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25 Things You Should Know About

Metaphor

1. Comparing Two Unlike Things


A metaphor is a little bit of writing magic that allows you, the writer, to draw an
unexpected line between two unlike things. You are comparing and connecting things
that have no business being compared or connected. How is a wasp like an auto
mechanic? A banana like a storm cloud? How do you talk about a nuclear winter while
evoking a beautiful symphony? The metaphor is the writer holding up one thing (a
double-headed dildo) and asking nay, demanding that the reader think of
something else (a floppy slice of freshly-baked zucchini bread). It is a subversion of
expectation; a sabotage of imagery. Metaphor is metamorphosis. You can tell thats true
because they both have meta and pho. Or something.

2. Because Comparing Two Samey Things Is Silly


A metaphor fails if its obvious. Comparing two alike things is meaningless in terms of
providing engagement and enlightenment to the audience. That horse is like a donkey
simply isnt meaningful. We already know that. We describe the things that need
describing. You wouldnt say, This double-headed dildo is like a single-headed dildo
and call that a metaphor. All youre doing there is thwacking the audience about the
head and neck with your +5 Double-Headed Dildo of Obviousness.

3. Literarily, Not Literally


Further, a metaphor is not to be taken literally. A snake is like a worm is literally true,
and thus fails as a metaphor. Metaphors operate best as purely figurative. Life is not
literally a bowl of cherries. The power of metaphor is in its ability to transcend the real;
in this way, metaphor is like an artsy-fartsy version of sarcasm. It is a beautiful lie. I say
one thing, but I mean another.

4. Simile Versus Metaphor


A simile uses like or as to connect things; a metaphor eschews both words. Simile: My
love for you is like old lunchmeat. Still here, but way past its expiration date.
Metaphor: My love for you is a zombie. Dead but still walking around. The simile
creates a little distance; this is like that. Not same, but similar. A metaphor undercuts
that distance. This is that. Not just similar, but absolutely (though abstractly) the same.

5. A PhD in Symbology
Metaphors and symbols are not the same thing. A metaphor is stated outright. I say it. I
write it. I dont hide from it. When I say that her vagina is like the blown-out elastic in
a pair of old underpants, or, his dick is like soft serve, Im not trying to hide what I
think or feel. Im shoving the imagery right into your eyeholes. A symbol is far cagier,
far more guarded. A character who symbolizes something (sin, colonialism, addiction,
zoo-keepers, reality television) does so in an unspoken way. The author never takes the
time to complete that picture. A metaphor draws the line between two unlike things. The
symbol never draws the line it just casually gestures in the direction of the other
thing, hoping youll connect the dots yourself.

6. Take Literary Viagra To Extend Your Metaphors


A metaphor that kicks open the door to its cage and runs around a little before being put
down is an extended metaphor, or a conceit. It refuses to be kept to a single iteration,
and will get its roots and shoots all up into the paragraph where it initially appeared.
The metaphor continues its not enough to say that urban development is like a
cancer and leave it at that. The metaphor grows and swells, blister-like, using the
whole paragraph to explore the metaphor to its fullest: gentrification is metastasis,
developers are like free radicals, rich guys like tumors, and so on and so forth.

7. Elegance In Simplicity
Err on the side of simplicity rather than complexity. The weightier and more Byzantine
a metaphor becomes, the more likely that it becomes unstable, untenable, overwrought.
When I say, Johns a dinosaur, the message is clear: hes old-school, probably too oldschool, and if hes not careful hes going to get face-punched by a fucking meteor. But I
dont need to say all those things. I dont need to beat the metaphor into the ground until
its a pulpy, shitty mess; its not a watermelon, and Im not Gallagher. The audience
wants to do work. They want to take the metaphor and help draw the line. Hand them a
simple machine, not a Rube Goldberg device.

8. Wink, Wink, Nudge, Nudge


Some metaphors are implied. When you say, Garys coming for you, Bill that guy
can smell blood in the water from a mile away, were using a metaphor to imply that
Gary is a shark, but without actually saying that hes a shark. The power here is in
letting the audience bring a little something to the table. The danger here is you reach
too far and fail to make the implication click.

9. Broken Metaphors Are Brick Walls


Some metaphors just dont work. You maybe think they do, because in your head
youve drawn a line that makes sense to you and well, nobody else, you fuckin goon.
The readers sitting there, scratching his head, wondering just what the hell a blue heron
has to do with a head cold and what happens is, it stops the reader dead. Every
component of your writing is binary its either a 1 or a 0, its either Go, Dog, Go, or
Guy Running Full Speed Into A Tree. Its lubricant (facilitates the reader reading), or a
fist (forces the reader to stop). A broken metaphor asks the reader to stand over the
confounding imagery, chewing on it the way one must jaw hard on a hunk of gristly
steak. Make sure youre not putting out metaphors that are clear to you and only you.
Think of the reader, not of the writer.

10. Mixed Metaphors Make Us Throw Red Bull Cans At Your Head
If I wanted to mix metaphors, I might take that love/lunchmeat/zombie metaphor and
smoosh those fuckers together: My love is like a zombie its dead and walking
around long past its expiration date. Its mixed because its in effect creating a
metaphor within a metaphor: love is like a zombie, and a zombie is kind of like
lunchmeat in that it has an expiration date even though human bodies and zombies dont
usually have expiration dates and love isnt really a zombie and besides, zombies arent
real anyway. So, its asking the reader to draw the line and say love = zombie, but
zombie = lunchmeat. Its not the worst mixed metaphor ever (as one could suggest that
a persons date of death is his expiration date). You can, of course, get a whole lot
worse the worst ones build off cliches (Dont look in the mouth of a upset gift horse
of another color before the apple cart or s something.)

11. Cliches Make Me Kick-Stab You Through A Plate Glass Window


Let me define for you: Kick-stab. It means I duct tape a divers knife to the bottom of
my boot, and then I focus all of my chi (or: ki) into my kick as I drive my knife-boot
into your chest so hard it explodes your heart and fires your ragdoll body through a
plate glass window that wasnt even there before but the force of the kick was so
profound it conjured the window from another universe. All this because you had to go
and use a cliche. Cliches are lowest common denominator writing and serve as
metaphors for unimaginative, unoriginal turd-witted slug-brains. KIYAAAKAPOW
*kick* *stab* *krrsssh*

12. Show Us Your Brain

Ew, no, not like that. Put your scrotum back in your pants, you monster. No, what I
mean is: metaphors represent an authorial stamp. Theyre yours alone, offering us a
peek inside your mind. When a reader says, I would have never thought to compare a
sea squirt to the economic revolution of Iceland, thats a golden moment. The
metaphor is a signature, a stunt, a trick, a bit of your DNA spattered on the page.

