Chuck Palahniuk's Tips for Aspiring Writers

Chuck Palahniuk on words a writer should forget.

In six seconds, you will start to hate me.

But in six months, you’ll write better.

From now on - at least for the next six months - I forbid you to use thought verbs. Namely: “think”, “know”, “understand”, “realize”, “believe”, “want”, “remember”, “imagine”, “desire” and hundreds of others that you love to resort to.

This list should also include: "love" and "hate".

And: "to be" and "to have." But we'll come back to them later.

Until Christmas, you won't be able to write, "Kenny wonders if Monica is angry that he left last night."

That is, you have to write something like: “Then in the morning Kenny was out, waiting for the last bus, until he took a taxi and returned home, where he saw Monica pretending to be asleep - pretending, because she could never sleep well then in the morning. She always put only her own cup of coffee in the microwave. Never him. "

Instead of making the characters know something, you should come up with details that will help the reader get to know them better. Instead of making the characters want something, you should describe everything exactly the way the reader wants it.

Don't write "Adam knew Gwen liked him." Much better. ”Between lessons, Gwen leaned against his locker as he walked over to open it. She rolled her eyes and walked away slowly, leaving a trail of black heels on the painted metal and the scent of her perfume. The combination lock still kept her ass warm. In the next break, Gwen will be here again. "

No cuts. Only specific emotional details: action, smell, taste, sound and feelings.

Typically, writers use thought verbs at the beginning of a part. (In this form, they become something of a "Reporting Form", and I will speak out against it a little later.) That is, they establish the intention of the whole part from the very beginning. And what follows next is like an illustration.

For example: “Brenda knew she would not be in time. There was a traffic jam right from the bridge. Her phone was dropping. At home, there were dogs waiting for them to walk, or there was a mess. In addition, she promised her neighbors to water their flowers ... ”Do you see how the first sentence overwhelms the meaning of the next ones? Don't write like that. Move it to the end. Or change: "Brenda would never have made it all on time."

Thought is abstract. Knowledge and faith are immaterial. Your story will be stronger if you show only physical actions and materially embody the distinctive features of your characters, and let the reader think and know for himself. And also love and hate.

Don't tell the reader, "Lisa hates Tom."

Instead, give a specific example, like a lawyer in court, detail for detail. Provide evidence. For example: "During the roll call, at the moment when the teacher called Tom's name, and he had not yet had time to answer:" Here, "Lisa whispered loudly:" Wiped ass "."

One of the most common mistakes aspiring writers make is leaving their characters alone. You write and you can be alone. The reader reads - he can also be alone. But your character shouldn't be alone with himself. Because then he will start thinking, worrying and interested.

For example: "While waiting for the bus, Mark began to worry about how long the trip would take ..."

But it's better to write: “According to the schedule, the bus was supposed to arrive at noon. Mark looked at his watch - it was 11:57. From here you could see the road to the shopping center itself, but there was no bus on it. No doubt the driver parked on the other side and took a nap. The driver is asleep and Mark is about to be late. Or worse, the driver got drunk - and Mark gave his seventy-five cents to die in a road accident ... "

When the hero is alone, he may begin to fantasize or remember something, but even then you have no right to use mental verbs or any of their abstract "relatives".

And there is no need for the verbs "forget" and "remember".

No transitions like "Wanda remembered how Nelson combed her hair."

Better: "Then, in his sophomore year, Nelson ran his hand through her smooth, long hair."

Again - decrypt, don't write short.

Better yet, quickly face one hero against another. Let them meet and the action begins. Let their actions and words show their thoughts. And you yourself stay away from their heads.

When you begin to avoid thinking verbs, use the bland verbs "to be" and "to have" with great care.

For example: "Ann's eyes were blue", "Ann had blue eyes."

Better this: "Ann coughed and started waving in front of her face to ward off the cigarette smoke from her blue eyes, and then she smiled ..."

Instead of the pale ones that say “to be” and “to have”, try to reveal the details of your character's portrait through actions and gestures. Then you show your story, not just tell it.

And then you will learn to decipher your characters and hate the lazy writers who limit themselves to "Jim sat down by the phone, asking himself why Amanda isn't calling."

You are welcome. From now on, you can hate me, but don't use thought verbs. I bet you don't want to come back to them after Christmas.

Homework for this month.

Throw out a mental verb from each sentence: eliminate it by "decoding". And then go through some fiction in the same way. Be ruthless.

"Marty imagined a fish jumping in the moonlight."

"Nancy remembered trying the wine."

"Larry knew he was dead."

Find them and rewrite them. Make your phrases stronger.