What I learned this week – July 29, 2011

Pulp Cover

Gratuitous Pulp Paperback Cover



Kurt Vonnegut

Eight rules for writing fiction:

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. Now 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.

— Vonnegut, Kurt, Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons 1999), 9-10.


But I’m not complaining! You know why? Because the cardinal rule of dealing with negativity is: Don’t complain about negativity.

—Nathan Bradford, How to Deal With Negativity


It’s a shame my children are grown, because now, I finally have an instructional video on how to properly read them a fairy tale. Actually, if they had had the Internet when my kids were little (we had dialup…) I could have simply played this to them. Mounted an iPad on their crib (oops… no Flash… – mounted an Android Tablet on their crib) and let them watch to their heart’s desire.

Pretty good, huh. Still, though, I think it needs more cowbell.


Pulp Cover

Gratuitous Pulp Paperback Cover

Japan Breeding Army of Godzillas!

All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling.
—-Oscar Wilde
Strip for Violence

Gratuitous Pulp Paperback Cover - this has nothing to do with the rest of the entry.

One of my favorite writing techniques is what I call “Bad Poetry.”
It is what it sounds like. Write some bad poetry – and then see if you can use it as a basis for prose. Most of the time, you can’t. But every now and then it works.
It works because of the fact that it forces you to abandon your inner editor in the initial creative, first draft part of the process. After all, you are writing bad poetry… the badder the better.
It works for me in particular because bad poetry is the only kind of poetry I write.
Another, related source of inspiration is a collection of stupid tabloid headlines. Examples of a few from this web site:
  • DRUNKS FALL OFF ROOF AFTER BARTENDER DECLARES DRINKS ARE ON THE HOUSE!
  • FIRED ARCHITECT BURNS HIS BRIDGES
  • THE WAY TO A MAN’S HEART IS NOT THROUGH HIS STOMACH! SURGEON’S LICENSE REVOKED
  • Cat found with hoard of over 200 TONGUES! (What’s the matter? Cat got your …)
  • MAN POSES AS CPR DUMMY FOR WOMEN’S TRAINING CLASS
  • CAVE PAINTINGS REVEAL EXISTENCE OF PREHISTORIC INSURANCE SALESMAN!
  • EXORCISM CURES MONSTROUS ZIT!
  • GENEROUS KIDS SHIP THEIR UNEATEN PEAS TO STARVING CHILDREN IN APPALACHIA
  • I WAS ATTACKED BY MONGOLIAN DEATHWORM!
  • MAN CAN SEE ONE SECOND INTO FUTURE
  • HONESTY FALLS TO THIRD AS ‘BEST POLICY’
  • STUDY FINDS MOST STUDIES ARE STUPID
It's Only a Rabbit

Look, that rabbit's got a vicious streak a mile wide! It's a killer!

COWARDLY MATADOR ONLY FIGHTS RABBITS

  • GUY DIALS PHONE # ON TOILET WALL — & FINDS HIS MISSING MOM!
  • PIZZA WAS SERVED AT THE LAST SUPPER . . . and the pies were delivered
  • SPANISH ARMADA WAS SUNK BY UFOs
  • BLUES SINGER SUES SHRINK FOR MAKING HIM FEEL BETTER
  • AREA 51 IS REALLY STRIP CLUB FOR BIGWIGS
  • THE MOON IS HATCHING . . . and whatever’s coming out has big teeth, NASA says!
  • Couple sells everything to clone their dying cat
  • Hole in ozone layer is sucking world’s penguins into space, say scientists!
  • TERROR TOADS INVADING AMERICA’S TOILETS!
  • CONCRETE ENEMAS A BAD IDEA, DOCS WARN
  • GOTCHA! JEWELER INVENTS WEDDING RING THAT CHANGES COLOR IF YOU CHEAT!
  • MAN FALLS OFF ROOF – MOUNTING LUCKY HORSESHOES
  • WOMAN, 79, DIES IN MEATLOAF EXPLOSION!
  • HAGGIS HORROR!
  • ATTACKS BY GIANT SQUIDS SKYROCKET
  • HAITI SELLING OF ZOMBIES BUY ONE GET ONE FREE!
  • 7 CONGRESSMAN ARE ZOMBIES! (that can’t be right… only Seven?)
  • BELGIUM DESTROYED BY ROGUE ASTEROID & NO ONE NOTICES!
  • PEOPLE BLINDED BY ECLIPSE CAN SEE THE FUTURE!
  • JUST SAY NO TO AARDVARK MEAT
  • ALIEN SITCOMS ARE WORSE THAN OURS!
  • GIANT SPACE SPIDERS WILL SAVE THE EARTH! Webs can deflect killer asteroids, says NASA
  • My daughter is pregnant by her invisible friend!
  • HOUSEWIFE EXPERIENCES HALF-RAPTURE . . . & gets stuck in the dining room ceiling!
  • MULTIPLE PERSONALITY MAN CHARGED TRIPLE ROOM RATE!
  • RESEARCHER CALCULATES A SNOWBALL’S CHANCE IN HELL TO BE .000000000134%
  • MICROSCOPIC SPACE ALIENS INFESTING CARPETS
  • UFO ALIENS ABDUCTED MY CAT! Now frisky Felix is home safe — and has a gift of ESP, says amazed owner
  • WIFE USED HUBBY’S TOOTHBRUSH – TO CLEAN THE COMMODE!
I learned this technique at a poetry writing seminar years ago. We all pulled  little slips of paper with these headlines written on them from a box the teacher passed around.
My paper said, “Japan Breeding Army of Godzillas!” We were given twenty minues to write something. I wrote:

34. JAPAN BREEDING ARMY OF GODZILLAS!

The water boils
off the coast
as the men in Rubber
lizard suits
wash ashore and creep
up the slopes of Mount Fuji

They eat tender bamboo and strings
of seaweed
and their ragged
backbones glow with special
blue electricity

At sunset they dance
to ominous trumpet music
stomping in unison
and sing their monster song

And then they sleep
their giant growling snores
echo back across the ocean
like cinema earthquakes