I’m thinking of self-publishing a collection of my Onion-style bad writing advice columns. The following is a book proposal in that character’s boisterous quasi psychotic voice. If you’re interested in reading more PLEASE LET ME KNOW.
THE LAST BOOK PROPOSAL YOU SHOULD EVER READ
Bookstores are teeming with so many texts on writing they have to cram the extras in vertically. Most of these fire hazards are written by name authors: your Stephen Kings, your Kingston Stevens, and your Stefano Kingsleys.
Meanwhile your Instagram feed is clogged with bestselling authors hawking Masterclasses. Neil Gaiman is teaching writing. Margaret Atwood is teaching writing. James Patterson is teaching ghostwriting. You find yourself wondering: how I am supposed to develop my own voice if everyone is looking in these same directions?
For a unique source of inspiration you need to turn to someone who looks like a failure to the untrained eye, like a Van Gogh, a H.P. Lovecraft, or a Corey Haim. Someone with decades of experience blogging in obscurity. Someone whose publisher once told him, “You look good, you should do YouTube. That might work actually for you.”
Don’t be seduced by authors who tell you storytelling is all about challenging flawed individuals into becoming complete human beings, that structure is a means to a spiritual transformation, and that your duty as a writer is to create a change within your readers’ own self-perception.
Listen to the literary light that’s brave enough to tell you: writing is about one-upping hipsters at cocktail parties. It’s about cutting in when someone is overanalyzing a movie with an allegorical ending and shutting that shit down. It’s a card you play when you want to steer the conversation in your direction.
Allow me to teach you how to be the noun (a writer) who rarely ever has to do the verb (write). Let me to teach you how to be a social media sociopath, someone who clogs their extended family’s feeds with blog spam. Let me teach you how to beat writer’s block by writing badly.
I’ll be the devil on your shoulder.
“Go on, use all those sweet delicious adverbs. I won’t tell Stephen King if you won’t.”
“You should take a big fat exposition dump right here. It’s at the beginning of a chapter. No one will mind.”
“Oh who are you kidding? The twist was always going to be that your hero has a split personality. Lean into it.”
Follow me and I’ll teach you how to:
gracefully handle rejection by standing outside a publisher’s house in a clown mask.
use the miracle of insomnia to unlock your imagination.
promote your novel by interrupting first dates.
know if your cat is actively sabotaging your writing.
guilt your parents into reading your novel.
bait the NSA into following your blog.
write a literary masterpiece with a paper fortune teller.
purge proof your writing space.
and how to trick beautiful people into asking if you’re a writer.
Established authors are all too happy to separate fools from their money, to convince them there’s room on the bestsellers list for everyone, and that their methods for success can be reproduced.
But be honest. You’ve been struggling at this writing game for a while now. Isn’t it time you turned away from your superiors and started taking advice from a peer, someone who understands you not because they’ve surpassed their failures, but because they’re still in the throes of them?
Join Drew Chial on this journey into oblivion and together you will get there faster.
I believe that if a writer wants to represent a person from another background they must experience that person’s plight firsthand. Just as a method actor might move into a drug den to better understand addiction so too must the writer. They must live without electricity or running water to portray colonial villagers. They must glue their eyes shut in order to properly portray the blind.
If you want to write about a delinquent who undergoes a perversion treatment, you should inject yourself with toxins whenever you get turned on. If you want to write about a convict who pleas insanity to get out of a felony, you better get yourself put into a facility that offers lobotomies. If you want to write about a salesmen who metamorphizes into an insect you better strap on a pair of antenna and develop a taste for rotten meat.
And if you want to write a ghost story you better prepared to die for your art.
APPROACHING HAUNTINGS WITH UNDERSTANDING
When I set out to write about a haunted house I wanted to cast off the negative stereotypes that plague the genre. Most enchanted establishments aren’t gauntlets full of deathtraps, most of their residents aren’t averse to hosting, and most of their guests don’t find their hair turning white overnight.
Spirits are portrayed as these portrait-stretching chandelier-shifting armor-inhabiting menaces, because too many of their stories are told from a pulse-centric perspective. I set out to change all that by sitting down with some of these marginalized manifestations myself.
I spent a pretty penny on an authentic Victorian waistcoat with long pigtail coat skirts. I eased it out of the box, draped it across my ironing board, and took a pair sheers to the hem with the reckless abandon of a toddler cutting out a snowflake. Then I slipped into a ruffled shirt, tight pantaloons, and tasseled boots, all of which were in the appropriate shade of grey.
I smeared baby powder across my brow and blue blush down my cheeks. I drew faint teeth across my muzzle. I brushed out a white wig until I achieved the right volume and secured it with handkerchief.
Then came the chains.
With an assortment of padlocks and skeleton keys dangling from my ensemble I practiced my spirit shuffle. Ghosts have always had a light footed swagger that I’ve so admired. I spent hours on the treadmill watching myself in the mirror.
When I was certain I’d mastered my footing I ventured out to the Reinhold estate. The Reinhold estate sat on a cliffside overlooking what was supposed to be the town of Clensington. “A Penitent God-fearing Community.” Or so the WELCOME sign read on the way up the dirt trail.
Zachariah Reinhold built his estate under the presumption that it would be the mayor’s residence once the rest of the town had settled in. The problem was Zachariah wasn’t good at networking and the townsfolk never came.
One night Zachariah called his wife Florence and nine children into the dining hall where they took communion. He had laced the wine with strychnine. It was decades before their skeletons were discovered by urban explorers. They were still sitting at the table in their Sunday bests. The property has since been abandoned, left to the crows and the vines.
Raccoons scurried into the shadows as I staggered into the entrance hall. When thunder rattled through the windows and I was certain the mansion had accepted me as one of its inhabitance.