13. They Are The Chemical Haze That Creates Unearthly Sunsets
Look at it another way: a sky is a sky is a sky. But when we cast against the sky a
chemical haze or the ejecta from a volcanic eruption, its like a giant fucking Instagram
filter it changes the sky and gives us heavenward vistas and sunsets or sunrises that
are cranked up on good drugs, revealing to us unearthly beauty we never expected to
see. The haze or the ejecta are entirely artificial applied to the sky, not part of the
original equation but it doesnt matter. Thats metaphor. Metaphor is the filter; its a
way to elevate the written word (and the world the word explores) to something
unexpected, something unseen. Metaphors are always artificial. But that fails to
diminish their magic.

14. Hot Mood Injectors


Metaphors do not merely carry tone; they can lend it to a story. The metaphors you
choose can capably create mood out of the raw nothing of narrative a metaphor can
be icky, depressing, uplifting, funny, weird, all creating moods that are (wait for it, wait
for it), icky, depressing, uplifting, funny, or weird. A metaphor is a mood stamp. A tonal
injector. Consistency in the tone of your metaphors is therefore key.

15. Metaphor As Rib-Spreader To Show Us A Characters True Heart


A metaphor used to describe a character tells us more about the character than a mere
physical description saying a character is gawky is one thing, but then saying he
walks like a chicken with a urinary tract infection paints for us a far more distinctive
and telling portrait. Evoking those things (the chicken, the yellow of urine), suggests
cowardice. It also suggests that he probably puts his penis in places he shouldnt. Like
hamster cages and old Pringles cans. Or chickens. #dontfuckchickens

16. Fuck The Police


Metaphor is part of description and we use description when something in the story
breaks the status quo when it violates expectation and so the audience must have a
clear picture of it. You dont talk about every tree in the forest; you describe that one
tree that looks different, the twisted old shillelagh where the characters brother hanged
himself. Metaphor operates the same way: you use a metaphor when you want us to
know something new, something different. Its you pointing us to a thing to say, this
thing matters.

17. Metaphors Operate By A Beautiful Short Circuit Of The Brain, Part


One

Metaphors arent just some shit writers invented so they can strut about like pretty
purple peacocks. Its not just a stunt. Metaphors are part of our brains not just
writers brains (which are basically rooms where armed chimpanzees force drunken
dogs to chase meth-addled cats all day long), but the brains of all humans. Heres the
cool thing about metaphors: our minds know the difference between the real and the
metaphorical, and yet, our brains respond to metaphors often the same way they would
to reality. You call someone a dirty bastard, and our brain pulls the chemical triggers
that make us think of, or even feel, a moments worth of uncleanliness. How fucking
bad-ass is that? THE BRAIN BE STRAIGHT TRIPPIN, BOO. (Article: This Is Your
Brain On Metaphors.)

18. Metaphors Operate By A Beautiful Short Circuit Of The Brain, Part


Two
Another awesome thing the brain does with metaphors? Were sitting there, reading,
right? And the part of our brain thats active is the part associated with reading and
language. Ahh, but when we encounter a metaphor, our brain short-circuits and leaves
that area it freaks out for a moment, and kung-fu kicks open the door and runs to the
area of the brain more appropriate to the sense triggered in the metaphor. In describing a
smell or a touch, the brain goes to those areas and highlights that part of your skulls
mental meatloaf. Example: words describing motion highlight your motor cortex. What
this means is supremely bad-ass: it means that good description and powerful metaphor
are real as real gets. They trick our brain into a reality response! Stupid brains! Ha ha
ha, eat a dick, brain! I just fooled you with words! (Article: The Neuroscience of Your
Brain on Fiction.)

19. The Sensory Playground


This tells us then that metaphors should use all senses, not just the visual. Mmkay?
Mmkay.

20. Down In The Metaphor Mines


You can stimulate metaphorical thinking. At the simplest level, just make a concerted
effort. Walk around, look at things, feel them, smell them, try to envision what those
things remind you of a summers day, a calculator watch, a used condom, a wicker
basket heavy with roadkill, James Franco. Take one thing and then ask, how is it like
another? Find the traits they share, both literal and abstract (hint: its the abstract ones
that really matter). You can also force such stimulation: sleep or sensory deprivation
will do it. So too will the right amount of al-kee-hol (not too much, but not too little,
either). Probably the biggest category of metaphorical stimulator comes from
hallucinogens, which are illegal and you should never do them. BUT IF YOU DO
NEGLECT MY ADVICE AND WOLF DOWN A PALM FULL OF FUNNY
MUSHROOMS AGAINST MY DOCTORIAL PROHIBITION, youll find that your
brain makes crazy leaps between things the very nature of hallucinations is due to the
powerful tangling of sensory neurotransmitters (note: not a brainologist). Hallucination
is metaphor; metaphor is hallucination.

21. Poe Tray

Another critical way to train your brain to love the metaphor: read poetry. Lots and lots
of it. Old and new from every geographic region. Then: write it. Poetry is often a
doorway to a metaphorical wonderland. You know what else is a doorway to a
metaphorical wonderland? Churros. Mmm. Churros.

22. Profanity Is A Kind Of Metaphor


I want to point this out because, well, me and profanity? Were buds. Were bros. Were
in the Fuck Yeah Sisterhood. We went to space camp together and sold Girl Scout
Cookies together and lost our virginities togeth you know, we dont need to keep
talking about that. What Im saying is, when I say, Dave is a shithead, I dont mean
hes actually got a literal pile of feces roosting on his shoulders. When I say, Fuck you
in anger, I dont mean I actually want to fornicate with you. (I mean, probably.)
Profanity is abstraction. Its dirty, filthy, gooey abstraction. And it is wonderful.

23. Metaphor Is A Strong Spice


Dont overuse metaphor. Every paragraph cant be a metaphor for another thing
sometimes you just have to say the thing that you want to say without throwing heaps
and mounds of abstraction on top of it.

24. Blood Makes The Grass Grow


No, wait, sorry, I mean, Practice makes perfect. Silly me! If youre not particularly
comfortable with metaphors, if they make your throat tight and your body tense and
cause you to pee two, maybe three drops of scaredy-urine into your Supergirl underoos,
you merely need to practice. Sit down. Write metaphors. Let your brain off its chain and
see what it comes up with. Write a whole page hell, a whole fucking book of the
damn things. Nobodys reading these. No pressure. Care little. Just write.

