Sunday, May 21, 2017

374. Writing

“What in the world are you doing?”

C.W. looked up at me. He had been hunched over my laptop computer typing furiously. I would describe his shape closer to John Steinbeck, the author, than anyone. A lit cigarette dangled from his mouth. “What?”

“You’d better put that thing out before my wife gets home,” I said.

“Nuts,” he said. He took a long drag, walked to door, and flipped the butt away. He returned and sat at the laptop again, seeming to forget I was there. He typed for a moment, then appeared to notice my presence. He looked at me. “Don’t you have something to do?”

“I hope that if I do, I won’t need my computer for it.”

“Use Mrs. Big Dope’s,” said. “She’s not here.”

“I don’t share your death wish. Just what, exactly, are you doing?”

“Updating Elmore Leonard’s rules of good writing. It’s time someone did.”

“Oh,” I said, “such as his advice to ‘leave out the part that readers tend to skip?’”

“Yeah,” he said. “But I have one better.”


He turned to the laptop screen, “If you feel compelled to write a lengthy flashback, stab yourself in the foot with an icepick instead.”

“That’s a bit harsh, isn’t it?”

“Never shirk from suffering for your art,” he said, “That’s another one.”


He read again, “Before attempting to describe a sex scene, digest a good laxative. Both your body and your readers will thank you.”

“You can’t be serious.”

“Here’s another. Don’t dignify a child character with insight, logic, or meaningful dialogue.” Before I could respond, he continued. “Unless you are certain that you are William Faulkner reborn in a new skin, and ready to take up where he left off, don’t ever include a sentence containing more than 14 words, including adverbs and em dashes—which you should omit anyway—no matter how strongly you are tempted.”

Aching to respond, I chose instead to listen. He was on a roll.

“Never write a novel using the present tense,” he said, “That isn’t story telling, it’s stage direction.”

For this one, I nodded in agreement.

“If all you want to write about is angst,” he said, “do us all a favor and join a monastery.”

“Uh,” I said. “I don’t think there would be any modern novels being published.”

He ignored me. “If a man buys his wife a new gas range in Chapter One, make sure someone finds his head in it by Chapter 20.”

What can I say? - C.W.

I had to think about this one.

“Avoid using the literary suicide of metaphors and similes, like a politician avoiding the truth.”

“Uh … .

“And finally,” he said, “the best of all.”

I braced myself.

“Never, never, never, let female soldiers, at isolated outposts, wear uniforms consisting of wet t-shirts and bikini bottoms …” He stopped. “No, no,” he said. “That’s one from my rules for filmmaking. Wait one.” He scrolled.

I waited again.

“Here it is,” he said. “Never allow a female to resolve a crisis with her raw strength or a man with his logic.” He smiled and looked up. “So, what do you think?”

“I think I want to think,” I responded gravely to his question. Suddenly, a dam burst in my head. The brown-tinges walls of the room, set off by ivory trim and decorated tastefully with art purchased carefully over the years and immaculately placed in an arrangement best complimenting one another and adding a splendid counterpoint to the glass fixture hanging from a dappled ceiling took me back to the first day I thought I might like to write something someday. I am enjoying a warm day in late April and a gentle breeze is bringing darkening cumulus clouds that are threatening rain …

See also:
Delta Dreaming
All Hat No Cattle
Order Big Dope's Book at Wattensaw PressAmazon, or other book sellers.

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