Palahniuk’s New Book Damned

Funny story. I did not realize that today was the release date for DAMNED, Chuck Palahniuk’s new novel.

So naturally…. I drove across town in the pouring rain and tumultuous wind in my Matchbox car to buy it. The wind nearly flipped me, but I braved it, rushing in, buying the book for an insane amount of money, and leaving.

Was it worth it?

It’s CHUCK PALAHNIUK!!! He’s awesome!

He wrote Fight Club, Choke, Lullaby, Invisible Monsters, and Rant. Not to mention tons of other awesome books.

What’s this one about?

“Are you there, Satan? It’s me, Madison,” declares the whip-tongued eleven-year-old narrator of Damned, Chuck Palahniuk’s subversive new work of fiction. The daughter of a narcissistic film star and a billionaire, Madison is abandoned at her Swiss boarding school over Christmas, while her parents are off touting their new projects and adopting more orphans. She dies over the holiday of a mari­juana overdose—and the next thing she knows, she’s in Hell. Madison shares her cell with a motley crew of young sinners that is almost too good to be true: a cheerleader, a jock, a nerd, and a punk rocker, united by fate to form the six-feet-under version of everyone’s favorite detention movie. Madison and her pals trek across the Dandruff Desert and climb the treacherous Mountain of Toenail Clippings to confront Satan in his citadel. All the popcorn balls and wax lips that serve as the currency of Hell won’t buy them off.

This is the afterlife as only Chuck Palahniuk could imagine it: a twisted inferno where The English Patient plays on end­less repeat, roaming demons devour sinners limb by limb, and the damned interrupt your dinner from their sweltering call center to hard-sell you Hell. He makes eternal torment, well, simply divine.

So, should you read it? Did I mention that CHUCK PALAHNIUK wrote it!!!!!!!! It’s going to be intensely inappropriate, super creative, and hilarious. I cannot wait to read it. Now I’ll stop posting this blog and get crackin’ on reading.


The Character Arc Corellation

You cannot write a good book without good characters. Compelling characters drive the plot of any novel, even those which are “plot-driven.” Because even in the midst of an alien invasion, you won’t really care about what happens unless you care about who it all happens to.

The thing about a novel is, a novel has no budget. It’s not like a Hollywood blockbuster that must use a set amount of funds. Well, perhaps people need budgets for marketing, but in plot terms, a writer can do whatever they’d like. The same stands true for characters.

The novel is a unique art form in that you can make whatever you’d like happen– in music, in films, the creators do not carry that same freedom. But to mold characters fully formed– realistic with flaws and contradictions and wide ranges of emotions– that’s a quite difficult task.

If a character can make you both laugh and cry, that may well be the gauge of how well you can relate to him or her. Relating to readers, however, relies on more than what most authors surmise. Many authors believe that by attributing quirky traits to characters, it helps their characters seem unique. That’s not true, though, unless this characteristic will play a crucial part in the story.

For example, in Chuck Palahniuk’s Invisible Monsters, the narrator is missing the bottom half of her face. She’s an ex-model. In this way, a characteristic is more than just a characteristic, but an important plot point. This contradiction of what she used to be and what she now is demands the question of what occurred since then and now. In Black Swan Green by David Mitchell, the narrator speaks with a stammer; rather than be a simple characteristic, it helps propel the story.

A character, sure, might own a lot of cats, but that novel better have a lot to do with cats. If you give a character a huge scar across his face, you better explain what car accident or dark wizard gave him that scar. Don’t fall into Dickens syndrome, attributing exaggerated physical traits to characters with only stereotypical consequences. Those do not help us understand and sympathize the character; instead, we merely know that if she has a big nose, she is nosy.

People, though, are weird, jammed to the trachea with contradictions. Use that. Characters must act in the same way. Consider what makes the people you know unique. Their hobbies, their aspirations, their beliefs. These very real characteristics drawn from life contribute the motives behind which characters act.

