Write It Sideways

Lemony Snicket’s (Very Random) Guide for Writers

I was searching through my list of draft articles today and came across this one. It was written almost 18 months ago, but for some reason never quite got posted.

So, with a little updating, I decided to resurrect it.

If you’ve never read Lemony Snicket’s modern children’s classics, A Series of Unfortunate Events, you’re missing out. His combination of adventurous storylines paired with hilarious narration make for an interesting read for kids and adults of any age.

Lemony Snicket’s (Very Random) Guide for Writers

In reading some Lemony Snicket quotations last week, I got inspired to create this little guide on the writing:

1. Characters Are Like Onions (or cakes, or parfaits … )

In the immortal words of Shrek, onions (and ogres) have layers. Well, characters have layers too:

People aren’t either wicked or noble. They’re like chef’s salads, with good things and bad things chopped and mixed together in a vinaigrette of confusion and conflict.

–The Grim Grotto.

When creating characters for your stories, remember that no one is wholly good or wholly bad. Some may have more bad qualities than others, but human beings are multi-dimensional.

Next time you create a villain, ask yourself if he or she has any good qualities, even if they’re not dominant traits. Likewise, when you create your protagonist, remember he or she can’t be perfect.

If you want to learn more about creating multi-dimensional characters, pick up a copy of Larry Brooks’s Story Engineering: Mastering the Six Core Competencies of Successful Writing. There’s a whole section on characterization.

2. Writers Who Don’t Read Are Evil

Wicked people never have time for reading. It’s one of the reasons for their wickedness.
–Lemony Snicket

I think this is self-explanatory. Obviously, if you want to be a writer but you don’t spend a lot of time reading, you’re a wicked, wicked person. Shame on you. Now go pick up a book.

Don’t have anything to read? To see my top favourite reads from last year, click here.

And while you’re at it, try out these 10 Reading Exercises for Fiction Writers.

3. Always Polish Your Work

If writers wrote as carelessly as some people talk, then adhasdh asdglaseuyt[bn[ pasdlgkhasdfasdf.
–Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can’t Avoid.

First impressions are important, but so are second and third impressions. At no point are you good enough to give up editing and proofreading your work. While the occasional mistake looks completely human, frequent ones look sloppy.

Here are 9 Editing Tips that Make Your Writing Sparkle, so you never have to make a bad impression on a critique partner, an agent, or an editor again.

4. Take Chances

Taking one’s chances is like taking a bath, because sometimes you end up feeling comfortable and warm, and sometimes there is something terrible lurking around that you cannot see until it is too late and you can do nothing else but scream and cling to a plastic duck.
–Lemony Snicket.

Sometimes you have to take chances with your writing. That doesn’t mean things will work out every time, or that nothing bad will come of it. Nevertheless, taking chances or even breaking the rules can sometimes be an advantage.

See 6 Writers Who Broke the Rules and Got Away with It

5. You May Never Understand Rejection

They didn’t understand it, but like so many unfortunate events in life, just because you don’t understand it doesn’t mean it isn’t so.
–The Bad Beginning

You got another rejection, even though this time you were absolutely, positively, beyond-a-doubt sure you’d be successful. You might never know why. Maybe your writing was good, but just not good enough.

Maybe it was bad and you just didn’t know it. Maybe you just caught an agent or publisher on a particularly bad day. You may never understand why, but you still have to accept it and move on.

Still, there are some clues as to What that Writing Rejection Letter Really Means.

What Does This All Teach Us?

Not much, really. But reading Lemony Snicket quotations is good fun, just the same.

Have a great writing weekend, everyone.

All quotations taken from: goodreads