Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Let me Show You, the Average Boob, How to Write a Literary Masterpiece.

   Are you tired of being looked down on by those snooty literary types? Ever wish you could walk the halls of some prestigious university and be fawned over by students and faculty alike? Well, now you can! Just follow these few simple rules and you’ll be writing a literary masterpiece in no time.
   “Me? Write a literary masterpiece?” you say. “But doesn’t creating a great work of art require some amount of literary genius, some superhuman mastery, if you will, of word and phrase?”
   What? Nah, any chucklehead can do it!
   “Oh, really? Well then… tell me more!”
   Okay! Let’s start by choosing a setting for your story. As we all know all great literary works take place in dreary, dismal, surroundings. War is good. In fact, the Civil War is very popular. Nineteenth Century Europe is good too. (Charles Dickens did everything but shoot Oliver Twist out of a cannon yet was praised by critics for his compassion.) Then there’s the Holocaust, the Great Depression, the trials of immigrants, etc, etc.
   You see, creating a futuristic world, plotting a dazzling who-done-it or building suspense in a courtroom drama takes an enormous amount of creative talent. Your characters, setting and dialogue must be unique and believable. Take George Lucas’ Star Wars, Stephen King’s The Shining or Andrew Klaven’s Animal Hour, all truly visionary yet looked down upon by the literati. So why drive yourself crazy trying to create something new and inventive? Just pick some brutal time in history and pretend to address real issues and real human problems and you’re on your way.
   What are real issues and real human problems, you ask. In a word, misery.  It simply cannot be a literary masterpiece unless it features some poor schmoe getting his ass handed to him.
   So... what horrible time in history shall we choose? Well, let’s get started by spinning the Wheel of Misfortune and...
   Why it’s the suffering of the Okies during the great Dust Bowl! Oh the hardships, the trials and moral dilemmas! Woo-Woo! And the best part is you can throw one catastrophe after another at these poor ignorant bastards and still come off as a caring, good-hearted humanist.
   Okay, now that we’ve picked a setting, let’s create some characters. First, you must have the sweet, freckled-faced girl who is going to be a writer some day and you just know she’ll succeed because she has so much darn spunk. We’ll give her a folksy name of course, like Jenny or Becky. No Chers, Farrahs or Queen Latifas here. (Note*-- Rule # 1--All characters, places and things MUST have folksy names.)
   She’ll be a good kid, help out on the farm and live with her extended family--Pap, Maw, Grandpaw, Granny, the kindly black employee and the family dog.
   Okay, now let’s get to know the rest of the cast.
In all these stories the father, Pap, has a problem. Either it’s a gimpy leg or some other physical defect brought on from working so hard. In most cases, he falls under the tractor, is struck by lightning, or accidentally shoots off his own foot. (Sometimes all three. Sometimes all three at the same time.)
    As for Maw, she’s always working, either scrubbing floors, taking in other people’s laundry or digging the family well with a soup ladle.
   For the grandparent character, there is usually only one. If you pick Grandpaw, remember that he’s almost always what they call ‘tetched’ and is used mostly for comic relief. Have him get his head stuck in a sewage pipe or fall off the barn roof. Basically, he serves as nothing more than an annoyance until the touching scene where he dies redeeming himself. (Pulls the kid out of a burning building, pushes her out of the way of that tractor that’s always driving around by itself or gets mauled saving her from the animal that’s got the brain fever.)
   If you chose Grandmaw, remember that although she has virtually no education, she is nonetheless a storehouse of wisdom and knowledge and looks a lot like Aunt Bee from the old Andy Griffith show.  
   Now for the kindly black employee. Like the grandparents, you can usually only pick one, either a male farmhand or a female housekeeper. If you chose the male his name must be preceded by the adjective BIG—as in Big Jim or Big John. In these stories there is NEVER a male black character that isn’t BIG. Why? Well, just try introducing a character named midget Bob or Tyrone the dwarf. (See? It just doesn’t work). And so, for our purposes, we will name our character Big Elvis.
   As for the female, it’s always a safe bet to name her after a flower. For instance, Violet, Gardenia, Aureola, you get the picture. One other thing, she must always address the young female character as honey-chile and say things like “lawdy” and “praise be” even though she probably has an engineering degree from MIT (remember, keep it folksy).
   Same rules go for the dog—he must be some type of lovable hound and have a name like “Ol’ Blue” or “Duke”
   {I should also point out that in these stories the word reckon is used a lot. I don’t know exactly what reckon means but throw it in whenever you can. Also remember there was a lot of brain fever going around in those days so if one of your characters begins to really piss you off, by all means brain fever the sumbitch.}

    Now for the sake of instruction, our family, the Truehearts will have all the characters used in these types of stories. But before we begin, it is important to throw in a little back story to create empathy for our characters. So let’s start with a scene featuring Pap.
   Pap will have lost a leg but because they are so poor, a proper prosthesis is out of the question. It appears that Pap will never walk again when, out of the blue, Grandpaw comes up with the brilliant idea of sawing off the lower part of Jenny’s old pogo stick and attaching it to Pap’s stump. Clever ol’ Grandpaw, inventor, he.
   Jenny narrates this scene where Pap tries out his new leg,
   I saw Pap make his way out of the bedroom and head toward the stairs. That new leg Grandpaw fitted him with makes a sproinging sound when Pap walks but I do declare he seems steady enough. I felt so proud, him being so courageous an all. When he reached the staircase I noticed the ceiling above angles down sharply leaving very little headroom. I was about to say something when Pap took hold of the handrail.
   “Well, here I go,” he said. He was cautious the first couple of steps then, as he got more confident, picked up speed. I reckon he forgot that Maw waxes those stairs right regular.
   “Oh-Shiiii!” Pap shouted as his good leg slipped and he pitched forward. Having lost his grip on the banister he began whirling his arms like a pair of airplane propellers. Then, forgetting his right leg was hooked up to a pogo-stick, he aimed it at the nearest stair and when it hit, Pap bounced up and down like a ping-pong ball under a short legged table, banging his head again and again on the low ceiling.”
    Boinka, Boinka, Boinka, Boinka, he went.
   “Whoaaaaaaaaaaa!” Pap shouted, as he ricocheted down the stairs and was catapulted out the open window.
   Poor Ol’ Pap!

   You see, what we’ve done here is combine human suffering (Pap bouncing down the stairs like Tigger on amphetamines) and Jenny showing her concern (Poor ol’ Pap). Result—your reader’s now love this poor, simple, decent, hard-working family and, you, as the author, are a thoughtful, caring, literary masterpiece writer. I guarantee they’ll eat it up.

  Since it’s my policy not to exceed two pages per blog post this as far as I can go today. But if you stop back Friday you can read some more. Or if you simply must read the rest this very freaking minute, go to
And download Storytime, my book of short stories. Storytime contains not only this story but 22 others. (So far 7 five-star reviews!) Free on Kindle for Prime members (Amazon is presently offering a one month free trial so if you sign up you can read the whole thing for free) and only $2.99 for everybody else.

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