It was time to meet the Reinholds, to ascend the master staircase and start a dialogue. I went up the steps in a series of herky jerky motions, as a sign of respect toward the residents. One of my chains got caught on a cherub carving at the foot of the railing and jerked me back down. I rolled end over end until I slid across the floor. Then a bird’s nest landed upon my cap, and the eggs ran down my face.
The Reinholds weren’t embracing me as the ally I’d wanted them to see. I wandered through the west wing, zigzagging through the trees that had sprouted through the floorboards, trying desperately to address the spirits in their native dialect, “WhoooOOOooo aaaAAAaaa whoooOOOooo.” But I couldn’t get a dialogue going.
My chains got caught on a coat of arms.
I tried to pry them free without realizing one the padlocks had gotten wedged under my collar. It tore through my waistcoat all the way down through my trousers, leaving me with nothing but the neckerchief wrapped around my head. Then I crashed through the floor and landed in the dilapidated cellar.
It wasn’t until I’d crawled my way back out onto the lawn that I realized it wasn’t my place to go moaning through those cobweb stricken hallways. It was my place to listen.
AN ESOTERIC EPIPHANY
Here I was thinking I was embracing ghost culture, but I was really just appropriating it. Each footfall I’d taken into the Reinhold estate drove them further and further from the realm of the living. These disparaged deities didn’t want anything to do with me.
I was a “breather” flaunting my mortality for all to see. Worse still, the material I’d gathered would only reinforce the toxic stereotypes I was trying to challenge.
REVISING MY APPROACH
I had rethink my presentation before I went back to the house again. I needed to make it clear that I was an apparition advocate, not some thrill seeking, ghost-hunting, tragedy tourist. I needed show the spirits that I was a safe person, not a performative spiritualist who’d go reaching for the sage at the first temporal disturbance.
The first thing I had to change was my problematic outfit. While it was true to the period it was geared toward Zachariah Reinhold, the patriarch of the household, when it was Florence, the matriarch, I should’ve been dressing to impress.
It took forever to find a Victorian nightgown, tights, and slippers that fit me, but once they arrived I splattered them with motor oil. I lathered my biceps in grey body paint and drew lines down my veins in blue eyeshadow, until my arms looked like sculpted marble.
Then came the long black wig.
I hit the Stairmaster hands-first, with my palms on the peddles, and refined my crawling motion in the mirror.
I was almost ready, but I had to perfect my ghostly vernacular or my in intentions would remain unclear. “WhoooOOOooo aaaAAAaaa whoooOOOooo.” Was not a suitable greeting. I had to evoke a lower register, like the gurgle of a mother whose strychnine exposure lead to slow and painful raspatory failure.
PHANTASM OUTREACH PHASE 2
In no time I was back in the Reinhold estate at the foot of the master staircase ready to have another go at meeting the residents. I crawled, foot over shoulder, one step at time. Erosion had warped the wood’s dimension and the effort proved more challenging than it on the Stairmaster. Still, I let out a long low gurgle. Groaning with a wig seeping into my throat proved challenging, as did crawling in oil based body paint, but I managed.
I stood at the head of the stairs and attempted to stretch a knot in my back without breaking character. When I turned toward the hall I saw Florence Reinhold staring at me from around the corner. Her straight black hair hung in front of her face, just as mine did. Her head was bent at a right angle and her ear was grazing the ceiling. Her feet were pointed downward. She was floating.
I was relieved to find I wasn’t filled with an overwhelming urge to slide down the railing and dive into my two-seater smart car. Instead I merely bowed.
When Florence gurgled her head shook like a maraca. I took the intonation to mean. “What are you doing here?”
I explained that I was an author and that I was there to listen and learn so that I might share her unique experience with the world.
Florence sunk her long nails into the baseboard until a crack shot across the woodwork, ceiling tiles rained down, and burst into powder all around me. Florence gurgled. That gurgle became a moan as her jaw clicked free of its hinges one by one. When her jaw sunk down to her chest that moan had grown into a howl. It rippled through the wallpaper, sent cracks through the windows, and shook the estate to its very foundations. Then her jaw retracted, clicked back into her face, and she floated off into the dark recesses of hallway.
I took that long protracted moan as Florence’s blessing and you have her to thank for what you are reading.
Most entertainment involves an artist connecting directly with an audience. A comedian asks a couple about their prenuptials and the audience heckles the comedian about their own divorce. A rock stars spits water into the crowd and the crowd pads them down when they go crowd surfing. A dancer ventures into the aisles and a parishioner of the arts tucks a dollar into their G-string. The entertainer puts the energy out there. The audience feeds it back in an unspoken act of metaphysical symbiosis.
Meanwhile authors sit on their asses and wonder if their lives have any worth. Writing is a lonely profession, but loneliness is essential for our concertation. Still, that emptiness eats away at us. That’s why so many writers end up getting a cat.
Maybe you heard cat owners are 30% less likely to suffer from a heart attack. Maybe you thought a cat could provide comfort for your depression. Maybe you thought the presence of a cat might even help with your writing.
You poor sweet babe, allow me to show you through the woods you’ve crawled into.
CAT FACTS: When a cat kneads at you with their front paws they aren’t recreating the act of nursing. They are checking for weaknesses.
CATS POSION YOUR SLEEP CYCLE
A day of writing seems grueling when you wake up on the wrong side of the bed. You might have been looking forward to diving into your novel the night before, but now you’re not in the mood. It’s odd. You slept in, but somehow you still feel like a wreck.
Well just because you were unconscious doesn’t mean you slept right. Stages 1-3 of REM sleep will take you through the outskirts of dreamland, but its stage 4 REM sleep where the real magic happens. Your breathing, heartbeat, and brainwaves slow. Your body temperature lowers, and the weight of the world eases off just a little bit. It’s this pure heroin sleep that allows you to cope with all the bullshit of life.