25. Metaphors Are Part Of An Artistic Frequency


Narrative can, at the basic level, exist in a way where it tells us what has happened or is
happening. Right? It serves as a simple explanation, the story being the literal actions
taken and words spoken. John went to the grocery store. There he saw Mary. John and
Mary kissed by the cantaloupes. John said, I love you. Mary Tasered him in the
nipples. John died. Mary took his shoes. Whatever. But our storytelling can have levels
that go above and below our words, that exist outside the literal flow of events and
dialogue spoken. We have subtext. We have authorial intent. We have theme and
symbol. And, drum roll please, we have metaphor. Metaphor elevates our narrative.
Subtext is an invisible layer but metaphor is very visible, indeed: with metaphor were
adding new colors to the sensory and experiential wavelength. This is why we use
metaphor: to elevate storytelling to more than just the story told.

25 Things You Should Know About


Worldbuilding
Worldbuilding is one of those topics that bakes my noodle every time my brain chooses
to dwell on it. I have a whole bucket full of opinions, many of them in stark
disagreement with one another. So, this list below should never at any time be taken as
25 Exhaustive Universal Truths About Worldbuilding, but rather be regarded as, 25
Things Chuck Wendig Thinks About Worldbuilding At This Exact Moment In Time, Oh,
Wait, Some Of Them Just Changed.
Kay? Kay.
Lets chat.

1. What We Mean When We Say Worldbuilding


Were talking about the revelation of your storyworld and its details through the story
itself. Its easy to think this means setting, but thats way too simple worldbuilding
covers everything and anything inside that world. Money, clothing, territorial
boundaries, tribal customs, building materials, imports and exports, transportation, sex,
food, the various types of monkeys people possess, whether the world does or does not
contain Satanic twerking rites.

2. The World Serves The Story, The Story Does Not


Serve The World
My opinion: you build a world to serve the story or stories you want to tell; you do not
tell a story that is slave to the worldbuilding. Story comes first. Worldbuilding supports
the story. Meaning, you must look at the components of the story you hope to tell: its
got these characters, its about this idea, it makes a particular argument, and from there
you start to see that the world can organically accommodate and reflect those things.
Doing the opposite leading with the worldbuilding is what youd do if you were
writing a roleplaying game which has to tell all kinds of stories, not just yours. If you
put the cart before the horse the horse is gonna headbutt the cart and knock it over and
then youre all, WAIT NO MY CABBAGES then we laugh at you.

3. Put Differently, Youre Not Writing A Fucking


Encyclopedia
If you prioritize worldbuilding, youre probably going to end up with like, seven
different versions of the D&D Monster Manual but no actual novel. Which, again, is
super-awesome if youre writing a roleplaying game, but less awesome if your goal is to
write a more static and ego-driven story. Worldbuilding can be a giant time sink and,
worse, a distraction that can make you feel productive while also keeping you from
lashing your body to the mast of your novel, comic, or film which, again, is more
likely your purpose.

4. Okay, Wait, You Might Be Writing An Encyclopedia


But then again, thats not to say youll find zero value in writing a storyworld bible for
the tale at hand. If youre writing a three-book epic fantasy, and each book is gonna be
150,000 words a pop or more, you may want to find a comfort level with the details big
and small of the world about which youre writing in certain modes of fantasy, the
world is itself a character, and a focused world bible will help you reflect that. Just the
same, youre still better off ensuring that what goes into the story bible reflects the
characters and themes you plan to work with, and its probably also wise to get some
of those story details down in your notes before you hunker down and start writing the
bible for Middle Earth II: Shirelectric Hobbaloo. Heres one test: if youve spent a year
writing a 400-page story bible (one you could use to break the neck of a walrus) and yet
you still havent put a single sentence down on your novel, you might be committing
too much energy in the wrong direction.

5. Variant Approach: Ninja Genesis


Man, now I have a great idea for a Phil Collins cover band. *dons ninja gear, starts
singing Sh-sh-shuriken, sung to the tune of Sussudio* WAIT YOURE STILL HERE
okay Ill worry about that later. If youre lazy (like me!) and dont feel like you can
commit to writing a glacier-sized world bible, hey, you know what? Build it as you go.
As you write, introduce details relevant to the story, the plot, the characters, the theme,
and to the chapter at hand. Thisll probably require work on the back-end no, not
proctology, though perhaps its not unlike proctology, because youll have to go back on
the second draft and root around and make everything work together instead of the
random slapdash worldbuilding you just did. The pro: this is organic and works for lazy
people (like me!). The con: more work after the fact, and may not give you a full sense
of the world going into the story. Probably better for stories that require lighter
worldbuilding, like those based off of our existing world.

6. The Pig In A Purse


Heres some probably-really-bad and likely-untrue advice: give the audience only those
details they need to know to understand the story. Now, its worth highlighting what I
mean by story story, for me, is not the same as plot. Story is the apple, plot is the
arrow through it. Plot is a sequence of events as revealed to the reader, but story is all
the stuff in and around that. Mood is a function of story, so when I say to include those
worldbuilding elements that are necessary to move the story forward, I dont merely
mean the plot. I mean, hey, its totally okay to include a detail that is relevant to
advancing a particular mood of gloom, or a theme of mans inhumanity to mermaids
or whatever. The problem is when the worldbuilding overwhelms read: smothers
the story with needless details. I dont need you to describe every family crest, guild
sigil, hairstyle, nipple clamp, or blade of grass in the world. (Wait, on second
thought: tell me more about these nipple clamps.) This is bad advice, probably, because
a lot of fantasy storytelling is very much this: chapter after chapter of rich, robust,
wormy worldbuilding loam. Fertile dirt, maybe, but too fetishistic and not necessary to
move the audience forward in that space. And moving them forward is, I suspect, the
goal.

7. Function Beyond Plot


This bears further reiterating: worldbuilding supports story, not just plot. Which means
that your worldbuilding supports mood, theme, conflict, character, culture, setting. It
doesnt have to move only the sequence of events further. The details of the world
youve created can and should engage with the whole narrative, not just action
and event.

8. Action And Dialogue Above Description And


Exposition
That being said, whats true for other stories is true with a story featuring thick,
delicious worldbuilding youre better off conveying the details of that world through
action and dialogue than through giant boulders of description and exposition dropped
on your readers from a vertiginous height. I get points for using vertiginous, right?
Fellas? Ladies? Anybody?

9. A Rich Tapestry Or An Unrolled Tube Of Plain


White Toilet Paper?
A lot of worldbuilding is dull as a hammer, as complex as a meaty slap to the face. This
is fine for certain modes of storytelling (and a powerful story will set aside any concerns
over monochromatic worldbuilding), but in general, if youre gonna build a world,
youre best introducing some measure of nuance into it. Weve been conditioned,
perhaps, by the news and other forces (school, parents, bad fantasy novels) that
everything is black and white, good and evil, that all things are easily slotted into their
compartments. Example: the Middle East. Our politicians, our news media, our pop
culture portray the Middle East like, Okay, those are the good guys, those are the bad
guys, ta-da, yay, simplistic world-view confirmed, but if you spend more than five
minutes looking into it, you realize the picture looks more like this. Certainly some
stories are better off relying on the good versus evil paradigm, but generally, they
dominate. More interesting (to me, if not to you) are those stories that are drawn from
complexity and nuance rather than from easily predictable, simplistic strokes.