To help a reader sympathize with a character, you need to make them go through Hell. I’m not going to care about a character for whom everything goes right– frustrate him and make him misunderstood. Make him suffer. Make him sometimes cruel. No one’s motivations are simple. Remember that.

What must be kept in mind is that characters must be fully developed. If I do not care about your characters, I will not care about your book. It doesn’t matter what happens to people that I feel I cannot care about. So, in writing stories, make sure you feel that you’re writing about real people. It will make your ability to reach people that much greater.

Would You Read This?

Welcome to the small town of Lickskillet, where the good ole boys kick back with a beer every now again, where the people and friendly, where the local claim to fame is the world’s largest museum devoted solely to garden gnomes, and where a dark conspiracy is brewing. After the prominent ex-mayor is lynched in the affluent gated community Golden Oaks, the people of Lickskillet are demanding justice and quickly revamping their image as the most politically correct town in the Southeast.

The locals are not the only ones in the need of a public image face-lift. A Ku Klux Klan member, Mathew Pepper, being accused of the murder is not helping their quarterly membership ratings, so arrives in town national PR agent for the infamous organization: Roscoe Ostrander. To have a more tolerant image, Roscoe concludes, the Klan need only accept some black members of the community into their ranks.

Roscoe’s son Declin moves around quite a lot, because of the nature of his father’s job. And every place he goes, he’s the new kid, always the outsider. But maybe he can at least be the most interesting person in school for the six months while he stays. If you’re nobody, you can be anybody. Declin has never had a girlfriend and when he lands in Lickskillet, Declin hatches a plot to market himself as a heart-breaking ladies’ man. Girls will surely come his way.

As the trial of Mathew Pepper becomes explosive, Declin learns he may have to stay in town longer than first he believed, and the lies he told to people about his past seem harder and harder to keep telling. He must be the Declin Lickskillet knows, but also keep some shred of himself. But having changed himself every six months for years, Declin is not sure he knows who the REAL him is any longer.

After finishing the first 10,000 words of my next novel, I’m quite proud. At this stage of writing The Savagery of Sebastian Martinelli, the plot was not so complicated. Furthermore, I’m very proud of the character development I’ve already been able to implement, and this is only a bare bones draft. Above is only a basic premise, which I realize is long. I like stories to be fairly complicated and strange, and I imagine the story will only get stranger as I progress to write it.

My question to you is: would you read this?

Reading is for Nerds, Freakin’ Awesome Nerds

So what? I read books, bro… Get off my Dickens.

At some point, reading books became something only geeks did. Before Netflix, Youtube, and Facebook, (about 100 years ago, I suppose), everyone read books. Well-read men were looked upon as young, dashing sages. Writers were mysterious men with typewriters, scribbling romantic lines in yellowed notebooks. What happened to that freakin’ awesome stereotype?

When did books become such a symbol of lameness? Books can be pretty awesome. If reading or writing isn’t cool, then maybe you’ve just not been reading the right books.

I fully blame the public education system, which fortunately is the scapegoat for most of the blame for anything that I find wicked. English teachers assign, sometimes, the worst books. Children as young as ten are FORCED to read particular books, which gives them a bad perspective on books over all. Rather than be an intellectual escape, books represent horrible slave work. They become prisons of multi-layered syntax and qausi-universal themes, all of which you may never fully understand.

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the lack of boys reading, which I suppose is normal. If we are forced at a young age to read Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, we might swear off books altogether. Reading has become a pastime for nerds and pansies. Very few books transcend this stigma, deemed worthy of every child reading:  such as Harry Potter perhaps, or The Bible. But crack the spine of anything else, and you’re a nerd.

Stories, though, are more important than we give them credit. Some books are not simply good just because of an awesome premise. Rather, books are a medium through which people can share their stories. Even if the story is fiction, the ideas can be the understood, the emotion truly felt. Themes hardly matter in a book if you don’t feel something physically. The story needs to affect you on a very visceral level, make your stomach churn or your head feel light. We need to realize that reading isn’t merely intellectual, but also a sensational experience.

We must find books to share with people that will touch them. Especially kids.