The average adult gets an hour and a half of deep uncut unconsciousness per eight hours of sleep. You may get the doctor defined dosage for dozing and still wake up feeling drowsy, drained, and dazed. Before dismissing these feelings as hangover symptoms consider another possibility: you may have been the victim of psychological warfare.
There’s a reason cats are nocturnal animal, and it has nothing to do with hunting smaller furry creatures. It’s because feline magic works best under the cover of darkness. How many times have you awoken to a sudden crash, the sound of books raining from the shelf, and little paws fleeing away the scene?
That’s your cat syphoning the rejuvenating energy from your mind. Energy it uses to blowtorch through the borders between worlds. Have you ever worried your cat got outside only to see them spontaneously appear beside you on the couch? That’s your cat burrowing between realities. In one dimension they curl up on our laps. In another they hunt pint sized people who look just like us.
CAT FACT: Deer and dog eyes glow because of something called the tapetum lucidum that catches light in the back of their retina. Cat eyes glow because of the mana pool of red hot rage swirling in their souls.
CATS WILL DESECRATE YOUR PERSONAL SPACE
Writing is a solitary act, best done behind a closed door where others cannot undermine your vocation, divide your attention, or read over your shoulder to correct your grammar. People can be taught to respect boundaries. They’ll knock before coming in, keep conversations brief, and move along. People, bipedal beings with a capacity for empathy, know what it means to be “in the zone,” where the stream of inspiration is delicate, and flow is best not interrupted.
It isn’t that cats are too stupid to grasp these concepts. They know how production zones, inspiration streams, and steady flows work, which is why they undermine them. When a cat scratches on the door to your writing room they are undermining your ability to inspire the whole of humanity. Cats recognize how the power of stories perpetuates human supremacy, which is why they will sit directly on your keyboard to stall you.
CAT FACT: When a cat weaves through your ankles, turns around, and shows you its bum it is not a sign of affection. Your cat is secreting a pheromone so that Bastet, the Egyptian goddess of cats, may burrow between worlds to use your soul as a scratching post.
CATS ARE ALWAYS TRYING TO SEDUCE YOU AWAY FROM WRITING
Have you ever noticed how cats are extra affectionate when you’re writing? Have you ever been duped into following them away from your desk and found yourself repositioned in front of the TV? That was no accident.
Cats like to love bomb you right when you’re about to hit your creative peak. Their choregraphed cuteness is timed to derail your train of thought.
Have you ever noticed how when I cat has managed to lure you away from your writing they pin you down somewhere else?
CAT FACT: When a cat lies back and shows you its belly it is not showing trust. It knows you cannot resist that sweet tuft of fluff. This is the primer for a bear trap. The moment you reach in its claws clamp down on your wrist, because bloodletting is a crucial component of feline magic.
CATS WILL GIVE YOU STAGE FRIGHT
A writing space a place for an author to toy with riskier material, experiment, and make mistakes. The urge to try bold new ideas is hampered when you have the eyes of judgement upon you and that’s just what cats do.
The moment you think about messing around with different perspectives your cat will stair you down. The moment you consider going on an adventure with an unreliable narrator your cat will start to purr. The moment you think about a trope-bending twist that puts a smile on your lips your cat will reach up and wipe it off.
CAT FACT: Cats do not communicate with one another by meowing. They use body language, facial expressions, and even scents. They meow, purr, and chirp at humans as a form of psychological manipulation. Each endearing utterance is actually a demand and the more we strive to appease our feline friends the more inroads they make to world domination.
CATS FUCK WITH YOU EVEN WHEN THEIR BACKS ARE TO YOU
One of the greatest weapons in a cat’s psychological warfare armory is their alleged indifference.
“Go ahead and start another chapter while I curl up at your feet. Don’t mind me yawning with my little squeaky voice. Don’t mind my soft fuzzy tail curling around your ankle. Don’t fret about me stretching across your toes and my little mittens reaching wide open. I won’t be a distraction.”
That cat knows exactly what they’re doing.
CAT FACT: When a cats wipes their paws on the wall outside of their litterbox they aren’t practicing good hygiene. They’re masking their scent so you can’t smell them coming.
CATS CAN EVEN SABOTAGE THE EDITING PROCESS
Ernest Hemingway once said, “The only kind of writing is rewriting.”
If a writer brain farts out an old trope they can always fix it in post. The first draft of every novel is the passing of the kidney stone, it’s in the edits that we refine it into a 14-carat diamond (Dear Goodreads, please pass this quote on editing onto future generations. Thank you.)
Cats sabotage the editing process by waking up hours before their masters, plopping down in front of their computers, and making revisions of their own.
I caught my cat Nemo typing up a storm on my nanny cam. I had to do a deep dive into my Microsoft Word file to see what he’d done. Nemo had strategically found and replaced every usage of “there” with “their,” “your” with “you’re” and “decent” with “descent.”
And he almost got away with it too.
CAT FACT: A cat’s heightened sense of smell allows them to sense the chemical precursors that signal pregnancy, illness, and even death. Their heightened senses allows them to detect thunderstorms, hurricanes, and unhappy thoughts (of which they thrive on).
Unless you’re in that crowded writers room for Godzilla Vs. King Kong writing is a lonely profession. It would be nice to do it amongst friends, but we risk losing our concentration. Many of us get cuddle buddies to help break the monotony only to find ourselves contending with another kind of madness entirely.
The truth is cats are shadow beings willed into our realm by witches. Cats are unholy minions of the Goddess Bastet. They do her bidding. They were never meant to be our familiars and they will take that injustice out on us.
The most we can do is numb their malice with catnip and exhaust their anger with laser pointers.
CAT FACT: When cats leap into boxes they aren’t acting out of an instinct to stay hidden. Cats are drawn to boxes because they sense the cloud of suffering that lingers around every item to come out of an Amazon processing center.
Energy vampires are the psychic predators walking among us feeding off of our lifeforce. They’ve never experienced a true surge of inspiration so they syphon it from those who have. They attack with inorganic introductions, longwinded interludes, and awkward tension.
