Writing advice, as I am wont to say, is half-a-bag of nonsense. It’s a wonderful, heady, narcotic mix of survivorship bias and whisper-down-the-lane stories, a steady parade of bullshit in a long line of linked-up wagons. But it’s useful, too, especially when you can take the advice in as exactly that: advice. When you absorb it as an option, as a bit of guidance or a loosey-goosey recommendation, you bring it into you, you get to play with it, examine it, challenge it. And then you can utilize it. Or discard it. Or hide it in a drawer for a day when it makes more sense.
But some pieces of writing advice are, honestly, sacrosanct.
Rules, let’s say, more than advice.
Like, one rule is: you gotta finish your shit. You just do. No, I don’t mean that every story you begin must be a story you finish — sometimes you gotta cut bait and run, but in the overarching journey of your writing adventure, you need to finish your shit. Complete your poop. Do the thing. Because a story is a thing with a beginning, a middle, and an end. And you cannot learn how to tell a story unless you learn to tell a complete story. You cannot learn to write an ending if you never write an ending. So, you gotta CONCLUDE YOUR SHIZNIT. Okay? Okay.
Point is, some pieces of writing advice are fairly immutable.
This next piece is one of them.
That piece of advice is —
*receives Breaking News alert*
Wait, what? The FBI raided Trump’s lawyer’s office? And his house and hotel room? And what’s this about Syria? And Facebook did what now? 87 million accounts exposed? Wow. Okay. Um. Heh, hah, sorry, lemme just recompose my thoughts here —
So, like I was saying, the most important piece of advice — a fundamental truth more than just a mere recommendation — is the following:
*receives Breaking News alert*
Wait, huh? Trump did what? There’s video of him stomping on a box of baby robins? Like, the birds? No, no, of course the birds, I just wanted to make sure it wasn’t the various sidekicks of Batman. Ha ha Batman isn’t real. So, hold up, Trump paid off the videographer of this robin-stomping movie out of his campaign funds? In order to hide it or produce it or both? And whoa, hold up, Facebook sold our account information to who now? A “shady guy in an alley?” Oh. Oh, that’s probably not ideal. And whoa what the fuck, who has nukes now? The KKK. The KKK has nukes. That’s — you know, that’s honestly pretty on-brand for 2018, but I gotta focus up here, gotta get this writing advice post back on track, hold on here —
SO THE MOST IMPORTANT WRITING ADVICE YOU WILL EVER RECEIVE IS
*Breaking News alert*
The President tweeted what? Just a string of ethnic slurs, many real, some invented? Every last one of them in all caps and misspelled? Jesus. And whoa, his children are actually just RealDolls? All of them but Barron are plastic-skinned robots? That tracks, I guess. Wait, whoa, we’re at war with who now? Amazon. The company, not the geographic region? And they have nukes? They’re at war with the US government, who is being funded by Facebook, who sold all of our private information to — *reads the buried lede* — the Devil? The Actual Devil? The Devil, who claims to have a VHS tape where Donald Trump whizzes into his own mouth like a playful orangutan? Where’s Russia in all of this? Oh, Putin is the Devil. And the EPA just rescinded the law that says you can’t have asbestos in your canned vegetables and that you’re now allowed to feed toxic mining run-off to human babies — I just — okay, I can’t —
I can’t do this! How the fuck do you talk about normal shit these days? How can I give writing advice in the face of all this… *gesticulates* sorcerous fuckery? Shit, if I can barely give writing advice, how do you actually write? I mean, real-talk, how on this little blue-green marble in space do you write an actual goddamn fucking book in the middle of this weaponized, aerosolized horseshit? It’s like trying to take your SATs in a room full of bees. Writing a book these days is like navigating a washtub across a dark and stormy ocean full of eels, and also the eels are falling from the sky and also there’s a hurricane that’s shitting out tornados and the tornados are just lashing whips of scalding hot cat barf and and and —
OH JESUS GOD WHAT THE SHIT
AH OKAY GREAT THE SIXTH EXTINCTION IS UPON US
THE WHITE HOUSE JUST NUKED SEATTLE
AMAZON RETALIATED WITH A DRONE FLEET INHABITED BY THE FRAGMENTED MIND OF DIGITAL JEFF BEZOS
TRUMP’S FLESH SPLIT OPEN AND DISGORGED A TIDE OF UNDEAD POODLES ON THE WHITE HOUSE LAWN AND NOW THEY’RE BITING EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING, SPREADING THEIR UNDEAD POODLE PLAGUE, SOON WE WILL ALL BE FILLED UP WITH ZOMBIE POODLES, AS THE BIBLE ONCE PREDICTED
ELON MUSK IS TAKING HIS COLONY SHIP TO MARS AND IT’S LEAVING SOON AND THE TICKET COST IS THE COST OF YOUR FIRSTBORN CHILD, THAT OR A BELOVED FAMILY PET OH GOD OH GOD IT’S ABOUT TO BLAST OFF AND I’M NOT ON IT
WAIT THE EARTH IS ACTUALLY JUST AN EGG AND IT’S ABOUT TO HATCH
IT’S FULL OF MANTISES
SPACE MANTISES WHO WANT TO FIGHT THE ZOMBIE POODLES
AND WE’RE ALL JUST FODDER FOR THIS ENDLESS COSMIC WAR
EVERYTHING IS FINE
oh wait hold on
I remember now
I remember the writing advice
the one piece of immutable writing advice
you gotta look away
you gotta face a healthy direction
where none of this is happening
turn off the news alerts
shut down the tweeters
delete facebook probably I dunno
you gotta carve time away from the fuckery because fuckery always exists at some level and yes right now it’s at truly epic levels but it’s always there, like air, like anxiety, and you still need to make things, you still need the silence you deserve to create things, because the world keeps on turning until it doesn’t
turn it off
be diligent about it
give yourself silence and air
steal it if you must
go make something
don’t worry about the rules
don’t worry about the shit raining down everywhere
willfully disregard the chaos for a time
the words must be writ
the art must be made
it is how we will survive
it is how we will thrive
*Breaking News alert*
fuck this foolishness
*throws phone in toilet*
*goes and makes a thing, basking in peace and purpose*
*as should you, right now*
* * *
DAMN FINE STORY: Mastering the Tools of a Powerful Narrative
What do Luke Skywalker, John McClane, and a lonely dog on Ho’okipa Beach have in common? Simply put, we care about them.
Great storytelling is making readers care about your characters, the choices they make, and what happens to them. It’s making your audience feel the tension and emotion of a situation right alongside your protagonist. And to tell a damn fine story, you need to understand why and how that caring happens.
Whether you’re writing a novel, screenplay, video game, or comic, this funny and informative guide is chock-full of examples about the art and craft of storytelling–and how to write a damn fine story of your own.