Archive for August 2008

The New Cliché

This is, most definitely, an incomplete list of things you should cease doing, phrases you should avoid using, and other little bits of cleverness that make me dislike you.

Using Specific Song Titles as a Way to Inform Setting: Are you so lazy and unable to construct an authentic setting that you have to mention song titles to place the reader in the time period of your story? Watch any episode of the television program, “Cold Case,” and you’ll see what I mean.

“In my mind’s eye”: What does this mean, anyway? Poets and prose writers are guilty of this insanely stupid phrase. Are you seeing things in your mind? Having visions? Dreaming? Well, what, jerk?

Transfixed: There’s something there, something mesmerizing, and your main character can’t take his eyes off. Or better: you’re writing an essay and something holds you in such a trance that you’re “transfixed.” Would you give me a break already?

Going “hmm” or “mmm” at a Poetry Reading After Someone has Finished Reading a Poem: Have you heard this pretentiousness at your local poetry open mike? Apparently some people can’t just be moved by poetry; they have to make sure everyone else in the room knows they were moved by what they just heard. Whenever I hear people make his quiet groaning sound after a poem’s done, I like to let out a big “AHHHHHHH” or a “WHOOO HOOOO, MoFo.”

Sentence Fragments: Dude, learn how to construct a complex or compound sentence. Stop isolating meaningless lines, because I’m not impressed. Are you able to use the comma? Are you seriously that wrapped up in yourself and inept at cultivating emotion from your reader that you have to throw a sentence fragment in the middle of nowhere?

Chuck Palahniuk: I loved Fight Club for sure, then read Survivor and Invisible MonstersChoke…the bird one…Can his books be any more identical? I read in an interview he did where he said he wrote the way he did because he was so disgusted with all the bad literature, and he wanted to create something fresh and new. Well congrats, Chuck, you’re now a cliche. A few years ago, when I didn’t know any better, I stood in line at a Cambridge, Massachusetts bookstore to meet him, get one of his books signed. My wife, my baby boy, Jack, and I waited at least two hours to meet him. The whole time we’re standing there, Jack’s chewing on my copy of the Palahniuk book. He saturated a corner of the book. It was a mess. When we got to the entrance of the bookstore, one of the employees came out and told us (We were like the last ones in line.) that he had to lock the doors, that Chuck couldn’t see anymore people, that they had to stop the line somewhere, but that he’d exchange my book for an autographed one. Before I could think clearly, he had my soggy slobber book and I had a brand new, generically-signed copy in my hand. Not having that sloppy spit book today is one of the biggest regrets of my life.

Anything Mentioning How Bad our President is: We get it: No one likes the president, the economy is bad, gas prices are high, war is terrible. All right already. And if you’re a high school teacher bullying malleable minds into hating the president, into believing you are actually making informed statements: shame on you for not allowing students the space to make up their own minds. Shame on you for alienating the young conservative minds in your classroom. Shame on you, asshole.

Stories in the Second Person: You look at your accumulated collection of various writings and think to yourself, “I need a story in the second-person to balance this out.” Look at me: No, you don’t.

Saying “I didn’t see it. I don’t watch television.”: Oh stop. I watch too much television and I read more than you do.

Craning a Neck: As in “The man craned his neck to get a better view of the crack of his plumber’s tender bottom.” Is a crane the only animal you can think of for this metaphor? Is the crane the only animal we can ever use? Can a plumber have a tender bottom?

Using “Super” as an adverb: I don’t care that you were “super-excited” to hear about the new gym opening up in town, and I don’t want to hear how “super-sorry” you are that I didn’t get the job. Using super as an adverb makes you sound super-stupid. Just use ‘fucking.’ It sounds more American.

Using the word “Uber”: See above.

That Being Said: This one’s a gem. “I’m not going to give your proposal my endorsement; that being said, I’m still willing to listen to your ideas in the future.” Can’t you just say “however” or “nevertheless” or something else besides “that being said”? If you’re using this in your fiction, you’re going to force future linguists to label us “dumbasses.” If you must use it, try “You’re an idiot; that being said, I just called you an idiot.”

Voracious Readers: The only kind of habitual reader, apparently, is a voracious one. When you use “voracious,” I think you are lazy and that your brain is asleep. Instead say: I tried my best to get along with him, but he’s a voracious asshole. Stop typecasting voracious.

Naming Your Child Liam: My cousin named her beautiful son Liam; my neighbors around the corner, the only ones my wife and I feel truly comfortable around, have a little boy named Liam. That’s it. No more. Don’t pick Jack, David, or Ben either.

Being At Work on Your First Novel: As in “Susan Morgan Frederickson-Smith writes and sips jasmine tea in her studio on the southern coast of Maine. She’s at work on her first novel…” Yeah, yeah, yeah. Honey, we’re all at work on our first novel.