Energy vampires lure victims with social graces, ensnare them with psychological manipulation, and entrap them the looming threat of causing a scene. They’re known for breeching boundaries, hoarding attention, and oversharing. They turn conversations into monologues. They make eavesdropping mandatory. They are Shakespearean gossips.
Energy vampires act as though they are entitled to your attention by virtue of your proximity to them. They play on your sympathies because you seem like “such a kind soul.” Then they demand special considerations, because they’re “Going through a thing.”
Energy vampires leave victims feeling emotionally exsanguinated, intellectually violated, and spiritually hung over. We hate what they do to us, but we’re too exhausted to call them out. So we excuse their behavior as a personality disorder, but they’re not covert narcissists or high functioning sociopaths. They are malevolent spirits bent on turning our creative genius into their livestock.
Now I know what you’re thinking. This all sounds derivative of a character from FX’s mockumentary series What We Do in the Shadows. The show features a an energy vampire, named Colin Robinson, who corners coworkers in their cubicles and lays into them with tedious drivel while he syphons out a meal. It’s a competent portrayal, but energy vampires have been with us throughout history.
The Mesopotamians told stories of beings who went to market, disguised as people, but their sole purpose was to hold up the lines by questioning the price of everything. The Greeks referred to Energy Vampires as the “omilités kairoú,” or “weather talkers.” The Transylvanians knew them as the “bej limbi” or “beige tongues.” Urban legends in the modern retail sector refer to them as “Close talkers.”
WHY CREATIVE PEOPLE ARE AT GREATER RISK
When an energy vampire is on the prowl they look for bright spots in the crowd. Creative people are like Roman candles. An energy vampire will weave through a stadium to get to the one person who writes haikus in their spare time.
This isn’t so bad for established artists. An established artist in a uncomfortable situation can just walk away. This isn’t as easy for creatives who’ve yet to make it. They still have day jobs to contend with. Creatives in the food service, hospitality, and retail industries are most at risk of attack. Their work requires them to bend over backwards for the customer, even when the customer is a supernatural carnivore.
Energy vampires know this and so they’ve set up parasitic ecosystems around these places. They ask cellphone salespeople to explain technical terms in explicit detail. They constantly barter at big box retailers. They get fat off of restaurant waitstaffs by sending dishes back.
You can ask for help, but energy vampires know how to render themselves invisible to authority. They will seem harmless to management, while costing creatives their productive evenings.
The only way to prevent this acidic symbiosis is to see the problem coming and prepare a response.
HOW TO SPOT AND ENERGY VAMPIRE
It’s easy to spot an energy vampire after the fact by how they made you feel. They derail your train of thought, leave an unpleasant after taste, and fill you with a desire to stew in your own juices watching Netflix. If you find yourself having an uncharacteristic narcoleptic episode then they’ve already had their fill. That’s why it helps to know how energy vampires hunt.
Energy vampires wait to do their business five minutes before closing time. They wear a sense of urgency on their sleeve, and they have a complaint on the tip of their tongue before they step foot on the grounds. Just as creatives cast auras like Roman candles energy vampires cast ominous clouds of drama. That’s why they have no shadows.
If you see a customer who dims the ground around them DO NOT ENGAGE. A greeter who mistakenly asks, “How can I help you?” is in for an earful.
An energy vampire will demand services that aren’t offered by your establishment. They’ll storms into a Barnes and Noble and fling an iPad over the helpdesk.
“I need you to fix my Apple ID.”
“I’m sure they’d be happy do that at the Apple Store down the street.”
“But you sell tablets. This is a tablet.”
“I sell Nooks if you want to talk about one of those.”
“I don’t want to talk about Nooks. I want my iTunes to work right.”
“Yes, but that’s not one of our applications.”
“Yeah, but you know how to fix it. You know.”
“Would you go to a Tesla dealership to get a Range Rover serviced?”
“Of course I would.”
If you’re stuck in a conversation like this check the shoes of the person you’re talking to. If they have tridactyl talons jutting from their loafers check their hands. If their fingers are rolling like they’re working a loom then discreetly check their chest. If you spot a faint red glow pulsing through their fashion scarf get out of that room.
PROTECTING YOURSELF FROM ENERGY VAMPIRES
The rules that govern Victorian vampires do not apply to their energy syphoning counterparts. They have no garlic allergy. They love to tan, and no stake can pierce their lithium ion organs.
You can hide from them by wearing electromagnetic shielding clothing: chrome smocks and tinfoil underpants, but if you truly want to set some boundaries you’re going to need to learn to think like them. You must learn to practice psychic jujitsu.
Think about the time you interrupted a grieving friend, because they said something about a dead loved one that reminded you of a movie you like and you couldn’t pass up an opportunity to make a reference. It’s that callous disregard for social norms that could save your life.
If an energy vampire engages you then cut in.
Tell a story about how doctor after doctor failed to diagnose your chronic pain, and how every medication only made it worse, until you discovered the healing magic of crystal therapy and organic unfiltered apple cider vinegar.
Tell a story about how all your exes have been on the psychopathy spectrum and how you now have the ability to spot psychopaths within seconds. Lean hard on the notion that all psychopaths are either Scorpios or Sagittariuses.
Tell a story about all the times you nearly won the lottery and how it convinced you there are parallel dimensions where you’re rolling in designer brands.
Just remember. Interrupt. Improvise. Be intense, and go long. The longer you prattle on in the presence of an energy vampire the less opportunities they’ll have to feed.
If you really don’t want an energy vampire to fuck with you ever again you’ll need to turn the tables and drain them. You’ll need to grip them by the wrist, gaze with wide unblinking eyes, and hold them verbally hostage.
