36 Writing Essays by Chuck Palahniuk

Chuck Palahniuk
Author photo by John Gress, used with permission.

In 2005 Chuck Palahniuk began submitting original writing essays on craft to his official fan site ChuckPalahniuk.net.  36 essays later and Chuck had amassed a wealth of knowledge on his readers; tools and writing tenants that could fill a book!  Only as of now, they don't.  Instead, they reside here, on LitReactor and nowhere else.  Prepare to be blown away.

26: Discon nected Dialogue: Part One

In: Dialogue
The temptation for new writers to answer every question raised in a fictional dialogue with a perfect, clever, instant response is very strong. Chuck demonstrates how this flattens the energy of a scene and what to do instead.

27: Body Language: Part One

In: Dialogue
Leave it to Chuck to make an assignment of watching movies with the sound turned off... and have this make perfect sense. This essay explores gesture and movement as an important counterbalance to your dialogue.

28: Objects

In: Objects
In the best stories, key objects morph to serve several different functions, reappearing throughout while picking up additional resonance. Learn to use a limited number of objects to maximum effect.

29: Required Reading -- Absurdity

In: Structure
In this essay, Chuck explores authority, specificity, pacing, and brevity as points of power in two classic shorts--one from E.B. White and one from Shirley Jackson. You'll be challenged to carry these principles into your own experiments.

30: Utility Phrases: When All Words Fail

In: Phrases
What does your character say when he doesn't know what to say? Utility phrases fill a beat of bland time, possibly framing a gesture, possibly allowing the reader to recover from a shock, all the while developing characterization.

31: Names Versus Pronouns

How can you replace tired third-person pronouns with proper names without monotonous repetition? In this essay, Chuck challenges you to develop a whole range of names for each character and object in your fiction.

32: Nuts and Bolts: Plot Points

In: Plot
In this return to "nuts & bolts" basics, Chuck emphasizes the importance of determining your plot points in advance. The homework portion entails listening for themes and issues that go perpetually unresolved.

33: Tell a Lie, Bury a Gun

In: Character
Chuck exposes one of the more subtle and influential forms of the Buried Gun... the Lie. Have your character lie or make a false promise early, then the backfire can propel a climactic resolution.

34: A Story from Scratch, Act One

Here, Chuck presents the rough draft of Act One in his short story "Fetch," complete with notes and commentary. See his process in action as he begins to apply all the techniques and strategies of previous essays.

35: A Story from Scratch, Act Two

In: Voice
In the rough draft of Act Two, Chuck demonstrates how to reinforce physical details, along with "on-the-body" sensation, "Burnt Tongue," and other critical distinctions from previous lessons.

36: A Story from Scratch, Act Three

In Act Three, Chuck demonstrates the importance of keeping established elements present to the story as it moves forward. He also brings in the "Buried Gun" and reveals strategies for building tension and maintaining character arc.

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