Mr. Fantastic Fiction here. http://libba-bray.livejournal.com/26535.html
It has been a long time since I posted on account of I had an unfortunate encounter with law enforcement, which resulted in my taking a forced sabbatical from my job at the E-Z Car and Chicken Coop Rental in New Jersey and being placed for a period of time in an anger management group home, which was just stupid and wrong, as Mr. Fantastic Fiction does not have an anger management problem, and I will personally kick the ass of anyone who says differently. I’m only saying that “customer service” is a tough road to hoe, Mr. Pierce “My Boss/Tormentor and Total Tool” Wilkinson. And I feel that I am just being honest when I say that not everybody can channel his inner Mother Teresa when being asked four hundred times while trying to type in the requisite insurance information about whether the minivan being rented has cup-holders because “I can’t drive without cupholders!” Fair is fair, Mr. Wilkinson, and assholes are assholes. I’m only saying.
And, for the record, I did not make “a rude and totally inappropriate gesture” in front of her children. I was scratching my cheek with that finger. Life is a Rorschach test, Mr. Wilkinson, and people see what they want to see. For instance, when you look into your bathroom mirror while applying enough Scent of My Testosterone™ aftershave to cause an asthmatic to go into bronchial freefall, you see a virile ladykiller who still has his hair. And I see the complete turd-muffin who is dating my ex-wife. To which I can only say, good luck, Mr. Wilkinson. Good luck. She has food allergies a mile long, and when you are driving back from a soul-sucking stay at her mother’s house in Scranton and you are so hungry you would literally eat the face of that giggly freckled kid who sells ChocoCrispieTasties cereal on that commercial that was rated the cutest commercial of all time by an impartial jury of professional TV advertisement watchers, and you can’t stop at the closest possible place, a Denny’s, because it is not gluten-free, well, Mr. Wilkinson, enjoy your new life. That is all I have to say: enjoy. Because unlike most government programs and Santa Claus, hell never stops giving.
But that is neither here nor there, where Mr. Wilkinson sits tossing fake three-pointers at the wall from his chair and shouting, “And the crowd goes wild,” waiting for us to clap even though we have all heard and are doing the charitable thing of gritting our teeth and ignoring him. Today, Mr. Fantastic Fiction is rising above such pettiness to bring you yet another lesson in crafting your words into lean, mean, muscular stories—but not the sort of lean, mean, muscular stories that are caused by buying questionable steroids from a sweaty guy named Lenny who hangs out in the stinky gym-socks-smelling sauna of your local YMCA so that you end up going into ‘roid rage and going amok in a Circuit City later, screaming that you are a god while removing your clothes, so that security is called and you end up having an altercation with law enforcement, an altercation that involves being Tasered in places that were not intended for Tasering, and spending two days in county until the judge lets you go because they need the cell “to teach a lesson” to the guy who keeps stealing hubcaps from the cruisers and turning them into “progressive art.”
So today, I would like to talk about plot. Many of you have written to me—some of you from prison, but that’s okay; Mr. Fantastic Fiction does not judge—to ask, “Hey, Mr. F.F., how can I come up with a plot that’s fresh and original, like Star Wars was when Star Wars came out and nobody realized it was a Western set in space? Do you need to read a lot of stories first for research? Should you try to be experimental and post- post-modern? Do I need to write in sequence or can I plot as I go and stitch it all together later? And isn’t plot meaningless in such a random world, a device meant to make us feel that there are rules and regulations and borders to keep us safe when that very notion is ludicrous?”
No. No. No. And don’t waste my time, freak.
There is only one question you need to ask yourself when thinking about plot and that question is, Could adding zombies make this better?
It is a stone-cold fact that everything is better when the zombies show up. If you are experiencing plot epic fail, you’re probably suffering from a Zombie Deficit™. For example, let us say you are reading that snoozefest, Hamlet. At first, you are thinking, “Cool. Dad is a ghost. There’s gonna be some serious undead action going down,” and two hours later, Hamlet is still dithering about whether to be or not to be, which, if you ask me, is like going through the drive-thru at Taco Bell with my neighbor, Randy, who cannot seem to decide on a burrito grande or chimichangas and meanwhile, there is a line of pissed-off cars honking and calling you Craptard and shooting you the finger when you finally drive away twenty minutes later. Painful and unnecessary.