In books, they give away free passports to every country on Earth. In books, they sell train tickets to places that don’t even exist. In books, heroes triumph on a daily basis. In books, you always get the girl. In books, you learn something about yourself you might not have otherwise figured out.

Reading is seemingly intimate. A solitary experience somewhere. But by reading a book you are affected in the same way that so many others reading the same book felt. Maybe you can’t feel exactly the same, being a different person. But you share the experience with people all around the world.

So, yes, I read.

I write.

I want to use that medium to change people’s minds and to make them laugh. To make them scratch their heads and to make them crap their pants. To make them hoot and holler and to make them put the book down on their lap and look quietly through a train window in deep thought.

Stories are the spirit through which all humans can strive to understand each other.

Guest Blog: Life Behind the Shelves

Libraries smell.  It’s a combination of dusty, unread pages, acrylic paintings too hideous for hotels to display, sticky PB&J hands touching every book they can reach, and pee-pee pants.  But libraries also smell of something greater.  They smell of knowledge.

Recently I’ve gotten to view libraries in a new light.  This summer I decided to do something besides sitting in my room watching countless Netflix movies and playing computer games (I suggest Hambo).  I decided to volunteer at Aiken County’s public library.  Sounds good, right?  I’d get to shuffle around all day in the air conditioning, wagging my finger at naughty children and suggesting books to kids slightly younger than me.  I’d also get to display a snazzy “Library Volunteer” pen (complete with a stick person reading a book) on the front of my multicolored shawl, always a plus.

It was a good idea…at the time.

Ever since I started volunteering there, I’ve started hating the library more and more.  Sure, it’s a great resource.  And the staff is super friendly and nice.  And there are a lot of really neat programs and stuff going on there.  But I just don’t like the public, the browsers, perusers, the grazers, whatever you want to call them.

Something about these people really tick me off.  They think it’s okay to leave books strewn across the aisles.  And it’s quite normal to find a ‘Young Adult’ book in the Children’s Room.  And despite common belief, the Spanish books go on a separate shelf, not with the baby books.  I even found a book on interracial relationships on a shelf with books for beginner readers (I left it there just for fun). These people just don’t understand.    And  I could go on, but I’d rather just leave you with the generalization I’ve made, and trust me on this one; library-goers are bad people.

But the other day, I did meet an exception.  Well, it wasn’t technically a “meet.”  It was more of an “overhearing occasion.”  A little bit of eavesdropping.  Alright, I’m not going to lie, I was straight creepin’ and creepin’ hard.

Two complete strangers struck up a conversation.  I learned that one woman was was a young single mom raising two kids after escaping a rough,abusive home life.  The other woman described how two of her brothers were shot and killed and how one day she watched her grandchild play in the front yard as a car ran off the road and broke the little girl’s neck. Her grandchild, like the brothers, died.  But, throughout the talk they spoke about God and how He helped them get to where they are today.  They were so faithful and so religious.   Both women came from, in my opinion, horrible backgrounds.  I can’t even imagine what they’ve gone through.   It made me feel not only guilty for living a comfortable life, but also jealous for their deep, beautiful relationship with God.  It made me take another look at myself.

So I guess libraries are good for something besides playing hide-and-go-seek and wasting time in the air conditioning.  Sure, I’ve got the whole love-hate relationship going on, but there is no denying that the library has taught me much more than any book could (besides maybe the Webster-Merrian Dictionary).  And so what if it does smell?!?!  That’s the smell of knowledge for you, and as we all know, with knowledge comes power. And I like power.

{Annalise Eberhard is a rising senior in high school .  She recently started blogging after her mother forced her to.  She is not a published author, poet, or anything cool like that, but she does enjoy writing and drinking grape soda.  She is a current member of the Poetry Club, National Honors Society, National German Honors Society, and the German Club, as well as Co-Editor of her school’s newspaper.  She also clogs, plays church-league basketball, and runs track and cross country.  Her life isn’t exciting, but she makes up for it by being weird. Check our her blog here}