Wednesday, July 06, 2011

How To Write A Real Bad Novel

by L.S.S

I have utmost respect for anyone who can finish a novel. I have been working on one for 10 years with no end in sight. So, first of all, hello out there in cyber world to you who have published novels; I tip my hat to you. 

This is post is satire (all previous notes on satire apply here). The goal is to assist novel writers in spotting errant trends in their work. The goal is to also help me finish my own first novel. One other note on the satire in this post: I grew up in the country, and I have always wanted to play the banjo. So, what follows is not disrespect to country life, or banjo players. Hello out there in cyber world to all the banjo players. Yours is a lost art.

Without further ado, here's how to write a real bad novel.

1. Write about something that is totally foreign to you.

I know, the greats all say, “Write what you know.” Well, that's a surer path to a good novel. We're working toward something horrendously bad.

So, if you are not musical and grew up in the inner city, write about the adventures of a farm boy named Jess as he wrestles with leaving his hometown, and becoming a professional country and western singer.

If you grew up in the suburbs of Topeka, write a novel about Frankie, a member of the gang Latin Kings, who finally escapes the life of an L.A. gangbanger by finding his identity in Krumping.

If you have never been on a college campus, write a novel about Sophie, a disoriented freshman whose world crashes down when she doesn’t make it into a serority, fails her first exam, and changes majors, all in her first week at City U.

Keep the characters of Jess, Frankie, and Sophie in mind. We'll be referring to them hereafter.

2. Use dialect, especially if you have no idea how your characters would really speak.

I know. I know. The master, William B. Strunk says, “Do not use dialect unless your ear is good. Do not attempt to use dialect unless you are a devoted student of the tongue you hope to reproduce.” But what does he know about writing a bad novel? 

You don’t need to know how certain dialects actually sound. The important thing is to reproduce them as you guess they might sound.

So, in the first chapter of your novel about Jess, he says something like this, “Aw, shucks, pa, I bean a wantin to pic a banjer all’s my ‘ife. I’ma fed up wit feedin dem cows, and shuk’n that thar carn. I’ma gone play dat dar banjer weather you likes s’it tor not.”

3. Use absurd similes in an attempt to sound ‘literary.’

For the purpose of bad novel writing, the more the simile bears no real similitude, the better. The more grotesque and absurd the simile sounds, the better. The point is not to give your reader valuable info on how one thing is like another; the point is to compare two things which are nothing alike, as if they were, indeed, alike.

Don’t say, “Jess took the stage. He looked out at the audience. He was trembling with fear.”

Say, “Jess took the stage. He looked out at the audience. He was trembling with fear like a small boy at the carnival, who rounds the cotton candy stand, only to be confronted by a clown, without make up, smoking a cigar, and yelling obscenities in Portugese.”

Don’t say, “Frankie heard a loud snap, and he knew his leg was broken.”

Say, “Frankie heard a loud snap that sounded like rice crispies sitting in a bowl of fresh milk on a silent Sunday morning when the only sound a man can hear is ‘snap, crackle, and pop.’"

Don’t say, “When Sophie saw her grade, tears came to her eyes. She tried, in vain, not to cry.”

Say, “When Sophie saw her grade, tears came to her eyes, like the saliva rushes to the parched tongue of the rodeo cowboy after he has inserted a huge wad of RedMan chewing tobacco.”

5. Be contemporary.

Be contemporary so you can be super duper relevant. You don’t want to speak to every reader, or every generation. You want to speak to this generation. You want to capture the mood at exactly this second; not one second ago, and not one second in the future. This second, I say! At exactly this second Mumford and Sons are popular -- that was a second ago. You need to find the one person who has found the newest band, and speak to that person. Hurry. As you read this, 10 seconds passed by.

6. Employ cliches like they are going out of style (cause they are, already, out of style).

It is what it is. Cliches are what they are. Use them, or lose them. 

7. Provide a stream of psychological footnotes.

ex. Jess was exhausted. The exhaustion called back a memory from when he was a small boy. Every day his father would stumble in after a long day at the factory. Jess was always glad to see him. Or was he? He thought he was back then, when he was a little kid. But now, as a man, he wasn't so sure he could trust his 'little kid mind.' What was he really glad to see when his father walked in that door? Was it comfort he was seeking? Was it the idea of protection? Or, was it some grand myth of fatherhood that had somehow infiltrated his little kid mind? Now, as a man, Jess didn't know what his little kid self was thinking. Why had he been so glad to see this man? This man he called "father?" What is a "father" anyway? What did Freud have to say about "fathers?" Nevermind. Anyway, a more troubling thought came to Jess: it wasn't only his little kid mind that was prone to deception. His full grown man mind was also susceptible. Also, how could his grown man mind converse with his little kid mind? How could they ever come in contact after all these years. Then, Jess cried.

8. Include mind-numbing and inane details.

Nothing will exhaust your reader like a never-ending detailed description of Sophie’s hair blowing in the wind.

Don’t say, “The wind gently lifted Sophie’s golden hair from her shoulders.”

Try something like this.

“The wind blew feverishly like an answer in a Bob Dylan song. Sophie’s hair was blowing in said wind, but the wind didn't seem to care; it rushed on ferverishly, tornadic in its fervor. The wind blew, warm and fast as if the world were a giant hair dryer, aimed right at Sophie who possessed a long mane of lush locks, like a horse’s mane, as if somehow the horse’s mane had been cut off, and glued to her head. Her hair was golden, light brownish-blonde, but very dark, with a hint of amber, and shades of what can only be called lavender. Her hair was long, approximately 4ft. 2 inches: so long you could use it for rope if you were ever trapped in a deep pit. As as the wind blew, her hair cascaded down her back like a squirrel running down an oak tree. In places, her fair hair was curly, and wild, as if each strand were a snake, as if Sophie was Medusa. Still, she wasn’t Medussa. She wasn’t evil like Medussa. Her hair, though, was snake-like in its curly madness, except for the stray hair which was, mysteriously, straight. She had, in her head of curly hair, 19 straight hairs. Now, with the wind was rushing past, her hair was free; free from all the anxieties and cares of college life, as if Sophie’s hair had dropped out of college and took a job waiting tables at the local diner. It was so free it seemed to dance, as if tiny unseen elves were located on her scalp, picking her hair up, and twirling it around.”

9. Invent an illegitimate genre.

Don’t write a novel... write a politico-science-fiction-country-and-western-psychological-thriller novel:

Let’s say you are a liberal. Well, as you are writing your novel about Jess, the farm boy, you come across a serious problem. Jess is probably a conservative republican. Yikes. There is only one thing to do. Jess must become a convinced liberal activist. So, as he is traveling around Alabama, playing in Saloons, he meets up with Eddie. Eddie used to be a conservative, but now he works for Al Gore as a speech writer. Blah. Blah. Blah. Jess sees the light, travels back to Iowa, and becomes the first liberal mayor in the history of his conservative small town. Then, he is abducted by aliens, and taken to the planet Regidon. He barely escapes death by lulling the aliens to sleep with a country and western tune. Blah. Blah. Blah. He becomes the first liberal prime minister of the planet Regidon.

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