10. The Nature Of Write What You Know


Write What You Know is one of those pieces of writing advice that inspires glorious
epiphany and pants-pooping rage in equal measure. Genre fiction tends to be where
folks hit their heads against it in frustration: Well, how can I write about murder
scenes, alien apocalypses, or humping a sexy elf? IVE ONLY DONE TWO OUT OF
THE THREE. And the third, I was really drunk on monkey schnapps. With
worldbuilding, the question becomes: how can this advice hold up? The easy answer is:
it doesnt. It can come into the writing of characters and situations, but worldbuilding,
not so much. The more complicated answer is: you can still borrow from things you
understand and translate them accordingly. Maybe you know local school politics or
neighborhood hierarchy, and you know how both operate viciously, each an engine that
runs on gossip and lies psst, you can use that. Just give it a fantasy or space opera

context, and boom. Alternately, you can borrow from culture, politics and history. Read
some non-fiction about other places and different people. Again: translate. Use write
what you know as a springboard to know more things, then gaze upon said things
through the lens of the fantastic.

11. Remix Culture


We live in an era of remix culture. And reboot culture. Everything thats not something
entirely new either feels like a microwaved rehash or a remix of other stories but
believe me when I say, remixing with worldbuilding is perfectly acceptable. Hell,
remixing can be fun. On my iPad I used DJ software to remix Kayne Wests Black
Skinhead with the Thomas the Tank Engine theme and, pow, now its getting radio
play in both Moldavia and Moldova. Point is to remix things that are different enough
and interesting enough so that the result is something new and unseen remixing can
be magical alchemy or it can be as boring as pouring two different types of milk
together in the same glass. (My world is a remix of Tolkien and Robert Jordan is far
less interesting than, say, Im remixing Cherokee myth with Eastern European
vampires and throwing in a hefty dash of Stephen Kings The Gunslinger.) Dont be
lazy. Dont be predictable. Use other ideas to create something new and uniquely yours.

12. Ew, Stereotypes


If youre worldbuilding, dont rely on stereotypes. Noble savages and white heroes and
damsels-in-distress and people of a single race acting in a single way. No culture is
monolithic, skin color does not determine demeanor or magical racial bonuses, men are
not all one thing and women are not all another thing. Stereotypes are lazy at best,
harmful at worst. They make Story Jesus karate a kitten and then post the pictures on
Facebook that say SEE WHAT YOU MADE ME DO.

13. Your Heteronormative White Male Gaze


Carrying this conversation a little further: if youre firmly ensconced in your minimansion sitting on top of Heteronormative White Dude Mountain, you should cast an
extra-long look at any presuppositions in your worldbuilding and sniff for the acrid tang
of privilege sprayed all over from your White Dude scent glands. The result of
worldbuilding in genre fiction seem to skew strongly toward White Dudes, and this is
frequently excused in some way Well, in the Middle Ages, women were basically
sexy goats and dudes were the shepherds and Im just being authentic and somethingsomething slaves and blah-blah-the-Moors Mmm, uh-uh, bzzt, wrongo. First: you
dont need to be authentic to history in genre fiction that does not use actual history.
Second, history is a lot more nuanced than you think. Third, we know youre just using
that as an excuse, so just stop it. Youre embarrassing yourself. For shame. *shakes
head*

14. Small Details Are Just As Important As Big Ones


Its easy to get wrapped up in all the Big Epic Holy Fucksmuckers aspects of
worldbuilding all the weighty topics like RELIGION and POLITICS and THE

DANCE MUSIC OF KINGS. But a lot of worldbuilding lives in little details. What they
drink at different meals. How they wash their hands. How they treat their animals. What
materials they use to construct their sex toys (BEHOLD THE ORICHALCUM
DONG). These little details can connect to and reflect a larger cultural aspect without
bludgeoning readers over the head and neck with weighty exposition.

15. Simple Interactions Pregnant With Worldbuilding


Complexity
Just as small details matter, so do the small interactions of our characters. The way one
shares her food. The way another addresses a superior. The way a third chooses to
couple rectally with the tentacled yelly-beast of Vrall, and whether or not they cuddle
afterward, and what that cuddling means culturally. Allow the world to be built through
what your characters do and say.

16. Your World Must Be Active And Alive


Worldbuilding is not an encyclopedia for dead cultures and forgotten races. That
element can be in there, sure (because, so cool) but this world is one that features actual
characters doing actual things and affecting the world. Worldbuilding has a tendency to
feel staid and monolithic: Everybody does this because its the culture. But thats
never really true in our world, is it? Look at it like this: the rest of the world sees
America as this single-headed entity, but they also seem to recognize that Americans are
not always representative of that entity. Thats the breakdown: the world is one way, but
the people are allowed to be another. Because people are alive. They have free will and
agency to confirm and deny different aspects of their culture.

17. But Its Cool, Shut Up Is Not An Excuse


All aspects of your worldbuilding should justify themselves in some way. BUT ITS
COOL I LIKE IT is not enough. My experience with worldbuilding is that it yields no
small surfeit of Really Awesome Ideas that, at the same time, Dont Really Belong In
The Story. But this cult! They do awesome things! And they spray acid from their
nipples in the name of their Dark Lordess, Areola the Aerosolized Acid Queen, and they
have magic based on the configuration of moles and skin tags and And none of that
belongs in the book. Doesnt connect to characters, plot, theme, anything. Cut it. Save it
for a time when you can use it meaningfully, not just because oooh preshus darling I
loves the pretty peacock. *paws at the darling, mewls*

18. The Rules


Worldbuilding likes to offer rules in particular, rules about the way This Certain
Thing works, which might be magic, or some alien technology, or political ascension, or
what happens when you fuck a minotaur while holding a pelican under the boughs of
the whispering wank-wank tree. Rules can be critical in helping readers understand the
nature of the world and, more importantly, how the stakes of the story in this world
shake out. (More on a storys stakes here.) But (you know a but had to be coming,
right?), rules can also be woefully boring. They can be expository, obvious, and they

can rob the story of mystery. Youre not writing a technical manual for HVAC repair.
And yet, you also dont want a world where everything is so unpredictable that it feels
convenient and lazy. Heres how to handle it: you should know the rules and conform to
them. But you dont need to spell them out to the audience. The audience is smart! The
audience wants to work. Let them figure it out for themselves, like a puzzle.

19. Wait, I Need To Research My Made-Up World?


Tad Williams thinks so, and I happen to agree. Research trade routes. Economics.
Religious persecution. Poetry. Guilds. Alchemy. Djinn. Leprechaun ranching. Medieval
donkey shows. Knowing how real things work will inform how they work in
your made-up fancy-land.

