Chuck Palahniuk on the words a writer should forget

Chuck Palahniuk on the words a writer should forget

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In six seconds, you'll start hating me.But in six months you'll be writing better.

From now on—at least for the next six months—I forbid you to use thinking verbs. Namely: "to think", "to know", "to understand", "to be aware", "to believe", "to want", "to remember", "to imagine", "to wish" and hundreds of others to which you so like to resort.

Chuck Palahniuk on the words a writer should forget

This list should also include: "to love" and "to hate".And: "to be" and "to have". But we will return to them later.Until Christmas, you won't be able to write: "Kenny wonders if Monica was angry because he left last night."

Chuck Palahniuk on the words a writer should forget

That is, you will have to write something like: "After that, Kenny stayed late in the morning, waited for the last bus, eventually took a taxi and returned home, where he saw Monica pretending to be asleep - pretending because at that time she could not sleep peacefully in the morning. She only put her cup of coffee in the microwave. His — never." Instead of making the characters know something, you have to come up with details that will help the reader find out. Instead of making the characters want something, you have to describe everything exactly in the way that the reader himself wants it.

You don't have to write, "Adam knew Gwen liked him." Much better: "Between classes, Gwen leaned against his locker when he came to open it. She rolled her eyes and slowly walked away, leaving a trail of black heels on the painted metal and the smell of her perfume. The combination lock still kept her ass warm. Next break, Gwen will be here again."

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

As a rule, writers resort to thinking verbs at the beginning of a paragraph. (In this form, they become something like theses, and I will speak out against them a little later.) That is, they establish the intention of the entire paragraph from the very beginning. And what follows illustrates it.

For example: "Brenda knew she wouldn't make it. There was a traffic jam from the bridge itself. Her phone was getting low. There were dogs waiting at home that needed to be walked, or there was a mess. In addition, she promised her neighbors to water their flowers... "Do you see how the first sentence pulls over the meaning of the subsequent ones? Don't write like that. Move it to the end. Or change: "Brenda would never have made it on time."

Chuck Palahniuk on the words a writer should forget

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

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

Instead, give a concrete example, like a lawyer in court, detail by detail. Present the 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: "Asshole."

One of the most common mistakes of aspiring writers is that they leave their characters alone. You write — and you can be alone. The reader reads — he can also be alone. But your hero should not be left alone with himself. Because then he will start thinking, worrying and being interested.

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

But it is 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 all the way to the mall, 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 traffic accident..."

When the hero is alone, he can start fantasizing or remembering something, but even then you have no right to use thinking verbs or some of their abstract "relatives".

Chuck Palahniuk on the words a writer should forget

There is no need for any 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 — decipher, do not write short.

Even better — quickly push one hero against another. Let them meet and the action begins. Let their actions and words show their thoughts. And stay away from them.

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".It's better this way: "Ann coughed and started waving her hand in front of her face to drive the cigarette smoke away from her blue eyes, and then smiled..."

Instead of pale, asserting "to be" and "to have", try to reveal the details of your hero's portrait through actions and gestures. Then you will show your story, and not just tell it.And then you will learn to decipher your characters and hate lazy writers who limit themselves to phrases like "Jim sat down by the phone, asking himself why Amanda is not calling."

Chuck Palahniuk on the words a writer should forget

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

Homework for this month.

Remove the thought verb from each sentence: eliminate it by "deciphering". And then go through some fiction as well. Be ruthless.

"Marty imagined a fish jumping in the moonlight." "Nancy remembered how she tasted wine.""Larry knew he was dead."

Find them and rewrite them. Make the phrases stronger.

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