Note: this article originally appeared in the Huffington Post. Somewhat entertainingly, I submitted it to their Books section and watched it get recategorized into their Comedy section.
Welcome back to Bad Advice for Writers! We at BAW were so excited by the reception to our last entry, we could hardly wait to provide you with even more magnificently bad advice for all writers.
If you are a bad writer, or want to be a bad writer, we 100 percent guarantee (Note: no we do not) this advice will help you get better at being not at all good.
So let’s get down to brass tacks, pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, and get this party started!
Advice #1: Clichés are your friend
If you want to describe something and don’t feel like also using your brain, just reach for a cliché instead! It tells the reader, “this part isn’t very important, so you only have to give it as much attention as I did when I put these words together,” which is helpful! It lets the reader know they can skip ahead to the parts you worked much harder on. We know they aren’t reading every single word anyway, so giving them a cliché helps them get to your point faster.
Sometimes, if you’re particularly pressed for time, you can compose something entirely made of clichés. This has worked incredibly well for the rockstar Jon Bon Jovi, who may have an actual cliché-generating machine at his disposal.
Sample lyrics: “You got a nasty reputation/we’re in a sticky situation – it’s down to me and you/so tell me is it true… they say there ain’t nobody better/well now that we’re together/show me what you can do/you’re under the gun/out on the run/gonna set the night on fire.”
This amazing collection of clichés is from the song “Under the Gun” which is also a cliché, from an album called Slippery When Wet, which is also a cliché. (Every song title in this album is a cliché. It’s a masterpiece.)
It is further worth noting that when Mr. Jovi did not resort to cliché he wrote things like “I’ve seen a million faces and I’ve rocked them all“, prompting a generation of fans to wonder what it’s like to get one’s face rocked, and whether or not it’s pleasant.
The lesson is this: sometimes clichés are better than writing something original, so you should use them all the time.
Advice #2: Secondary characters are unimportant
Secondary characters are great devices for moving the plot forward, and otherwise stupidly useless things you should actively ignore and/or kill off as soon as no longer useful. They exist only because your important characters need someone to talk to, avenge, or possibly have sex with depending on what kind of story you’re writing.
Fully fleshing out a secondary character will only confuse the reader. Sure, your central characters are supposed to live in a world with actual other people who have real back-stories and lives that don’t revolve around the people you have decided are important, but all that character development will unnecessarily complicate your story. For example, let’s say an important character is having an argument with an unimportant character. If both sides of the argument are represented fairly because both of the characters are well developed, how will the reader know who to root for?
Here is a good rule-of-thumb: only develop a secondary character enough so if they die, it makes sense that the main character is sad (or happy, or some other emotion) but not enough so that the reader is also sad/happy/whatever. Readers should only react emotionally to the important characters.
Advice #3: Spice up sex scenes with weird euphemisms
Do you know who wants to read anatomically correct words for male and female body parts? Nobody, that’s who! It’s embarrassing for you, the writer, to even type the words dangly-wangly and woo-hoo (Note: these are not the correct terms; the correct terms are passion stick and love cave) when talking about human sexual intercourse, and nobody blames you. It’s uncomfortable for everyone.
That’s why when describing sex, your best bet is to use euphemisms. “Euphemism” comes from the Greek: ‘euphe‘ meaning “we did not bother” and ‘mism‘ meaning “to look this up” and it’s what you use when you have to describe something without using the actual word for that something, especially when a cliché is unavailable.
Euphemisms are incredibly useful in sex writing. The right ones can put the reader in exactly the proper mood. Here are some really good ones:
For men: rumble post; jibbly-do; wack-a-mole; rainmaker; Maxwell’s Silver Hammer; winking worm; little Caesar; magical joy pop; Nessie.
For women: thunder down under; wigwam; hobbit hole; pit of despair; tumble tunnel; echo chamber; algebra class; (and) pillows of happy; bouncy-wouncies; doughboys; Thelma and Louise; jungle bunnies.
Example: “John squeezed Mary’s bouncy-wouncies and introduced the rainmaker to her tumble tunnel.”
WOW! It’s so hot we’re surprised we even got this published!
Advice #4: Swearing makes characters more edgy and real
Having characters swear an awful lot — especially in a screenplay — is an excellent way to announce “I am edgy and daring and current,” and possibly also, “I am trying to be more like Quentin Tarantino and think I’m one more curse word away from getting there.”
You definitely want to use a lot of swears if you want to be hip and current. Here is an example, with the swears replaced with safer words, like ‘milk’:
Before: “I’m going to go to the store for some milk, do any of you need anything?”
After: “I’m going to the Motherfunky store for some funky milk, do you funky shrimpheads need anything? [gunshots] [violence] [Steve Buscemi appears]”
As you can see, swearing has made the sentence much more awesome and true-to-life and also super funky.
Swearing is important in fiction, but twice as important in screenplays. This is not only because you’re totally right about the whole Tarantino thing but because if the film gets made, you will be supplying the rest of us with years of unintentional comedy when the film is aired on network television and the swears are replaced by nonsensical things that don’t even qualify as euphemisms. Our personal favorite was a network airing of Die Hard With A Vengeance in which the underdeveloped secondary character played by Samuel Jackson called the important main character played by Bruce Willis a “melonfarmer”, repeatedly.
The curses you write now can therefore provide future generations of network television viewers with endless, reliable entertainment.
That’s all for this edition of Bad Advice for Writers. If you have any ideas for some bad advice you’d like to hear next time, let us know!
Like what you’ve read? Then sign up for my mailing list…