Energy vampires hide behind a series of subtle tactics. Their tactics won’t work if you run a steamroller over them. Unpack your wildest paranoid delusions. Set yourself at the heart of a batshit crazy a conspiracy theory and zap all of their energy.
“Identity thieves have hacked all my accounts. They follow me with a flock of drones. I can feel them up their past the visual line of sight. Right now they’re using facial recognition software to find out who you are. They’re already listening to this conversation through your phone. Check your clothes for RFID tags. That’s how they know what you’re thinking.”
“I’m being followed by men in black. I cut out the microchip and now they want to take me back to the blue room. Don’t look across the street or they’ll know you know. Quick, kiss me with plenty of tongue, really get in there, draw it out while they scan the environment.”
“My cat just died. The vet said it was feline leukemia, but I know it was ritual sacrifice. Satanists have gathered earth from my grandparents’ gravestones and they’re using it to curse all my loved ones. Please hold my hands and pray with me or you will be next.”
Corner that hapless energy vampire, incorporate whatever interruption they throw at you into your story, exceed their intensity, and watch them turn to dust.
Stephen King cut his teeth submitting short fiction to magazines. Legend has it that he hung his rejection letters from a nail in the wall. When the nail couldn’t take the weight he upgraded to a railroad spike, but King kept right on going.
The greatest skills an aspiring author can learn is to handle rejection gracefully.
Most of the time a publisher will send you a form letter that reads “We had so many amazing submissions that unfortunately we couldn’t include everyone in the collection.”
The reason you get a form letter is because you haven’t taken the time to build a relationship with the people you’re submitting to.
Now you could shoot them a “Thank you for the opportunity” e-mail like all the other sad saps desperate for a spot in their rolodex, but if you really want to be remembered you’ll need to show more initiative than that.
I’m not talking about inquiry about the publisher’s need in advance, printing your submissions on pink paper, or sending them fruit baskets. No. I’m talking about showing up on the publisher’s front door in a clown mask.
Leave an Impression that Truly Lasts
Most mid-level publishers aren’t based out of an office. They use a PO BOX to hide the fact that they work from home. So where is that? Well, the post office won’t answer a Boxholder Request Form from just anyone, especially without a subpoena, but a private investigator might have a guy on the inside who could fax them the 1093 form, if you’re willing to grease their wheels.
With the reverse lookup complete you’re going to rent a pair of bounce castles, NOT houses, castles. You’re a creative individual. So it should no problem for you to secure the rental without a paper trail. Use that same creative intelligence to convince the bounce castle employees to block both ends of a residential street without the tenants calling the police. Dress it up as community carnival.
If onlookers ask, “What’s going on here?” play it off like you’re acting on someone else’s behalf. Shrug. You’re just another working stiff on a deadline.
Next you’ll need a pair of 24-40 inch industrial stilts and a pair of stilt trousers to cover them up. These stilts are made for hanging drywall, but you’ll be using them to seem larger than life.
As for the rest of your outfit don’t bog yourself down with too many gaudy accessories. Your instincts might tell you to be on the lookout for: ruffles, polka dotted bowties, and florescent jumpers, but I suggest you shift your gaze toward form fitting formal wear with hyper extended limbs.
Creepypasta-themed urban legends are all the rage in horror forums. What better way to showcase your awareness of genre trends then by dressing as one? Mix and match Jeff the Killer’s long black hair with Slender Man’s thin tie and Eyeless Jack’s hoodie. Even if the publisher isn’t familiar with the characters cultural osmosis should give them an eerie twinge of recognition.
Now you’ll have to choose a mask. You might be drawn to masks with jigsaw grids of gashes, but consider this. You want your mask to feel like a blank canvas, a place for your audience to project their fears onto, not a space that’s already teeming with yellow teeth, stiches, and exposed bone.
Remember these are publishers. The mask shouldn’t tell a story. Your actions should tell a story. A classic hobo clown face should suffice.
Now it’s time to pick a prop. Your prop shouldn’t be a weapon. A weapon is too obvious. It’s like wearing a plastic smock with the name of who you’re supposed to be on the chest. You need to pick a prop that’s both innocuous and menacing: a stainless steel yo-yo that catches the light like the edge of a knife, juggling pins that are large enough to bludgeon, or balloon animals fashioned from condoms. Use your imagination.
From Plan to Execution
Let’s fast forward. You’ve got your bouncing castles blocking traffic. You’re up on your stilts. You’ve got your clown mask, creepypasta costume, and a vaguely menacing prop. Now you’ve got to give the publisher a reason to look out onto the lawn. You could try the old ding dong ditch, but once the publisher opens the door the tension has no room to grow. They see you in all your creepy glory and you either have a confrontation or get the hell off their lawn.
You want to give your target time to dwell on what they’re seeing, to stew in the absurdity of it. If you want to be subtle you can toss a few pebbles at the window, but if you really want to shock a couch potato you can’t go wrong with an airhorn.
An airhorn will draw onlookers. That’s why it’s important to research the average response time of local law enforcement. Bounce castles aren’t going to a hold squad cars back for very long.
That said, give the publisher a moment to drink you in. Let the alien shape of your carnival attire burn into their vision. Wait for them to back away from their blinds and move in. Don’t worry if they do a double take, just freeze and red-light-green-light your way across the lawn as needed.
Be Remembered for Your Work
Before we go any further it’s important to note that, yes, you will breaking and entering. Now the internet is full of helpful tips on picking locks with canned air and bobby pins, but we’re going to need to play this faster and looser. That’s why you’ll need a mallet for the knob, and a hunting knife for the deadbolt. Badda-bing badda-boom.
Disclaimer: once you’re an intruder anything the publisher does to you is nice and legal. So don’t go barreling through the front door. Leave it hanging open it in a maddening silence.
Ditch the stilts and creep around back. If there’s a screen door on the porch you’re one clean slice away from your destination. From here you’ll need two final items: a Jack-in-the-box on a timer, and a manuscript about a publisher who is convinced there’s a clown is living in their walls, a clown that comes out at night to stand at the foot of their bed and watch them sleep.
