First Rule Of Authorship | Chuck Palahniuk’s (Unofficial) Guide To Writing
“On a long enough timeline, the survival rate of everyone drops to zero.”
- The Narrator, Fight Club
What is the process of concocting a cult classic?
What are the ingredients for a digestible narrative?
How do you invent a fiction that so expertly reveals the obvious flaws of society, it’s a wonder no one had ever put it into words beforehand?
When Chuck Palahniuk wrote Fight Club, the objective was never money, fame or even the orgasmic relief of finally printing a manuscript.
His raison det’re was far deeper.
His motives more insidious.
The inner workings of a genius was on full display when Chuck appeared on the Joe Rogan Experience 23rd August 2018.
In the same open, dark and witty tone of his books, Chuck plays with themes that would only be available in his intimate workshops or presentations.
This is a compilation of platitudes and (subjective) paraphrasing from the man himself. If Chuck were to produce a listicle length cheat sheet, it would go something like this:
Once upon a time, Chuck was alienated.
Beginning the rat race of hierarchy laden with student debt, existing in an alien city away from his friends, life was uninspiring.
So desperate for connection, he joined a Church program to take hospice patients on a date.
This would often entail accompanying cancer patients to their support groups.
From this experience, Chuck would manifest ideas, narratives and characters that would define the twilight of the 20th Century.
Passively accepting information and regurgitating it as your own will not end in the story you are looking for.
Get out there.
Taste the pain and pleasure you want to communicate to your audience.
Sitting in front of a computer waiting for the story to come is the source of the unentertaining or the unbelievable.
“That’s Not Writing, That’s Typing”
- Truman Capote describing Jack Kerouac’s On The Road.
Avoid this by going back to paper and ink.
Give yourself the freedom to monkey ideas around a page, complete with arrows, diagrams, and descending lines of scribbled, unadulterated thought.
Striving for The New York Times Bestseller stamp of approval is a poisoned chalice.
Take Your Ideas To A Party, And Test Them
What ideas, themes and concepts are swirling around your head?
Are you insane?
Or are you on to something…
Remember: A good anecdote doesn’t bring silence. It leaves people competing to tell a better version of the same thing.
A really good writer realizes a pattern.
Listen. See if your ideas resonate with the masses.
Don’t Plan Past The Second Act
There is only so much planning you can do.
You want the conclusion to write itself.
Let the story take over from its own momentum.
It’s this approach which manifested one of the greatest plot twists of all time.
Fail Completely, Utterly and Unreservedly To Avoid Mediocrity
Nothing spells the dulling of creative genius like the comfortable road to a sophomore album.
Replicating a proven formula is the safest way to being inoffensive and satisfying the status quo.
The PC Police don’t discriminate by degrees of guilt. They execute based on quotas.
So low is the bar of offense today, so taboo the idea of being offensive, that the premature decapitation of a novel idea is more common than ever.
But it’s only in the dark ocean of Things That Can’t Be Said where good writers fish for originality.
Otherwise, don’t bother.
Becoming A Phenomenon
Most writers can’t fathom success beyond that new book smell of their first publication.
Fight Club hit that rare intersection in the Literary Venn Diagram of “poetic, timeless and cool” that only a cult classic for the disenfranchised can.
Chuck says that producing a book is nothing compared to your concepts piercing, and becoming, the zeitgeist.
Dictating the semantics of the culture.
Now that’s power.
Fill The Void
The void comes in many guises.
Pick any of the myriad of feelings that have you sleeping like an insomniac, and you already know the symptoms of emptiness.
However, this is only the noise within the vacuum.
What we are missing is a good story.
A unifying cultural/historical/political/spiritual narrative that is subconsciously understood, but poorly articulated.
This is the void.
Amen, dear reader, that it is not your burden alone to narrate the story for all people, at all times.
Your responsibility is towards your own conscious experience.
And being truthful to it.
Supersede blandness. Imagine beyond the algorithms.
Otherwise your writing will become another byte in modernity’s high volume, low resolution creative output.
Rule number one of authorship? You do not talk about authorship.
Your aims are far more humble.
Far more insidious.
Because if you can tell a story that inspires just one other person to tell theirs, congratulations.
You are a successful writer.
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