A Guide to Being a Literary Author
Peter Gibbon

What any good author starts with is a title. That is the centerpiece of your entire work. Make it seem fancy. An allusion, perhaps to a poem that if you have read, you most certainly not have understood. Be sure, however, that there is at least one line in your novel (as poetry is pretty well a dead art at this point) that relates to your snappy title. Your title is mostly a tool - not to catch the attention of the reader. Oh no, you see, people these days have actually learned not to judge a book by its title. The title is the key to setting you apart from your audience: you as the author, they as the readers.

Next, you need a character. If you choose a female character, she must obviously be an alienated woman. And very bitter. Whether she is consciously a feminist or not, she will naturally play that role - why else would you make a woman your lead character? For more assistance with this particular note, see Margaret Atwood. Now, if this lead character is male, that makes a world of difference. He must also be alienated, but in this case, more sensitive, middle-aged and confused. Confused about what does not matter - his sexuality, his gender, his role in modern society - take your pick. These details matter little.

Sexuality, however, is a very important theme these days. Whether your main character is male or female, you need a masturbation scene in there somewhere. This works best with the male character, as no matter how far society has come, a female masturbation scene is still a little risqué. Risqué is good, don't get me wrong - but we don't want to go overboard here. We are not revolutionaries - we are authors! In any case, a masturbation scene is a must in literature today. It does not really matter if it is appropriate to the plot, or tasteful in any way. If you write it with some very abstract imagery, the readers will buy it. Not only that, but they will celebrate you for taking such great artistic risks. They will use words such as "edgy" to describe you, and you may be mentioned by someone on MTV. Although this is your ultimate goal, you will naturally condemn it and ignore it as "popular culture." As you can see, the masturbation scene is very important.

Now, I assume that most of the people I am instructing here are Canadians. Canadians have a very special responsibility when it comes to writing great literature. Firstly, a rape must occur in your story. More often than not, it should occur from within a family unit. If you choose to exclude the rape from your story, an oddly inappropriate theme of incest must be present within your work. If in any way possible, you must work a unicorn in there. For more information on this element, see Timothy Findley. As Canadians you have been passed on the literary crusade of forcing upon your readers as many confusing and unsettling themes as possible. Unfortunately, this will not get you mentioned on MTV.

For my next point, I want to stress the absolute importance of alluding heavily to authors and texts the average reader will not have read. If you can, mention as many authors' names as possible. This will show that you are a well-read individual, and exist on an intellectually higher plain then the audience. If you can, mention outright authors' names, perhaps their works. It really doesn't matter if you mention the titles, as they will not be reading what you are mentioning.

Now, as long as you have your title, characters, controversy, and obnoxious allusions, you might want to put some thought into your plot. This will probably be the easiest part of your work. All you really need is a series of disjointed, seemingly ambiguous events to happen to your clueless character. Just make sure to make use of abstract symbols - perhaps some psychological Freudian symbols, which would work quite well into your theme of sexuality. Read some articles out of a first or second year psychology textbook for those. Just keep it abstract and pseudo-symbolic and they will buy it. And remember: when it comes to plot, we are not journalists. We are not writers. We are authors.

Now, due to space restrictions, I do not have much more time to waste telling you about plot. However, the last important element of your novel (as we are writing novels, not books) is your tone. Nobody wants to hear a straight narrative these days. What you need to write this novel is an ambivalently sarcastic tone that in no way leaves you responsible for what you have written. Make sure your novel is written in a type of tone that makes the reader picture the narrator wearing a grim smile. There is one phrase by which every budding author lives by: "tongue in cheek."

So, I leave you with this article in the hopes that some of you will follow my advice and prosper as authors. The rest of you will perhaps become as commercially successful as Stephen King or Dan Brown, if fate has such a curse in store for you. Perhaps you will even meet J.K. Rowling someday. However, the authors who follow these simple steps will someday gain their place in literary history: stay ambiguous, be controversial within reason, drop as many names as possible, pay little attention to interesting plot, and make sure not to be straightforward about anything. Follow these simple guidelines and you will gain success as an author. And always remember, if any critic asks you what in God's name you are talking about in any work you have written, to say what every good author says: "Why don't you tell me?"

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