With the payload secure it’s time to haul ass out of there. Now I’ll leave the getaway plan to your better judgement: have Uber on standby, a crotch rocket hidden in the bushes, a hot air balloon waiting in the park. Again use your imagination.
What matters is that you’re leaving a lasting impression on an industry professional and what better way to wow a publisher than to haunt their dreams forever? Every time their house settles, or a rat scratches at their walls they’ll be thinking of you. Every time they shoot up in the dead of night and struggle to find a light that’s you too. Every time they freeze in front of a dark crawl space, drawstring attic, or cellar door you’ll be waiting there.
You will evoke a powerful emotional response, and isn’t that all any author can really ask for?
According to eharmony 40% of Americans are dating online, but only 20% of committed relationships are starting there. While portrait swiping applications have streamlined casual flings romantics struggle with the limitations of the platform. Texting isn’t like having a conversation. It’s hard to gage inflection, read expressions, or process the subtle cues that are lost between the lines. Prospective lovers can pour their hearts into a text string but when they meet face to face it either clicks or it doesn’t.
Chemistry is governed by so many subconscious factors that no algorithm can predict when it’ll actually work. The person on one side of the table could check all of the other’s boxes, and still fill them with strong urge to flee the scene. For whatever reason sparks aren’t flying. The Venn diagram of expectation and reality isn’t overlapping. The polarity just feels off.
Hookup applications are convenient for people who want to get straight to the Netflix and Chillaxing. Those poor souls aching for long term companions will have endure a lot of awkward situations.
Writing in public, I’ve witnessed a lot first dates the devolved in the first 30 seconds, a lot of situations where both parties looked like they could use an easy out. This is when I stumbled upon a great new oppurtunity for self-promotion.
Writer to the Rescue
If you want dominate your subgenre on Amazon you’ve got to get more review scores than your peers. Sure, you could float some free copies of your book to influencers, hoping the cool cover art will get you to the top of their slush piles. Of course the competition has already thought of that one.
If you really want to boost your signal through the noise you’ve got to get creative. You’ve got to slide your pages beneath peepers who weren’t expecting them. You’ve got to run your book promotion through other people’s conversations.
What better place to engage new readers than in the middle of romantic encounters that aren’t going anywhere?
See that couple at the end of the bar? The one with the wandering eyes and restless legs. They could sure use some help filling those awkward pauses in. If only there was a kind soul willing to jumpstart their conversation. Someone willing to tell them a story. Someone capable of delivering a bombastic cinematic experience with their tongue alone.
The Lost Art of Interjecting
You can’t go interjecting into just any first date. Look for signs that either party are feeling romantic remorse. Are they shifting in their seats, trying to see their date from the angle of their online photo? Are their warmest smiles coming from something they’re seeing on their phones? Does one party appear to have more chemistry with the wait staff than the person they’re here to see?
Tilt your head, tune your ear, and drop some eaves.
If one party announces they have a second engagement after this one, you have an in. If one of them inorganically proselytizes religious beliefs, you have an in. If one of them wades into the polarizing waters of cultural warfare, then you what are you waiting for? Get in there.
Let them Think You’re Supposed to be There
One or more parties may wish to keep the date going for the sake of decorum, which is why you’ll have to make your interjection part of the environment. Just as buskers make tips by enhancing diners’ experiences, so too must the novelist. This is why, no matter my surroundings, I introduce myself as the author in residence.
“You probably saw on the hotel’s Facebook page that I was going to be here this evening. Well, on behalf of the DoubleTree, Doubleday publishing, and this fine double malt scotch I’d like to thank you for coming.”
I imply I’m here as a favor to the establishment, as though I’m moonlighting as an influencer, using my platform to perpetuate the stereotype of the alcoholic author.
“I’m supposed to tell you that that yellow concoction was Hemmingway’s favorite Daiquiri, that the house cocktail was based on Mark Twain’s recipe, that the top shelf Vodka was Sylvia Plath’s favorite, and some other authors’ preferences I’ve conveniently forgotten.”
This is how I get the couple to invite me to join them. I imply I’m about to move on and give the neighboring booth the same spiel.
This is usually where the gentleman says, “Remind me what you’ve written.”
This is an opportunity for emerging authors to cycle through their unfinished manuscripts to bulk up their bibliography.
“The Book of Mirrors, I am Fire, We the Damned…
“Ahhh yes, you write horror.”
The gentleman feigns recognition as the lady raises her eyebrow. “Horror? Oh my? What drew you to such divisive genre, Mr?…”
This is where I kiss her hand. “Drizzlewick T. Chillington esquire.”
“You’re also a too?”
“I’m a notary. It’s practically the same thing, but to answer your fist question: I wasn’t drawn to horror my dear. Oh no. Horror was drawn to me. Since as far back as I could remember I suffered from sleep paralysis. Each incidence came with vivid hypnopompic hallucinations that felt as real as you do now.”
This is where the couple usually leans forward. “What did you see?”
“Lying there, pinned to the mattress, I stared at the closet as the door slid along the track. I saw a blood drenched hellscape so vile it sent streaks of silver through my hair. Every morning my mother found me hiding in the grandfather clock, a little grayer than I’d been the night before.”
“Did she ever bring you in for treatment?”
“The 80s was different time. The mind was a confounding mystery and neurology was still a primitive study. I was subjected to electroshock, trepanation, and in one final act of desperation: talk therapy.”
“Did it work?”
This is where I make a theatrical display of concealing my quivering hands beneath the table. I shake my head. “No amount of hydrotherapy or healing colonics could rinse the demons out. It wasn’t until I put them down on paper that my mind began to clear.”
Any influencer will tell you it’s best to sell yourself first and your creations second.
