How To Write Fiction That Will Knock Your Socks Off

For years, I’ve dreamed of writing a classic novel. I wanted to be mentioned in the same breath as Bradbury and Twain and that guy who wrote all of the DaVinci Code books. There was just one thing holding me back.

I can’t write fiction.

In the early 1900’s this would mean you had no hope of writing a classic novel. Fortunately for me, John C. Internet was born and would one day craft the invention that would be his namesake.

The internet has millions upon millions of tips from writers. Very few are from successful writers, but a great deal are from writers who think they are successful. Some are even from unsuccessful writers who are living in a deep pool of their own self-loathing. Their advice usually isn’t the best.

I want to be able to introduce myself as New York Times Bestselling Author Nathan Badley whenever I meet people. With this driving my creative efforts, I looked towards this internet advice to turn me into the next J.D. Salinger, but less crazy and reclusive.

First, the internet said that you should never open a story with a description of weather. People don’t like to talk or hear about weather. They don’t like weather reports or the weather channel. Most people even have mixed feelings on the word ‘whether’ just because it is a homophone of ‘weather.’

Knowing this, I found a much better way to start my story.

When Carl awoke, he had no idea what the weather was because his shades were closed.

Perfect! That definitely does not describe the weather.

The next tip was yet another brilliant one. According to this writer, one should never use a word besides said. That means that no one should ever exclaim, shout, holler, bellow, cry, moan, decree, grumble, gasp, etc. To take it one step further, one should never describe how they said anything.

This seemed easy enough, so I was ready to continue.

When Carl awoke, he had no idea what the weather was because his shades were closed.

“Oh no!!!! I don’t know what the weather is like outside!!!! What if the world is ending and I was just in here sleeping?! Oh, woe is ME!!!!” Carl said.

I thought I had done a great job, but the next tip I saw said to use fewer exclamation marks. Since my last paragraph had used 13, I had more work to do.

When Carl awoke, he had no idea what the weather was because his shades were closed.

“Oh no? I don’t know what the weather is like outside? What if the world is ending and I was just in here sleeping? Oh, woe is ME?” Carl said.

When I began writing, I had pictured Carl as a grizzled man in his early thirties. His face was hardened from his years working as rodeo clown and his curly red hair framed his very pale face. This seemed like a very important context for the character of Carl. What if someone thought he was a baby-faced stock broker? That isn’t right and would make Carl’s saga just plain stupid.

Unfortunately, describing the important aspects of Carl wouldn’t be easy. Apparently, people don’t like long character descriptions. That rule seems to go for any character, even very important ones like Carl. With that in mind, I crafted the perfect description.

His face showed his years working as a rodeo clown and he kind of looked like that McDonald’s mascot, Ronald McDonald, but more grizzled and less happy mealy.

Of course, I also learned that the location really wasn’t that important:

Carl looked around the room he was in. It had stuff in it. That stuff was everywhere.

The last tip on the page said to skip the part of the story that the reader would skip. I understood this completely. There are a lot of stories that I skip giant sections of while reading.  I read through my beginning paragraphs to see if I had gotten to that point yet:

When Carl awoke, he had no idea what the weather was because his shades were closed.

“Oh no? I don’t know what the weather is like outside? What if the world is ending and I was just in here sleeping? Oh, woe is ME?” Carl said. His face showed his years working as a rodeo clown and he kind of looked like that McDonald’s mascot, Ronald McDonald, but more grizzled and less happy mealy.

He looked around the room he was in. It had stuff in it. That stuff was everywhere.

As it turned out, every word I had written would be skipped over. That’s not really ideal for a book, let alone a classic work of fiction.

I looked everywhere, but I couldn’t find any advice on what to do if you follow advice and your story idea falls to pieces. I tried rewriting it, but Carl became more Ronald McDonald-like, so I gave up and watched TV. It was ‘The Wonder Years.’ It was pretty good.

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23 thoughts on “How To Write Fiction That Will Knock Your Socks Off

  1. Ok, Ok, I’ve got an idea for you, it’s a little unconventional but it works: What if Carl is actually a valley girl midget that got into the rodeo clown business because she fell in love with a bull?

    You wold sell at least one copy of that novel.

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  2. I agree with huffygirl, you are funny! And, let’s face it, a lot of people with humor blogs suck out loud! Well Done! – check mine out if you feel like slumming – Ilovemyopinion.com

    Like

  3. You could try a novel-by-comment… where each commenter is responsible for the next line. Then you’d be more of an editor than an author, though. Anyway, I heard the other day about a book an apparently popular author wrote, called “This Year You Write Your Novel.” I don’t know if it’s bossy or psychic or what, but apparently it’s a guide of some kind.

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    • Crazy enough, I actually thought about doing the novel-by comment thing last year. At the time, though, I had about 3 people who read my posts. That would have been more of a writing a book jack blurb-by-comment.

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  4. Maybe you should write a book about the difficulty of writing a book. One of my most viewed posts was “Why Writers Don’t Write”.

    But that one is fake copyrighted, so you’ll have to find your own name…on second thought you could pay me royalties, you’d have plenty of money since you’d be famous and all.

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  5. Haha. I laughed approximately four times out loud. I say “approximately four times out loud” because it was actually five times and only one of tem was out loud (the other four were internal laughs but just as full of mirth).

    Was it the one where Kevin’s dad was all surly? Or the one where Paul acted dorky? Or when Winnie was walking around like her shit didn’t stink? Those are my three favs.

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    • It was the one where Kevin doesn’t understand Wayne but at the end he realizes that they’ll always be brothers and that’s a bond that can’t be broken.

      …Actually, I’ll be honest. I didn’t watch the Wonder Years. I was at work, so that would get me in trouble.

      See? I can write fiction.

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  6. I would buy the valley girl midget rodeo clown in love with a bull book. Whether (weather) she had curly red hair or not. Perhaps she’s working for the USDA undercover, and the curly red hair is part of her disguise. Hmmmm, I can see this taking off!

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  7. Sorry to add pins pricks to your artistic bubble, but I understand you’re also not allowed to open with your character waking up, weather or no weather. Sooorrry, time for a rewrite. Enjoy the process, T

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  8. Pingback: I am an accomplished writer now – I think « island monkeys

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