Saturday, July 2, 2011

Writing Tip - Do Not Underestimate Surprise, or: How I Will Start My Creative Writing Class

I'm analyzing what I find important in writing, because if I end up teaching it someday soon, I will need a point of view. This is something I will promote and discuss, maybe on the first day of Fiction 1.

I will be wearing a blazer with blue jeans and hipster glasses. I will be known as Professor Tim. This is what I will write on the board:


What do I mean by this? I mean surprise is fucking awesome. I mean that there is almost nothing more exhilarating for me as a reader then a story that takes me somewhere that I don't expect. That surprises me with it's unique language. Unexpected characters.

Surprise me, I'll tell my class.

Are you writing this down? Good. Now, that doesn't mean be cheap. Like make a character do something that doesn't make sense. That's not surprising. That's lame. But I'll get into that in tomorrow's class.

There's nothing that upsets me more from reading then a story that I can predict all the way through. You might have a story like that, class. But if you're writing a story that's already been written before, what's the point?

I'm talking about making me think I know what's going on then changing what's going on in the next scene. I'm talking about going in a direction that hasn't been gone before.

I know, right? But calm the fuck down. What I'm saying shouldn't freak you out, class. What I'm saying should FREE YOU (I will write that on the board). Don't write what you think is expected, what constitutes a story. BREAK FREE, PEOPLE.

How many stories on infidelity are there? How many stories are there regarding the mid-life crisis? How many stories do we need to read to know that heartbreak sucks? I'm not saying don't write about these stories, class, I'm saying if you do, MAKE IT DIFFERENT.

Don't waste the reader's time by writing something that they could have come up with themselves, I will say. And then I'll backtrack, because I don't want to come off as too hard. I'll pass out reading assignments re: the topic I have discussed. I'll make them read Aimee Bender. Michael Martone. Shane Jones. I will make them underline sentences and descriptions that they haven't seen before.


Goodness! CALM DOWN. What I mean is that everything that you put on paper is an experiment. Think of the words as chemical properties and the story as the formula. No one's going to be impressed if you figure out that H2O makes water. You should be trying to make the water bubble and turn purple. Get me?

All writing should be experimental because you're writing a story that's never been told before the way that you're going to tell it. Why? Because you're a unique person. No two people are exactly alike. The same idea goes for stories. You ever hear the idea that every story has been told already? Don't believe that. Don't you dare.

If you do believe that, what the heck are you doing here?

Class dismissed.

Tomorrow: Pop Quiz.