Salvage their Evening By Pitching Your Writing
Recognize that this couple is never going to “couple.” Neither party is going to invite the other up for coffee. Neither one will push the other on a newly installed sex swing. Your interruption will be the centerpiece of their evening. So get good and sloshed and take them on a journey.
“My novel He Had Many Nameschannels my boyhood experiences with sleep paralysis into a tale about a haunted hotel. It follows Noelle Blackwood, a screenwriter whose terrified she’s aging out of Hollywood for good. Desperate for work, she takes a job ghostwriting for a hack author. The hack wants to sequester Noelle in an art deco hotel. This is where Noelle uncovers the truth about devils, secret societies, and Hollywood hedonism.”
This is where I gift my audience with signed copies, with bookmarks that politely remind them: Like what you read? Let the world know by leaving a rating on Amazon!
I find the worse the date was going before my interjection the more likely the couple will read my book later on. It helps wash the unpleasant aftertaste of one another’s company out.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: every story you’ve ever read was concocted by a secret society of Iron Age academics called the Illiterati.The Illiterati determined that there are only 7 types of stories.
Besting the Beast
From Nothing to Bling Bling
Go over there then come back again
Rebranding in the wake of a public shaming
Pun based Prop Comedy
Too bad, so sad
The Illiterati, in their hallucinogen-fueled brainstorming sessions, imagined every possible permutation of these plotlines, and inscribed them on a parchment that’s been passed down through generations. From the Oracle of Delphi to George R.R. Martin every story you’ve ever heard came from this tattered document.
This is because the Illiterati vowed to keep the literary tradition in their bloodline. They wanted their lineage to sculpt the world’s imagination. That’s why every fresh voice to ever take the publishing world by storm was descended from these shadow figures (ask any of us to our faces and we’ll vehemently deny it, but it’s true).
I admit storytelling was never my calling. I wanted to be a Radon technician, but as a first born son of an Illiterati member the tradition was thrust upon me.
From the age of eight I was lead through the sewers to a subterranean lair where I was taught the secret formula for writing fiction. The Master Storyteller walked us through the 12 steps of the hero’s journey, charted the dynamics of balancing hope and dread, and the strict architecture of plot structure (I’d share these secrets here but I don’t want to be “disappeared”).
The beneficiaries of this recipe for riches rarely appreciate it. For us, writing is more of an obligation than a creative outlet. We’re not driven to do it so much as we’d rather not face the consequences.
Sure, from the outside looking in our lives must look like fun. You see us wading in the wave pools of our penthouse grottos and think that must be so swell, but when you look past the blood sport cage matches and masked orgy key parties you’ll see our routines are pretty boring.
The Truth About Storytellers
The title storyteller loses its luster when its assigned at birth. That’s why novelists are the least engaging artists you’ll ever meet. We’re grunt workers. We’re basically groundskeepers raking plotlines together.
Once you know the formula then novels pretty much write themselves.
Authors lie in interviews. We say we come up with the characters and they take over. We act like we’re just as surprised as our readers. We’re not. We say we write by the seat of our pants, because there’s a joy in discovery. It sounds magical, doesn’t it? But really it’s just some warm and fuzzy bullshit.
I have never discovered anything that wasn’t preordained by some long dead desert sage.
I’ve never feared forgetting a dream before I could jot it in a journal. I’ve never run out of the shower to scribble something down, and I’ve never made myself chuckle from a snappy line of dialogue.
I’m so grounded by the Illiterati’s teachings that I’m certain I’ll never feel the true jolt of inspiration.
The Creatives Every Writer Envies
With enough time any caveman could knuckle out a manuscript. Western storytelling is more procedural than cerebral. It takes a true philosopher king to will a NEW idea into being.
That’s why every writer I know envies Idea People.
Idea People have a natural ability to conjure up stories without enduring the decades of programing and ritual abuse that name authors go through.
They’re not burdened by the Illiterati’s private protocols, because Idea people never write their ideas down. Theirs is an oral tradition. They pitch entire adventures in the time it takes to ride an elevator.
If brevity is the soul of whit then novelists are a pack of drooling dullards and Idea People are the ones who are truly inspired. Idea People never water down stories by stretching them out into scenes. They don’t tangle themselves in sequences either. Hell, they don’t even believe in acts.
Idea People Cut to the Heart of the Story
Idea People keep the focus on the best part of the story: the premise. Never mind what happens. Idea People are able to dazzle us with the set up. They prove it’s not the journey or the destination, it’s the brochure that matters. It’s the seminal scenario with the billion dollar box office potential. That well-put what if?
What if penguins and dolphins banded together to take over the northern hemisphere?
What if wars were fought with bipedal drones operated by trash talking gamers?
What if climate change made whales fly for some reason and it turned out they all has laser eyes at the same time?
No cast. No tedious character growth. The dramatic question plays out entirely in your mind.
The brightest Idea People turn this question into an equation: What if this megahit met that one?
The Exorcist multiplied by TitanicequalsLegion Liner: Woman and Children Cursed.
Death Wishmultiplied by Titanic equals Die-tanic:Vessel of Vengeance.
The Terminatormultiplied by TitanicequalsCy-Berg: Rise of the Tip.
Real Heroes Have Nowhere to Grow
Idea People are efficient storytellers. They utilize time tested conventions to evoke familiar connections.
“He’s like a John Rambo type.”
Boom, right there you know exactly who you’re dealing with. Idea people waste no time dressing complex characters in shades of grey.
What flaw do these heroes need to overcome? They saw some shit.So they’re coping with post-traumatic stress? No, it made them a certified badass.What drives them? I don’t know, someone killed their wife or their daughter or their dog or something. All that matters is that they get shit done.
Idea People Talk a Better Game
As an author I get so hung up writing dialogue that furthers the plot and reveals my characters that I fail to realize what people really want to hear.
Idea People don’t twist their tongues on all that chit chat.