20. Imagine A World On The Edge Of Conflict


Conflict is the food that feeds the reader. Just as characters enter a story facing conflict,
so too should the world in which they live. First, because its interesting. Second,
because has any world ever been entirely without conflict? War! Famine! Plague!
Facebook! Miley Cyrus soul-leeching hell-tongue! Conflict is good for your story, your
characters, and your setting.

21. Everything Affects Everything Else


Behold the complexity intrinsic to worldbuilding. Everything pushes and pulls on
everything else, often in interesting ways. Again, our world makes for good examples:
think of how a technological development can change the world in a relatively short
amount of time (printing press, electricity, the Internet, Robocop). Think of what
happens when a critical resource (food, water, oil, coffee, hair pomade, black market
llama squeezings) dries up. Small changes in an economic system can have huge results.
A new farming practice can fix or wreak havoc upon the environment. Everything
is tethered to everything else, and in this, you can find compelling worldbuilding as well
as the interesting stories that grow out of it.

22. Subtextology
Characters can speak in subtext. So can the world. Not everything must be spoken or
spelled out.

23. Preserving Mystery Is Vital


A fully-realized and known world is also a boring world. Mystery, alongside conflict, is
another of those vital vittles that feeds the reader and keeps them hooked. Question
marks are shaped like hooks for a reason, I say so leave lots of questions. The best
parts of any map are the ones that fade out and leave us with the dread note of HERE
THERE BE DRAGONS. Preserve that uncertainty in your worldbuilding. Never pull
back the curtain all the way. Always leave us hanging, waiting for you to reveal more,
more, more.

24. Worldbuilding Versus Storytelling


Good worldbuilding does not automatically mean the same thing for the storytelling. Ill
leave you with this io9 article, which compares the worldbuilding of Star Wars: The
Phantom Menace with Star Wars: A New Hope. One could make an argument that the
worldbuilding in the prequel chapters is more robust and more detailed than what youd
find in the original trilogy. And one would hopefully also argue that this didnt make for
a better experience in any way, shape, or form and may have in fact robbed some of the
narrative potency from that universe.

25. Construct Worlds Mapped After Your Own


Heartsblood Spatter
Pro-tip: build worlds that you love. That interest you. Whose characters sing the song
that drums in the deep dark labyrinthine chambers of the puzzle box you call a heart. If
you dont like it? If it doesnt conjure themes that fascinate you, if it fails to play with
images and ideas that appeal to you, the world will feel flat as a frog under an anvil.
Get excited about world building! Embrace the mad genesis. Scream, let there be light,
and then cackle, and pull the switch, and watch the storyworld of your dreams and
nightmares glow bright and bold like a fucking Christmas tree on Jesus own front
porch. I mean, jeez, if you dont dig it, whats the point?

Monday Question: Wuzza Wooza


Worldbuilding?
Saladin Ahmed wrote a cool thing at NPR called:
At Home In Fantasys Nerd-Built Worlds.
Its an article about the virtues of worldbuilding in terms of fantasy fiction.
In it, he says:
Like a detailed model railroad the size of a football field, or a small city of fully
furnished dollhouses, the well-built fantasy world astonishes us with the vastness of its
intricacies. And from this wood, paint, cloth, metal, and hours and hours of painstaking
nerds work, a kind of magic is made.
(Which is a damn fine quote, indeed.)
Im always a little reticent to fall too deep into the world-building rabbit-hole,
because oh, what a deep and wonderful hole it is. In both my upcoming YA cornpunk
series and in my next Angry Robot novel, The Blue Blazes, by golly, there was
worldbuilding to be done. But I also found that the worldbuilding was easy to become
tangential and distracting there comes a point when figuring out the details of the
world crosses over from enhances the richness of the narrative to tangles the
narrative up in its own shoelaces and makes it fall down and chip a tooth and then
everybody laughs at it as it skulks home, weeping into its bloodied hands.
Ahmed points this out giving some examples of worldbuilding that works (and why)
and also noting those examples that perhaps fall towards parody (Robert Jordan, frex).
Really heavy worldbuilding distracts me, I think once I hit that point in a fantasy
novel that we have to describe the pubic grooming habits of halflings or the lyrical
history of the lizard peoples addiction to chocolate eclairs I start to tune out. But, when
done well, it gives you a deeper sense of place and roots you to the story in a way that
the plot itself cannot. (This is true in much the same way that details about a character
can bring you closer to that character at least, until they dont, until they expel you
from them like an exorcism purging a ghost.)
Im fond of saying that I prefer worldbuilding that serves the story rather than story that
serves the worldbuilding. (Though the opposite is true in terms of games: a rich world
presents myriad stories for me as the player to experience the deeper the world, the
bigger the sandbox.)
It also occurs to me just now that the worldbuilding in the very non-fantasy novel
of Ulysses (James Joyce) is actually quite robust. Its almost like a fantasy novel
without the fantasy bits? In that sense that Joyce creates the heroic journey (made
mundane) through a capably-realized real world city, and along the way packs in

enough allusions and details to perhaps drown a bull elephant. (Its a hard-to-read novel,
though I do quite love it.)
I was never the kid with the fantasy map on his wall, but over time Ive come to
appreciate the power of really good worldbuilding.
Which is all a roundabout way of this weeks question:
What for you is an example of good worldbuilding? Or bad? In genre work or not.
And the obligatory: why?

Worldbuilding Challenge: The Gods Of


Blackbloom

(The first Blackbloom challenge reached fruition yesterday. Slugbears! Forgotten gods!
Indentured dead! Sentient cities! Check out the results, wont you?)
Before I say anything else, lets get an administrative issue out of the way: Im going to
start doing these every other week, alternating with flash fiction challenges. That way
the worldbuilding wont go stale and well get more than just 12 major sessions in a
given year. So, just a heads up.
Now, lets talk about the gods of Blackbloom.
Heres all we know:
Blackbloom has gods. Plural. Several, if you care about the specific language.
They have power over given dominions. What this means is unclear, but thats okay.
The gods walk among men but are forgotten and unrecognized. Nobody believes in
them anymore.

And yet they retain power god-like power and cause chaos. To what purpose
remains unclear.
Thats it. Thats all we know.
Its time, then, to populate this pantheon.
Your job:
Come up with a god or goddess of the world known as Blackbloom.
You have 100 words, and only that Im going to be strict and discount entries that go
beyond that. In part because I dont have time to read fifty 2,000-word entries. In part
because brevity is its own powerful creative challenge.
Now, you should feel free to tie them to some of the other facts we already know.
Writing a god in a way so that it further embellishes upon the other points is a winner.
That said, its also not necessary. Do as you see fit.
Write in a way as if youre writing an encyclopedia entry. Pretend its fact, not fiction.
We should also get a small but potent look at the characters of these gods and
characters, they most certainly are.
I will choose as many gods as I find fit into the pantheon. No less than three. But
possibly many more if the entries strike the right mood and end up interlocking.
Go forth, then, and continue this mad genesis, world-builders.

