A Writerís Manifesto
By B.R. Myers, Jr.
Seriously? I am not qualified to discuss this issue at all. And truly gifted writers, like Spike Jonze, would have nothing to do with any such silly rules. But I am neither a gifted writer nor Spike Jonze, so here are the rules I wish I had the strength of will to obey. At least some of the time.
Does the reader know what youíre talking about from the start? If not, then hopefully that is part of some joke. Otherwise, tell them right up front. Nobody likes to be confused.
Resist the temptation to be funny or clever at the expense of being understood. Also do not make references only you and three other people on the planet will know.
Part of being clear is being organized. You will have to look at your work in geographic terms or spatial relationships. You will need to move paragraphs around. Understand what each paragraph is saying or doing and then be willing to rearrange them as needed. Assume every paragraph is in the wrong place. And youíll usually be right.
Donít explain too much. Donít tell the people they just read a joke and beat them over the head with it. Let people figure out the connections. Just make sure they really are there, and not impossibly far apart.
Everything must be intentional. The artist must be in control. Everything should be related to major themes (yes, youíre supposed to have themes). But not too many and donít contradict yourself, or me. Make sure your elements are all connected to your themes on at least some level.
What Am I saying?
1. What do I think Iím saying?
2. Am I actually saying it?
Is it funny? Who is the target audience; is that target the same throughout? Do you launch into extreme and ridiculous metaphors, hyperbole and gross exaggeration? If not, why not? Are the jokes all of the same tonal quality? If you are self-deprecating you should be that way throughout. If you are faux bitter you should be that way throughout. And so on. Let the bad jokes go.
Is it a rant? If yes, then is the persona consistent? Is it obvious that the rant is not your real attitude? If not, then it is your real attitude. You need help.
Is it informative? If so, is your personality sufficiently subdued. The type of people who like learning new information do not care about you. Trust me.
o If itís analysis, then do the analysis! Ask yourself, ďIs my overall take really good/true/accurate? Have I adequately dealt with or addressed the major arguments of the other side?Ē If not, even better.
Is it fictional? It should be. If 1st person, is the narrator interesting or sympathetic? Is he honest? People like that. Itís disarming. People like to be disarmed. Is he wild and zany? Is he a jerk? An idiot? Heís got to be something. Does he stay in character? If 3rd person, I have no idea. Youíre on your own.
Keep in same person as much as possible. Donít shift around. No. Just donít. Keep the same tone as much as possible. Avoid sudden and pointless tonal shifts.
o When editing, try to re-feel or at least be aware of the tone or mood you were in when the piece was written. Be careful if simultaneously editing pieces which are of widely disparate tone. Perhaps edit pieces singly or in small bunches of similar tone. For example, if one day you are radioactive and you pick up ten different fruits. Well now theyíre all radioactive, arenít they? That was a dumb metaphor. Donít do that.
Donít be redundant. Donít repeat words unless itís for poetic reasons.
Go back and put some in. Itís always cool. This is more for prose. Prose can suck it. I know nothing about prose.
Letís put the M back in mystery.
THE MAJOR THING IS TO STEP AWAY FROM IT
o Step back and try to grasp the piece as a whole. Does it work? If not, why not? You can make each sentence and joke wonderful, but itís got to work in general to have great value.
o Donít ignore it when things donít make sense. Be honest. Notice and do something about the trouble spots. Face the goblins! Fix the potholes! Pay down your mortgage. Etc.
o Does it meet all the stuff mentioned above?
o Does it suck? You donít want it to suck.