36 Essays On Writing By Chuck Palahniuk

2: Developing a Theme

By Chuck Palahniuk

In: Theme

At the core of Minimalism is focusing any piece of writing to support one or two major themes. Learn harvesting, listing, and other methods, after a fun excursion into the spooky side of Chuck's childhood.

3: Using “On-The-Body” Physical Sensation

By Chuck Palahniuk

In: Voice

Great writing must reach both the mind and the heart of your reader, but to effectively suspend reality in favor of the fictional world, you must communicate on a physical level, as well. Learn to unpack the details of physical sensation.

4: Submerging the “I”

By Chuck Palahniuk

In: Guts, Narrator

First-person narration, for all its immediacy and power, becomes a liability if your reader can't identify with your narrator. Discover Chuck's secret method for making a first-person narrator less obtrusive. Bonus: This essay includes the story 'Guts.'

5: Nuts and Bolts: Hiding a Gun

By Chuck Palahniuk

In: Objects

Sometimes called "plants and payoffs" in the language of screenwriters, Hiding a Gun is an essential skill to the writer's arsenal that university writing courses almost never touch upon. Learn to identify and use multiple forms, including the Big Question, the Physical Process, and the Clock.

7: Nuts and Bolts: “Big Voice” Versus “Little Voice”

By Chuck Palahniuk

In: Voice

An interesting character has strong opinions, and voicing them can lend mood and texture to the work, but you can't allow these "Big Voice" rants to eclipse the "Little Voice" needs for descriptive physical action. In this essay, you'll learn to strike that balance.

8: Nuts and Bolts: Using Choruses

By Chuck Palahniuk

In: Phrases

This verbal repetition can create a beat of bland time that lets your story breathe, or it can refresh previous plot points and trigger strong emotions. Steal this natural aspect of spoken rhetoric to enliven your prose.

12: Reading Out Loud – Part Two

By Chuck Palahniuk

In: Live Reading, Voice

All humans are storytellers and every fiction is veiled autobiography. Learn to explore and exhaust your personal issues by creating something bigger than yourself, and don't miss Chuck's ingenious assignment for personalizing your character's perception of time.

18: Textures of Information

By Chuck Palahniuk

In: Research

Lists, recipes, documentaries--almost everything verbal or textual is storytelling in some form. Chuck makes the case for lifting from various non-fiction forms and quick-cutting between them to enrich the textures of your fiction.

19: Effective Similes

By Chuck Palahniuk

In: Similies

Every time you compare something inside of a scene to something that's not present, you distract your reader. Learn to limit the use of "like" or "as" and to unpack static verbs, along with other methods for forging stronger comparisons.

20: Talking Shapes: The ‘Thumbnail’

By Chuck Palahniuk

In: Plot

In this second "talking shapes" essay, Chuck explores a basic paradox of storytelling, while revealing what you can do about it. The Thumbnail opening foreshadows major plot points in advance and creates authority, without giving too much away.

21: Talking Shapes: The ‘Cycle’

By Chuck Palahniuk

In: Plot

An excellent plot for horror and dark fantasy, the Cycle enlists and seduces the reader even as it enlists and seduces the protagonist. Learn what to look for from a few of Chuck's favorites, while putting this plot shape to work for yourself.

As part of a new push to create more awareness of all the wonderful things we have going on in our Writer's Workshop, each month we are going to 'unlock' one of Chuck's exclusive craft essays. 

As you may or may not know, back in 2004, Chuck Palahniuk and I decided to unveil a new feature on this website whereby up and coming writers could hone their craft with review and thorough feedback by their peers.  But Chuck decided to up the ante by offering to pen an original craft essay on writing... every month.  At the close of each essay, Chuck would issue a "homework assignment" to the reader that would involve applying the lesson he just taught into their next piece of writing. 

This process continued for a total of three years, resulting in 36 original craft essays on writing that you won't find anywhere else online.  Mind you: these are lessons you'd normally have to pay $20,000+ in an MFA writing program to attain, being offered to you by a best-selling writer on this very site.  The essays soon graduated into Chuck actually reading and reviewing 6 original submissions by up and coming writers every month, with plans to choose the best selection at the end of the year for inclusion into a Writing Anthology... that he will be editing himself

Through it all, the core essense of this movement was the Workshop itself and the work that was being submitted there.  Today, we have writers who are being published for work they honed and crafted in our very workshop.  You can usually tell what the good stories are and who the authors are who are going to go far, by the level to which they learn and apply Chuck's writing tenants... tenants which were taught to him by Tom Spanbauer in his Dangerous Writing program and in turn, were handed down by their mentor, Gordon Lisch.

So to convince you all of just how much of a vital resource these essays are to writers hoping to finish that novel, submit that short story, or even brush up that poem, we are chosing a different essay every month, and making it free to the public.  This is a feature that you would normally need a Premium Membership to access. 

This month we are unlocking Chuck's second essay,

Read 'Developing a Theme'

This essay will remain open to the public for approximately 30 days.  If you don't want to wait, and prefer to read all 36 essays, as well as 14 thorough Q&As with fans and of course, access to our groundbreaking Workshop where you can submit your own writing samples, stories, novel chapters, poems and even screenplays, for peer review... then go ahead and:

Join Our Writer's Workshop


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