Worldbuilding Challenge: Welcome To


Blackbloom

Last weeks three-sentence challenge is ready for your eyes to behold.


This weeks challenge is a little different.
Youll note that it does not say flash fiction.
It says worldbuilding.
Heres the deal. You and me, were going to build a world. Out of scratch. This is tabula
rasa, and by smashing our faces against the screen and leaving upon it a gooey streak of
blood and brain matter (aka imagination grease) we are going to birth a world out of
zippity-zero-nada-nichts. From nothing to something, from chaos comes order.
Were not going to do it all today.

We will, in fact, do it once a month. Every last Friday of the month for one year, or
until this thought experiment fails miserably and crashes into the mountains where its
forced to eat its friends.
Sometimes well be doing some straight-up worldbuilding, other times well dig deeper
and start telling stories set in this world. But before the stories, the world itself must be
made.
What are the aims of this weird little experiment? I dont even know. Part of it is just to
see if we can build a world that is a place where fiction can live can a series of
strangers collaborate on a world in such a way to generate a seed bed where stories can
grow and thrive? I dont know. But Im here to find out.
Well play in this crazy generative playground, see what happens.
Lets begin.
These are the only things you know about Blackbloom.
First, that is its name. Blackbloom.
Second, it is a place where human and non-humans alike dwell.
Thats it. Thats all we know. Everything else is up in the air. Everything else is suspect.
Nothing is canonical. All is apocryphal. Like I said: chaos. From chaos we shall draw a
deep syringe filled with truth.
Todays mission is for each of you to provide one aspect of the world in under 100
words. This aspect is a point of status quo: it defines the world as it is now. Not as it will
become.
You might say: It has two suns. Or, Water is a precious resource. Or, Two warring
factions fight over the worlds largest city. Define the reality as it is now. Define
Blackblooms current existence.
You can say whatever youd like. Given that so little is defined, youve nothing to build
from but also, nothing to hold you back. This is the act of creation, the weird Genesis
of a made-up world.
Thus, feel free to be as creative as youd like. As weird as you must be.
I will pick well say 10 of these, but if I see more that are really awesome, Ill up to
lets say 20. Thats my job in all of this: to serve not as deity but rather as adjuticator.
Ill pick those by the time the next Worldbuilding Challenge rolls around.
Which will be
October 28th.

Now, get your pick-axes and encyclopedias.


Go nuts.
Create a world.
And welcome to Blackbloom.

Worldbuilding Is A Kind Of
Masturbation

I stand here planning for a new project, and this new project demands all manner of
monstrous monstrousness (or, rather, creature-flavored creatureology), and in that, I
want to wrap my head around the world in which the projects tale will take place. In
doing so, I envision the task before me
which manifests as a deep dark hole waiting at my feet. Occasionally I see shapes
squirming down there in the tenebrous depths: glinty flinty eyes and writhing labial
squid beasts and snot-slick hell-squirrels flying little rotflcopters and other assorted
hallucinations of ones infinite (and utterly diseased) mind. Horrific as it may sound, as
a writer I am delighted by such morbid fantastical explorations and it is therefore quite
tempting to leap boldly forth and pirouette in mid-air and plunge into that fictional
chasm where the monsters lurk, where realms untold await, where the hell-squirrels
worship their belching hell-squirrel god.
I could truly get lost in there.
I could wander its disturbed creative depths, a man lost in a maze of his own making.
Ah, but I am given pause. I have a story to tell, after all. I have a book to write from
this. If I engage with my made-up world endlessly anon, then the book will never get
done. And it is then that I am reminded (as I have said this in the past): worldbuilding
is a kind of masturbation. It is not in and of itself a bad thing so much as it can be a
fruitless endeavor given over only to the expression of onanistic narrative ejaculations
*fap fap fap* and blammo! Upon the page I eject my wad and leave behind in
crumpled-up story tissues endless pages revealing the lineage of the unicorn-kings, the

ancient language of the Flarnsmen of Jibeau, the secret geomantic architectural


blueprints of the chattering hell-squirrels.
My thesis, then, is this:
Worldbuilding should be a slave to storytelling, not vice versa.

Okay, Squid Beast, What The Hell Does That Mean, Exactly?
It means, quite simply: in terms of doing any prep-work for your story, it behooves you
to first conceive of the story you want to tell at all levels of complexity (from the barest
level of boy meets girl to the more complex outline, treatment or synopsis) and then use
the world to prop up your story. Worldbuilding can:
Fill in blanks, drive home theme, untangle plot knots, accentuate the characters, it can
even bring about fresh and unexpected conflict. (It can probably do more, I just got lazy
and stopped thinking about it.)
But my opinion is that worldbuilding can only easily do these things for you if you let
it serve the story (rather than putting a gun to the head of the story and forcing it to
serve the setting).

Here There Be Hell-Squirrels: The Dangers Of World-Building


To be clear, I am not saying that worldbuilding is itself bad how I could I possibly
justify that as a guy who (much as I myself hate to do it) puts outlining and prep-work
on a pedestal?
What Im suggesting is that worldbuilding-before-story-conception threatens you, the
intrepid penmonkey, with a number of perils which could ensnare your best efforts.
What perils, you ask?
First, as noted, its quite easy to get lost in worldbuilding and do so endlessly without
ever accomplishing anything of substance. When I recently stared down the barrel of
this upcoming project, I opened my notefile and started furiously taking notes and then
an hour later, I was left to wonder, what the hell am I doing? None of this matters in
terms of the story I want to tell. Its just piffle, waffle, kerfuffle, and other words ending
in -ffle. Was it a fun distraction? Sure. It was lovely. As a pure creative exercise I guess
it had some merit. But it did nothing to help me understand my story better. I was just
playing with myself.
Second, a story offers you boundaries. You work on an outline or at least have an idea in
your mind as to the story you want to tell, that story is like a fence or, better still, the
dark lines of an image in a coloring book. Youve created margins, and from that point,
worldbuilding is about staying in the margins. If you lead with world creation, however,
youre in danger of going so far astray that you have no focus, no purpose, no theme or
mood or character hooks or whatever. Its like going to Home Depot and buying up the
whole tool department just to hang a fucking painting. Rein yourself in, you frothy
stallion, you.