But back to Hamlet. What Hamlet suffers from is a lack of zombies. Let us say Rosencrantz and Guildenstern show up—Hey, HO! Now you’ve got something that stirs the, um, something that stirs things that are stirrable. BOOM! A pack of ravenous flesh-eaters breaks open their heads and sucks out their eyeballs. No need for iambic pentameter because they are grunting, groaning annihilators of humanity with no time for meter. You’re not asleep in the back of English class anymore, are you? This is what I’m talking about. Zombies. Learn it, live it, love it.
Most so-called “great” works of literature can be made better by adding zombies. Consider:
The Red Badge of Courage: Guy goes off to fight in Civil War. Deserts. Runs into the forest where he must do battle with hordes of Union and Confederate revenants hungry for soldier skin.
Waiting for Godot: Two guys sit on stage having an existential argument while they wait for Godot, who never shows up. But the brain-eating zombies do. And they are freaking awesome.
Moby Dick: Two words—Zombie. Whale.
Pride and Prejudice: Mr. Darcy turns out to be a vampire zombie. The whole Bennett clan is holed up in their house while a George Romero-worthy horde of aristocratic brain-suckers clamors outside for their blood. Could also be a comedy.
You see how easy that is? Mr. Fantastic Fiction would not lie to you. Not like my cousin Misty who still has my genuine Bruce Lee replica nunchuks, issued with a certificate from the Franklin Mint which I hold in my safe as proof, and which she stole from my house along with my Nyquil and which I am fairly certain she stores under her bed along with all the other stuff she’s five-fingered from Spencer’s Gifts and Hot Topic and that her dad insists she paid for with the part-time job at the nursing home powdering old people. What are they paying her in, gold bars, Dan? Have a clue, dude. Have a freaking clue.
So. Plot. Mr. Fantastic Fiction strongly suggests that you go through your book, scene by scene, and ask yourself: Can I put a zombie in here?
Scene one: Hero is introduced. Can a zombie enhance this scene? No. It is too soon for revenant, arm-tearing action. Move on.
Scene twelve: Tender love scene between heroic frustrated writer currently doing time at E-Z car rental, where his office mates are idiots, and there is a hot mechanic woman who wears leather pants and a halter to work on cars. Can a zombie enhance the tongue hockey? Possibly. Especially if there is another hot chick who is a zombie supermodel. Consider.
Scene twenty: Conversation between hero and his best friend at diner. Would zombies make this better? Yes! Conversation chapters are boring and could most definitely use a good zombie apocalypse moment.
Scene thirty: Happy family reunion. This scene is practically pleading for a zombie moment. Think—which would you rather read? An end chapter in which wrongs have been righted and a family reconciled? Or zombies feasting on relatives at the family BBQ with the possibility of a sequel? Load that plot gun with flesh eaters. Cock and aim. Pull the damn trigger. Kapow. You got yourself a book.
I have received some troubling letters from some of you who have in my absence gone on the Internet seeking writing guidance elsewhere. I understand. I was gone and you felt lost. Again, I’m not judging. Don’t do it again. This is like changing surgeons in the middle of having a bypass and ending up with somebody whose diploma was printed at Kinko’s an hour earlier. You have to be careful. Mr. Fantastic Fiction is looking out for you here. Some “writing teachers” will tell you things like, “Oh, there’s no right or wrong way to write a story. Whatever feels right to you is the right way to proceed. Your art is like a garden of sunflowers grown from many seeds.”
This is a T.G.I.Friday’s industrial-sized portion of crap. There is only one way to write and that is the Mr. Fantastic Fiction way. And that way is: Put an effing zombie in it. Period.
Your assignment is to take a work of “literature” and add a zombie scene. You are working up to Mr. Fantastic Fiction levels of Zombie Expert, which is like playing Guitar Hero on some level that actually melts the guitar controller, burning your fingers with searing hot plastic till you scream in pain. Only with words. And zombies.
That is all the time Mr. Fantastic Fiction has for today, class, as Mr. FF’s “anger management counselor”, Trevor, is here. Trevor is here with another of his collection of Sensitive Man turtlenecks and his glasses, which are not like the circa-1979, owl-sized, plastic piece-of-shit glasses Mr. FF picked out in the LensCrafters bargain bin, but are rimless postmodern specs that probably cost more than Mr. Fantastic Fiction makes in six months at E-Z. Trevor says my “issues of envy and competition threaten my fragile self-worth and that I should give myself a hug at least once a day.” I hate Trevor. But I can talk about it. And they say that is progress.
Personally, I am waiting for the zombies to eat his freaking head.