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36 Writing Essays by Chuck Palahniuk

A Novel Full of Poetry

❶By his account, he started writing while attending workshops for writers that were hosted by Tom Spanbauer , which he attended to meet new friends.

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Take a few notes as you have ideas. And only when you've decided on the bones of the scene - then, sit and write it. Don't go to that boring, dusty computer without something in mind. And don't make your reader slog through a scene in which little or nothing happens. If you can bring the story - or let it bring you - to a place that amazes you, then you can surprise your reader.

The moment you can see any well-planned surprise, chances are, so will your sophisticated reader. When you get stuck, go back and read your earlier scenes, looking for dropped characters or details that you can resurrect as "buried guns. But re-reading the first scene, I found the throw-away comment about mixing nitro with paraffin and how it was an iffy method for making plastic explosives.

That silly aside … paraffin has never worked for me… made the perfect "buried gun" to resurrect at the end and save my storytelling ass. Use writing as your excuse to throw a party each week - even if you call that party a "workshop. Even if someday you sell your work, no amount of money will compensate you for your time spent alone.

So, take your "paycheck" up front, make writing an excuse to be around people. When you reach the end of your life - trust me, you won't look back and savor the moments you spent alone. Let yourself be with Not Knowing.

This bit of advice comes through a hundred famous people, through Tom Spanbauer to me and now, you. The longer you can allow a story to take shape, the better that final shape will be. Don't rush or force the ending of a story or book. All you have to know is the next scene, or the next few scenes. You don't have to know every moment up to the end, in fact, if you do it'll be boring as hell to execute. If you need more freedom around the story, draft to draft, change the character names.

Characters aren't real, and they aren't you. By arbitrarily changing their names, you get the distance you need to really torture a character. Or worse, delete a character, if that's what the story really needs. The three types are: Descriptive, Instructive, and Expressive. So use all three. It's how people talk.

Get author book jacket photos taken now, while you're young. And get the negatives and copyright on those photos. Write about the issues that really upset you.

Those are the only things worth writing about. In his course, called "Dangerous Writing," Tom Spanbauer stresses that life is too precious to spend it writing tame, conventional stories to which you have no personal attachment. There are so many things that Tom talked about but that I only half remember: And "sous conversation," which I took to mean the hidden, buried message within the obvious story.

Because I'm not comfortable describing topics I only half-understand, Tom's agreed to write a book about his workshop and the ideas he teaches. The working title is "A Hole In The Heart," and he plans to have a draft ready by June , with a publishing date set in early Another Christmas window story. Almost every morning, I eat breakfast in the same diner, and this morning a man was painting the windows with Christmas designs.

He stood outside on the sidewalk, painting in the freezing cold, his breath steaming, alternating brushes and rollers with different colors of paint. Inside the diner, the customers and servers watched as he layered red and white and blue paint on the outside of the big windows.

Behind him the rain changed to snow, falling sideways in the wind. The painter's hair was all different colors of gray, and his face was slack and wrinkled as the empty ass of his jeans. Between colors, he'd stop to drink something out of a paper cup. Watching him from inside, eating eggs and toast, somebody said it was sad. This customer said the man was probably a failed artist. It was probably whiskey in the cup. He probably had a studio full of failed paintings and now made his living decorating cheesy restaurant and grocery store windows.

Just sad, sad, sad. This painter guy kept putting up the colors. Developing a Theme By Chuck Palahniuk. At the core of Minimalism is focusing any piece of writing to support one or two major themes.

Learn harvesting, listing, and other methods, after a fun excursion into the spooky side of Chuck's childhood. Great writing must reach both the mind and the heart of your reader, but to effectively suspend reality in favor of the fictional world, you must communicate on a physical level, as well. Learn to unpack the details of physical sensation.

First-person narration, for all its immediacy and power, becomes a liability if your reader can't identify with your narrator. Discover Chuck's secret method for making a first-person narrator less obtrusive. This essay includes the story 'Guts.

Hiding a Gun By Chuck Palahniuk. Sometimes called "plants and payoffs" in the language of screenwriters, Hiding a Gun is an essential skill to the writer's arsenal that university writing courses almost never touch upon. Learn to identify and use multiple forms, including the Big Question, the Physical Process, and the Clock. You've always heard the maxim, "Show, don't tell Discover how to strengthen your prose by unpacking abstract and static verbs into descriptive action.

An interesting character has strong opinions, and voicing them can lend mood and texture to the work, but you can't allow these "Big Voice" rants to eclipse the "Little Voice" needs for descriptive physical action. In this essay, you'll learn to strike that balance. Using Choruses By Chuck Palahniuk. This verbal repetition can create a beat of bland time that lets your story breathe, or it can refresh previous plot points and trigger strong emotions.

Steal this natural aspect of spoken rhetoric to enliven your prose. Great writers like Mark Richard and Amy Hempel re-invent the world, partly by re-inventing the language.

In this essay, Chuck introduces you to the mysteries of "Burnt Tongue," and its three principal uses. Abstract and summarizing lead statements feel natural to journalism and academic writing, but will suck the life from your fiction. Learn to unpack and rearrange these abstractions for greater effect.

Live Reading , Voice. Lots of things that look smart on the page fall apart in the auditorium. Discover the numerous reasons Chuck writes for the ear as well as the eye, along with how to make the most of live reading opportunities. All humans are storytellers and every fiction is veiled autobiography.

Learn to explore and exhaust your personal issues by creating something bigger than yourself, and don't miss Chuck's ingenious assignment for personalizing your character's perception of time. Smart actors use the stage business of peeling an apple or lighting a cigarette to create a layer of interest that dialogue alone can never convey.

Learn to punctuate your dialogue with gesture and attribution to propel interest and achieve better pacing. Character , Plot , Theme. Every story possesses the "horizontal" movement from plot point to plot point and finally to resolution, as well as the "vertical" development of character, theme, and emotional resonance.

Discover Chuck's approach to building a story in layers. When you can't find a writing workshop, you can still find a setting where you're almost forced to daydream. Chuck paints some funny options for this while recommending that you daydream with a pen in your hand.

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In Chuck Palahniuk began submitting original writing essays on craft to his official fan site 36 essays later and Chuck had amassed a wealth of knowledge on his readers; tools and writing tenants that could fill a book! Only as of now, they don't. Instead, they reside here, on LitReactor and nowhere else.

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Chuck Palahniuk himself does not own nor run this website. Nor did he create it. It was started by Dennis Widmyer, who is the webmaster and editor of most of the content.

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Chuck put out two novels in , Survivor and Invisible Monsters. Choke, published in , became Chuck’ Written in stolen moments under truck chassis and on park benches to a soundtrack of The /5. Palahniuk says that his writing style has been influenced by authors such as the minimalist Tom Spanbauer (who taught Palahniuk in Portland from to ), Amy Hempel, Mark Richard, Denis Johnson, Thom Jones, Bret Easton Ellis and philosophers Michel Foucault and Albert Camus.

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Chuck Palahniuk Palahniuk was born on February 21, in Pasco, Washington, and spent much of his childhood in nearby Burbank, Washington living with his family in a mobile home. His parents would later divorce, leaving he and his three siblings to live with their grandparents on a cattle ranch in Eastern Washington state. These include the essay 'Prankstering' about dressing up as a dalmatian and going shopping, 'Fright Club' about a haunted house where a psychic reveals things about Palahnuik's murdered father, 'Dog .