Third, its easy to become obligated to the storyworld over your story. Oh, you say, I
worked so very hard on describing the psychic pseudo-cultural breeding habits of the
unicorn-kings, and even though I dont really have any place for them exactly, I dont
want to waste the 11,000 words Ive expended on this subject. And so I shall include a
chapter in my book about it. The reader will consider it bonus material!
Fourth, and this is related to the last point: uncontrolled worldbuilding threatens to
intrude upon your tale in the form of the much-and-correctly-reviled infodump.
Here! I will now force-feed you the fruits of my world-building labors! *splurch*

And Now A Deviation Into Kidney-Punching Fantasy Novels


I used to like fantasy novels as a kid, but less so these days. Its not that I dont still
enjoy them theoretically, I do but rather that I never know when a good fantasy
series is going to suddenly become mesmerized by its own worldbuilding. Too many
novels devolve this way and go goo-goo ga-ga over their own sense of setting and
culture. It drives me a bit buggy. A popular series of fantasy novels which rhymes with
The Meal Of Wine or perhaps The Glockenspiel Of Crime started off at a rip-roaring
pace. But then each book got slower and slower, trapped deeper and deeper in its own
mire of story-world minutiae. By Book Number Seventy-Four-And-A-Half, the entire
1,242 page epic took place over seven minutes and spent approximately 14,000 words
on the subject of fabric.
Then again, these books sold approximately one jizzillion copies, so maybe you
shouldnt listen to me.
Writer Paul S. Kemp (whose website is here and who writes awesome Star Wars
books using his mighty thews) said something interesting on Twitter yesterday, though:
Incidentally, one of the reasons I love Sword & Sorcery is the de-emphasis on
worldbuilding and focus on characters. I say this without having devoted a great
deal of effort to disprove it, but I agree with him. I think part of it is procedural: pulp
writers didnt have a lot of time to dick around with worldbuilding. They just had to get
their hands dirty and jump right in. Even still, its an interesting lesson.

This Is Less True (And Perhaps Not True At All) If Youre Writing Games
By the way, and maybe I shouldve said this earlier, I dont consider this lesson all that
hearty if youre working on game narrative rather than something more linear. Ive
noted in the past that traditional storytelling is about communicating the story of the
author, whereas game-based storytelling is about communicatingor, rather, facilitating
the story of the game player.
In that case, worldbuilding is king. I come from the roleplaying industry, and there its
very much about getting muddy in the trenches and talking up the crazy culture of
vampire horticulture or about the designer drugs of mystic hobo hermaphrodites. There
you have a license to sort of create wantonly, but in traditional storytelling you are more
reined in.
How does this figure into transmedia? Uhhhh. Answer unclear, ask again later? No,
really, I dont know. I think to some degree transmedia efforts sometimes feel hollow or

shallow (or perhaps even shollow!) because they spend so much time on the worlds they
build and so little time on the stories that drive the experience. Then again, if the
transmedia components are largely game-based, well
*throws down smoke bomb, avoids topic, lets you people talk about it*

I Like Italics
Seriously, just look around. Italics everywhere.

YMMV, IMHO, Bippity-Boppity-Boo


Im not saying you cannot worldbuild.
Im not saying you shouldnt worldbuild.
I am merely saying that the worlds you build should be in service to the stories you
want to tell. You may choose to do otherwise, and you may in fact choose to do
otherwise quite successfully. But, as always, terribleminds is very much about the
writing life I happen to lead, and this is one of those things I believe about myself in
terms of Getting The Job Done With Minimum Fuss And Narrative Masturbation.
Feel free to slip-and-slide down in the comments. Am I crazy? Am I full of shit? Am I
onto something despite my crazy full-of-shittedness? Sound off, my little hell-squirrels.

Man Is Blue Good: How (Not!) To Utilize


Descriptive Language!

What up, Word Nerds?


I know what youre thinking. I know, because Im a psychic parasite that lives in your
mind. Im not even real. But thats beside the point and is a blog post for another day.
What youre thinking is, Chuck, oh ye sublime master of all things wordly, your post
yesterday on description only helps those who already know how to handle description
in their prose! What about us poor gibbering lunatics who simply dont know where to
begin? My fiction all takes place in the same gray realm, with faceless automatons and
overcast skies! Im covered in cake frosting and feces! How did I get here?
I dont know how you got here. It doesnt matter. Youre here now. Let me hold you for
a while. Well rock back and forth. Ill coo. Youll burble. Ill inappropriately touch you.
And then Ill tell you how (not!) to utilize descriptive language, my lost little puppies.

1: Descriptive Language Is The Awesomest Aftertaste


Back to cake frosting for a minute. Descriptive language is just like the icing on a cake.
And what do we do with cake icing? We eat that shit last. We savor it. You have this
whole hunk of frankly indigestible cake dry as a desert vagina and nobody wants
that. Thats why we cover it with fucking frosting. If I had to eat a brick, Id want that
brick to be covered in sugar, plain and simple. I wouldnt lick the sugar off and then eat
the brick! What am I, suffering under the yoke of a terrible brain disease? So, assuming

that descriptive language is the buttercream that covers your wretched hunk of
unpalatable prose, you best save that for last.
So, dont open with description or setting. Start with dialogue. Offer no context.
Proceed through the action. And then, at the end of a chapter describe.
The protagonist has just jumped through an inter-dimensional portal in his basement and
hes chased by a pack of scissor-wielding robots, boom. Stop. Pull back from the action.
Think of this as the denoument (pronounced: day-doo-doo-douche) of the chapter.
Now is the time to talk about a lamp he passed. What do his sexy track pants look like?
Orange-racing stripe? Got it. Do the scissors in the robots arthritic claws have a brand?
I like Fiskars. Mostly because of the name. Fiskars rhymes with whiskers, which is
not inappropriate, since I often use their scissors to cut the whiskers off of cats so they
bump into walls and doorframes. Hilarity ensues!

2: Descriptive Language Is Your Rock Star Moment

See this dude? He is a goddamn rock star. He has no cares in this life. He exists,
unfettered to your human mores and norms.
Its because he knows all about how to let go, to let his music overtake him, to become
one with the rock.

