word.


I thank you for all your kind c-words. No, I had a lot of fun with it, and I'm going to take a fecking rest. ----BA