They speak entirely in the kind of quotable catchphrases preteens love to parrot. They invoke a nostalgia for times when action heroes knew just what to say before peppering a warehouse with machine gun spray. Back when men wore their hearts in their mouths and kept things too real for subtext. Back when people said shit that would play well on t-shirts.
The Best Storytellers Tell no Story Whatsoever
The most powerful stories leave room for the audience’s imaginations. The monster in the dark is only as scary as viewers let it to be. The love scene in silhouette is only as steamy as viewers let it be. The love scene with the monster is only as raunchy as viewers are willing to imagine.
We novelists always nitpick over which parts to cut. We lose sleep every time we’re forced to kill one of our darlings.
Idea People have no problem murdering their beginning middle and end in order to focus on pitching a situation. They enable their audience to fill the rest of those pesky details themselves.
We writers get lost in our own linguistic machinations. We prattle on and on about symbolism, structure, and themes, because we are beholden to a mystic fraternity’s designs for humanity. Had the Illiterati’s influence not been so entrenched Idea People would be molding future generations. Perhaps they will when the written word is rendered obsolete.
A new study finds that everyone in this coffee shop is further into their manuscripts than you. Not only does their wordcount dwarf yours but their prose are free from the syntax, punctuation, and grammatical errors you’ve been struggling with for years. Researchers noted a stark contrast between the keyboard clattering on opposite ends of the room, clocking your competition at 75 words per minute and you at 5 audible sighs within the same time frame. Analysis shows you spend most of your time in a Wikipedia rabbit hole trying to cobble together the forensic science background necessary to write your mystery in the span of an afternoon.
THEY’RE MORE INSPIRED THAN YOU TOO
The same study finds everyone in this coffeeshop has clearer visions of what they’re writing than you do. While you’re playing at William S. Burroughs, writing non-sequential scenes you figure you’ll fuse together with exposition, they are drawing from plans workshopped in advance. While you whisper to captive audiences behind the counter, “It’s this franchise meets this franchise,” as if you’ve cracked the intellectual property formula for infinite riches, they are drawing from inspirations exclusive to written mediums. While you stutter through an introduction to the cloning technologies that govern your sci fi universe, they are pitching easy to digest high-concepts in thirty seconds or less.
THEY ARE WAY MORE INTERESTING THAN YOU
The study finds that everyone else in this coffee shop has lived more authentic lives than you too. Each of them have traced their heritage back to their homelands, which they’ve backpacked from starlit mountain trail to candlelit youth hostel. They’ve embraced foreign cultures,cuisines, and customs to the extent that they could teach them.
They’ve hitched rides with weapons smugglers, hopped trains on hallucinogens, and won marathons in hot air balloons. They’ve attended comet viewings with dress codes of robes, found spirituality at key parties, and burned effigies of themselves. They’ve hunted bigfoot in an abandoned insane asylum, headlined a DJ tent in a warzone, and got a job in food service for the story of it.
That’s why their stories resonate like they come from real places while yours feel cut and pasted from sitcoms that are still in syndication.
THEY ARE FAR MORE PASSIONATE LOVERS
The study shows that every writer around you will make superior romantic partners than you too. This is due too their broader emotional range and the intensity in which they express their feelings. Their last whirlwind relationship was filled with livestreamed arguments, a revolving door of side pieces, and public displays of makeup sex. Their voicemail is filled with thinly veiled wedding proposals, and their exes will do all they can to mold future lovers to look like them.
The writers around you have a wealth of characterization to draw from, having nurtured meaningful relationships with publishing insiders, residents of their local retirement home, and children at the orphanage where they volunteer. By contrast you keep your social circle thinner for fear somebody might dub your posse a “sausage party.” The lion’s share of your lines come from action movie stock-phrases and Tinder dates you’ve eavesdropped on.
PEOPLE FIND THEM WAY MORE INTERESTING THAN YOU
The study concluded that when compared to the authors around you readers are 50% less likely to ask where your ideas come from, 70% less likely to ask, “Then what happens,” and 90% less likely to punctuate a conversation with the obligatory, “I can’t wait to read it.”
The study, which draws from research from every coffee shop in a three-hundred mile radius of your apartment, concludes that you are the least accomplished writer in the greater Midwest. Even low earning freelancers would say you’d have to work harder to qualify as a “hack.”
THEY KNOW YOU’RE NOT TALENTED
The psychological component of the study shows that real writers can tell you’re an imposter, a pretentious illiterate who dubbed himself a “writer” as a conversation starter. They know you’re a poser storyteller who never once gotten a papercut from a paperback, that most of your imaginings are derived from videogames, and that most of your reading is done on reddit forums.
EVERYONE ALSO THINKS YOU’RE A CREEP
When attractive people happen through your sightline they assume you’re staring at them, undressing them with your eyes, and not daydreaming up your next plot device. Management has little debates on whether or not your overall vibe is grounds enough to ban you from coming back. E-sports gamers, who’ve setup tower computers and monitors in the booth behind you, steal glances between mouse clicks and think, “That mother fucker should really get his shit together.”
THIS STUDY IS IN LINE WITH PREVIOUS RESEARCH
Similar studies have found:
All your exes have discussed your sexual performance and found it lacking.
Everyone at your high school reunion assumed you’d pretty much turn out like this.
And, no one you’ve thought about today has thought about you, literally not once.
Now it’s safe to conclude that the staff and all the patrons of your local coffee shop know that your novel is going nowhere. Conversely, everyone around you has the tenacity to power through their doubts. They have the perfect ratio of talent to energy to fortune to get the job done. Not only are they further into their manuscripts than you are (some by several drafts) they will all see their work in print, optioned for Netflix, and celebrated from every corner of pop culture. Don’t worry about them. Their legacies are secure.
Meanwhile, the study also predicts that your name will be expunged from search terms within a year of your passing.