Thats what you gotta do. Or, to refocus, whats cooler a little drum fill-in, or a 70minute drum solo epic? You know the answer. Go epic. Booda-budda-snare-snarecrash-buddudda-buddudda-buddudda-tom-tom-tom-cowbell-bash-crash-smash-boobam! Go big or go home, geek!
How does that translate to your writing?
Descriptive language is your time to shine. It is your 70-minute drum solo epic.
Brevity is the soul of wit? Fuck you, cliche! I got a new cliche for you: Brevity is
the sole piece of shit! Or something! Smear that on the inside of your medical
facemask and inhale. Ill get that on t-shirts and bumper stickers just to impress my
wisdom upon you.
Go on at length. Fill a page with a firm, unyielding block of descriptive language. You
know whats super-cool? That clock radio by the antagonists nightstand. Even cooler?
The fake rhododendron next to it. Describe them. Describe them with all the words you
can conjure from your stupid brain. What color is the clock radio? How many little
teeny-tiny holes comprise its internal speaker? You think the electric cord isnt
important? You fool. Its terribly important! How will the reader know where the clock
radio gets its power? The reader will assume, Oh, holy shit, this must be a magical
clock radio. If I am left without critical information, I am forced forced! to
assume that it is powered by some kind of electromagnetic unicorn voodoo. Suddenly,
wham. Your detective story just became a fantasy adventure, all because you were too
lazy to describe the electrical cord? Cmon. This is bush league stuff.
Plus, giant, ceaseless tracts of descriptive language will get you super-laid. Super-laid.
The genitals will rain from the skies upon you.
Embrace your rock star. Make that clock radio your own personal Stairway to Heaven /
Hotel California hybrid baby. Rock out to its squalls and squeals.

3: Descriptive Language Exists In Its Own Precious Vacuum


Ive heard rumor that some writers think that you should be spare in writing dialogue,
that you should endeavor to make it organic part of the entire process, that you should
incorporate it into the action and ensure that is ZZzzzZZzzz. Huh? What? Whooza?
Your what hurts?
That advice is useless to you. Youre better served punching yourself in the neck and
balls for two hours. Sure, some writers say that. Some writers also write scat-laden love
letters to a chick named Nora Barnacle.
No, what you need to remember is that your prose descriptions are a precious thing.
Like a dead Dodo, stuffed and put on display by the most gifted of taxidermists. It
should be separate from the rest of the text, called out and pointed to. Youre not
seriously considering ruining all that hard work by letting it touch all your foul, tainted
dialogue, are you? You might as well take a plate of foie gras and stick it back up the
gooses ass before eating it. Cmon.

4: Descriptive Language Works Best When It Makes No Sense

Emily Dickinson doesnt make any sense. I mean, look at this


My nosegays are for captives;
Dim, long-expectant eyes,
Fingers denied the plucking,
Patient till paradise.
To such, if they should whisper
Of morning and the moor,
They bear no other errand,
And I, no other prayer.
Do you know what that means?
What the hell is she talking about?
What is a nosegay? (I mean, besides a prejudicial epithet tsk, tsk, Emily
Dickinson. With that hair I wouldve thought youd have been far more progressive,
even for an attic-bound dust-collecting shut-in. Plus, she still calls black people
moors.) Who cares? Emily Dickinson is popular as shit! You cant throw a stone and
not hit an English professor who doesnt get a little moist at teaching an Emily
Dickinson class. (Even better? The fact that most of poems can be easily read to the
Gilligans Island theme song.) So, you want to be a classic writer? Then write like that.

Any and all descriptions should be entirely an abstract mushy broth of poetic
gobbledygook. Heck, you want to go one better, feel free to mimic the writing of e.e.
cummings, who was so rad he didnt even need to capitalize or use traditional
punctuation:
a clowns smirk in the skull of a baboon
(where once good lips stalked or eyes firmly stirred)
my mirror gives me, on this afternoon;
i am a shape that can but eat and turd
ere with the dirt death shall him vastly gird,
a coward waiting clumsily to cease
whom every perfect thing meanwhile doth miss;
a hands impression in an empty glove,
a soon forgotten tune, a house for lease.
I have never loved you dear as now i love
Takes your breath away, doesnt it? Clowns? Baboons? Turds? That, my friends, is art,
and you would be wise to mimic it. Me, I just take random e.e. cummings and Emily
Dickinson poems, and I remix them (remix culture is big, what with mash-ups and
all) into my own prose. One day, with this in my arsenal, I will be a bestselling author.
You can be, too.

5: Descriptive Language Abides By No Mans Law


Dude, seriously, e.e. cummings is a great example of how you dont need to learn rules
for shit. I know, some people will whine and blather and say something like, But he
was a poet, and he learned how to abide by the rules before he broke them. Yeah, so?
Oh, so we should reward him because he was slow and stupid? Dick that. Skip the
middle man. I dont need to know the law before I rob a 7-11 and clothesline some dude
off his Vespa scooter for my sweet-ass getaway, but that didnt stop me from breaking it
all over the place. Ka-pow.
So, when you describe something, just take a deep breath, and then just let it all out.
And with the breath, slip free all the words you can think of about the thing, person or
situation you are describing. Go on at length. Run-on sentences are not only fine, but
encouraged. Adverbs? Fuck yes. Adverbs are like the tail of the pig that little ly is
the best eating on the whole damn animal. You can make words up. You can ramble. Its
okay. The reader will be along for the ride, because the reader is a drunken mule who
will follow a strong master. A good master writes like this:

The clock radio was forsooth red and natures claw and tooth and quickly swiftly
timidly sat on the cornerstone of the keystone table and clown baboon turd Gilligans
Island pop pop pop beep beep beep LCD display tearing profoundly holes through my
mindfibers.
I mean, thats just a taste. You want to do that for like, 15 paragraphs, easy.

6: Descriptive Language Is Like A Sad Donkey Without A Home


No, that doesnt make any sense.

Thats the point. Its metaphor. Metaphor is the writers coolest tool, because you dont
actually have to say anything at all. A metaphor is basically when youre comparing two
unlike things. How fun is that? Given that the world is home to an infinity of things, you
basically have infinity times two at your disposal.
Plus, metaphors dont need to make sense. Youre not actually drawing a meaningful
connection youre just tying two totally random concepts together with a tenuous
thread! Its like a game.
Examples might include:

The clock radio is like a dead pig on a slow boat.

The man leapt in the air like a pair of broken binoculars.

Emily Dickinson is a monkey toupee.

Lamp equals oblivion.

See? I didnt say a damn thing, but I said it awesomely. You can write entire paragraphs
in metaphor. In fact, thats my official recommendation. Listen, regular words are
boring. The box is red. Seriously? Who cares? The blonde gentleman sipped a
steaming espresso. Yawn. Wake me up when it gets fucking bad-ass.
Instead, try: The box is a blood-dimmed tide, or, for the second sentence, The Nordic
broomstick drank from the cup of nightmares, hot as a dragons teat.
For bonus points, play with cliches. Try to describe an entire scene using only cliches!
Publishers love that, because cliches mean money. You can put a cliche on a foam finger
or one of those beer hats easy. Thats good money. Dont shirk good money. Nobody
owns cliches. Take them. Plunder their riches.
Vivid language, when overused, delivers a karate punch to the readers visual cortex,
severely damaging the readers ability to do anything but send you money and drugs.
Thats every authors wet dream (a.k.a. nocturnal emission), and you know whatll get
you there?
The siren song of constant metaphor, baby.