I’m totally surprised by Don Delillo’s White Noise. I don’t know what I expected. It’s fantastic. Here’s a small selection from early in the book:
“They had to evacuate the grade school on Tuesday. Kids were getting headaches and eye irritations, tasting metal in their mouths. A teacher rolled on the floor and spoke foreign languages. No one knew what was wrong. Investigators said it could be the ventilating system, the paint or varnish, the foam insulation, the electrical insulation, the cafeteria food, the rays emitted by micro-computers, the asbestos fireproofing, the adhesive on shipping containers, the fumes from the chlorinated pool, or perhaps something deeper, fine-grained, more closely woven into the basic state of things.”
- Don’t be dismayed or surprised if some pieces of work turn out to be rehearsals
- Be careful how you repeat yourself, and why.
- Begin dramatically.
- Don’t keep back the good stuff.
- Consider beginning in the present.
- Negotiate your own standards of plausibility.
- Once you’ve invented your rules, keep them.
- Remember the power of appropriate omission. We don’t need to take every journey with the characters, make every cup of coffee.
- Don’t overexplain.
- Be sure that borrowing a plot, a character, or situation doesn’t seem like theft.
- Know which kind of suspense your narrative depends on, and use accordingly.
- Be aware that form and tone govern content.
- Ask if your plot needs a subplot, or two.
- Develop your characters both as individuals and in relation to each other. Let the reader know which characters are major and which minor.
- Be ambitious with your language.
- Whatever you do, keep making rhymes, lines, puns, clauses, phrases, metaphors, sentences, paragraphs, sonnets, scenes, stories, plays, poems, novels…
–From Margot Livesey’s Essay “Shakespeare for Writers” in The Writer’s Notebook: Craft on Essays from Tin House