Sunday, January 23, 2011

5 Rules for Absurdist Fiction Writing

The traditional Rules for Absurdist Fiction Writing are easily stated, though rarely practiced.

To break through to the extremely unimaginable requires a fairly stout reluctance to say things that fit the pre-conceived.

One must coerce oneself into thinking what is unwordy, saying what was unsaid, imagining what can't be conceived, and being -- extraordinary.

We see examples of this all the time.

Now that you've nailed down the basic principle that generates pure non-scene and anti-plot, you're ready to fill in the rest of the doom.

Let's examine what lies beneath all the rubble of failed narratives, the "too real" irrelevance of naturalist story-telling, the uninspired recitation of pseudo-factual details, and the insistence on exploring life from a normalized "human-interest" or realistic point of view.

From now on we will know how to get away from all that rubbish, the grossly contemporary practice of imitative prose, and move rapidly and gleefully into the quintessential forbidden methodology, the grand and eloquent Literary Absurdism.

Art, and the impractical unreality it misrepresents, is the aim of absurdism. Here's how to accomplish it.

5 Rules for Absurdist Fiction Writing


If someone else could have written your story, told it in a manner similar to your style and system, even if it need be a highly advanced intelligence gifted unfairly with astronomical powers of observation and shouldering gigantic bulwarks of moral clarity, it's not worth writing.

A true Absurdist Writer should be able to say, "I know nobody else could have written this, since I can barely write it myself."

When everything that's in you is shouting, "This story cannot be done!" you're on the right track.

Being "yourself" means rejecting the temptation to do what comes natural, to be like everyone else.

To be different from everyone else is infinitely difficult, since that's what everyone else is: they're like everyone else, thus the expression "like everyone else."

If Kafka was able to write a long short story (The Metamorphosis) about a traveling salesman who wakes up to find himself transformed into a dung beetle, you too can do what needs to be done.

Think of the most bizarre story you've ever read, then outdo it, leap over it, and vanquish it with your whimsical post-realism twists.


Absurdism is the accurate, though deflected, depiction of society's intrinsic disturbances and self-defeating enstructurings, disguised in impossible scenarios and wildly exaggerated characterizations to trick readers into thinking the story is simply a silly tale designed to make people laugh.

By masking the purpose of the story, and letting the seed of its idea lie dormant and unchallenged, labeled "comedy" or "fantasy", resting inside the reader's mind and stretching forth with multiplying tendrils, until it's philosophical force has blown up into a colossal impetus, it enters more deeply into the reader's memory and dreams, escaping the censorship of hyper-political social conditioning.


A nonsensical story must be conveyed as a sober or skeptical assessment of the bizarre situation and unemotionally detail how the unlikely premise wildly mutates and progresses to a stern anti-climactic impasse or a phantasmagorical resolution.

Make no apologies for how uncomfortable the reader will invariably be when you introduce them to your untellable tale. Be non-chalant, like it's no big deal, this massive weirdness and the unsettling sensations you intend to inflict upon all who read the story.

One way to ease into an Absurdist plot is to make calm statements about how you've never been a fan of whimsical notions, stupid superstitions, or uncertain rumors. Have the narrator assert their absolute abhorrence of the bearers of tall tales, non-verifiable legends, and far-fetched abnormalities.

Proclaim vehemently how you despise fairy tales, UFO reports, Big Foot sightings, trans-dimensional travelogues, time travel escapades, and all forms of science fiction, speculative prose, and fantasy yarns. Be adamant about your disgust with hyperbole, exaggeration, hypotheticals, allegories, and parables. Explain how you never dream, and if you do, you force yourself to forget it.

Cause readers to sympathize with the cool rationality and mature intelligence of your narrator preferably yourself, who seems also to be rather reluctant to tell the story, as it is sure to be met with disdainful looks, indignant disbelief, and cruel mockery.

Act like your unwilling to tell the tale, since it goes against all your previous experiences and your grasp of logic. Convey the idea that you know you'll regret telling this story, you still have trouble believing it happened, but your psychiatrist said you're in a rational frame of mind and being totally objective.

Then launch into the most lunatic, wild, freaky tale your poor little imagination can drum up.


Grab attention with the unlikely and preposterous.

How? By seizing the reader's imagination with a wholly improbable opening to a completely ridiculous story, based on unreasonable concepts and unrealistic developments, that almost certainly would not have occurred to the reader as being material from which a readable story could be created...

...the extraordinary narrative, with great exuberance, bursts casually into the unprepared consciousness of the reader, rendering him incapable of resisting such extravagant themes and uncommon coincidences.

Posing as level-headed journalism or an unbiased report from an objective witness, the Extraordinary is introduced into the Ordinary, the bland and predictable world of the reader, thus escalating the ability and desire to remember the Absurdist story, placing it far beyond other stories that merely relate typical events, popular ideas, common dreams, and average personalities.


You don't need to formulate where an absurdist story ends up in order to start writing it.

Be satisfied with setting up an unrealistic condition or assertion, then begin filling in the rest of it as though you had it all figured out beforehand, and even if you digress repeatedly and at great length, give the impression that all your blathering is requisite context and background information to facilitate a full and coherent understanding.

Even if the scenario fails to come to a credible conclusion and instead drifts off to some very unrelated space or eventuality, that too is Absurdist technique and not to be scorned as a potential denouement. A tangent can serve just as well as a tragic catastrophe, freakish twist, or happy ending as the tale's unforeseeable finale.

1 comment:

Ashleigh said...

i have no website or blog or opinion. much research i have conducted over the past year compliments what your saying. i agree with your points and i was interested in seeing if you may have some further tips for me as i am currently writing a short absurdist play for my HSC extension english course.
i often find myself worried that i am trying to hard, or not trying hard enough. or that i have focussed too much on trying to create humour or that i have not focused enough on humour. i am worried that my characters have no characterisation, or too much. i believe i have created an original piece of work, however I second guess myself.
any suggestions?