Tag Archives: fiction

Sex, Drugs, and Lit: Ten Authors Who Personify Edge

We all have our biases. When it comes to literature, I have a strong preference for transgressive writing. Transgressive writing has little regard for the niceties of polite society, or what’s respectable to the traditional turtlenecked literary man or woman. Transgressive writers are outlaws, and as such present life on the edge. As someone who writes transgressive literature, these ten authors are huge inspirations.

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  1. Charles Bukowski

A red pill writer on the nature of romantic relationships, the horses, and life in general, Bukowski is still the ace of the field.

Representative Work: Women

2. Hunter S. Thompson

He rode with the Hell’s Angels and took more drugs than thought humanly possible.

Representative Work: The Rum Diary

3. Bret Easton Ellis

An LA bad boy, with work filled with the glitz and sleaze that permeate the world of the rich elite.

Representative Work: American Psycho

4. Junot Diaz

Both socially aware and extremely raw, Junot Diaz might be the best writer alive.

Representative Work: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

5. Irvine Welsh

He wrote the book that inspired Trainspotting. Nuff said.

Representative Work: Skagboys

6. William S. Burroughs

He shot his wife, was a heroin addict, and did some of the most interesting experimental prose ever written.

Representative Work: Junky

7. Terry Southern

He co-wrote a borderline pornographic novel based on Voltaire’s Candide.

Representative Work: Candy

8. Tao Lin

The godfather of hipster lit.

Representative Work: Taipei

9. Chuck Palahniuk

The first rule of Fight Club is you do not talk about Fight Club…

Representative Work: Fight Club

10. Daniel Clowes

He introduced Enid and Rebecca, two of the biggest BAMF’s in comic history.

Representative Work: Ghost World

Honorable Mention: David Foster Wallace

Did I miss anyone? Who is your favorite transgressive or alt-lit writer?

Interview with Brian Anderson

I’m privileged to bring my readers a conversation with one of the finest up-and-coming novelists around, my good friend Brian Anderson.

In our discussion, Brian shares his thoughts on his excellent novel Groundwork, the writing process, and many other topics of interest to aspiring writers.

Brian Anderson, author of Groundwork, on the left, Alfonso Colasuonno, founder of The Literary Game, on the right.

Your Protagonist Is The Alpha

In literature, when writing your protagonist make sure that they are “active.”

What do I mean by active? I mean that your protagonist, whatever situations s/he may be facing, must take action to attempt to solve them. Your main character cannot be a passive onlooker. Be they of heroic, antiheroic, or villainous qualities, the character who is the primary focus of your book needs to move things forward through aggressive actions.

I want to get into a bit of an aside…in April 2013, I quit my job as an educator at Monroe College. I loved working at Monroe. I had a great rapport with students and colleagues alike. The administration was quite high on me, wanting to promote me. I enjoyed the culture of the institution. However, I was determined to make it as a writer and when the initial catalyst arrived—my first publication in a literary journal—I set out on a new path, taking action to get my writing published and delving into the worlds of acting, filmmaking, and entrepreneurship. I have faced many challenges along the way, but regardless, I continue to push forward on my path until I have achieved everything I set out to do.

Now if someone someday might view me as an inspiration for the lead character in their book, I can work as a protagonist because I always have a bias towards action in my own life, working to move things forward through all obstacles. Your protagonist needs to do the same.

Of course, there are exceptions. You can choose to write a book about a character paralyzed by inaction; however, most writers write active protagonists and should remember to make sure that their lead character is always pushing the plot forward through their actions.

The takeaway: Make sure that your protagonist is a doer. S/he is not someone merely acted on by others. S/he is the one leading through their actions.

Six Different Ways To Write Your Conclusion

The beginning of your novel is easy. The ideas flow out and you’re writing at least 3,000 words a day.

The middle of your novel starts to become arduous, but you still know where you’re going with your story. Maybe you’re down to about 1,000 words a day.

Now you’re at the finish line and it has become a nightmare because you have no idea how to artfully end your book. Sound like a situation you’ve faced before? If so, read on for a few different ways to conclude your novel or short story.

  1. Open-Ended – In this approach, readers determine what happened because the writer intentionally leaves the ending open to interpretation.
  2. Traditional – A clear-cut ending with no ambiguity. Readers know exactly what happened and why.
  3. Back To The Beginning – The writer revisits the same/similar image or situation as at the beginning of the story.
  4. Thoughts – A character, usually the protagonist, sinks into reflection.
  5. Dialogue – Characters have a conversation.
  6. Symbolism – Details that allude to something important are presented.

Which approach have you used in your novel/s or short stories? Why did you choose that approach? 

 

Writer’s Spotlight: Natalie Hernandez

Today, I’m introducing a new feature to The Literary Game. My whole intention here is to help writers grow. I think the opportunity to switch things up once in a while and showcase talented new writers fits well with the whole mission here, so without further ado…

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Jungle
by Natalie Hernandez

His words replayed in my head the whole ride home, “I hate to disappoint you, but I ain’t shit. Honestly, I’m just a druggy who’s nice with words but suffers from a crazy short attention span.”  The rattling of the subway was the soundtrack to my questions, first one being, What the fuck did he mean by that?

Was that his way of telling me that I had been wrong this whole time? I mean sure, he always told me I was too pure to be held by him, but he loved his vices; and once I remember he told me I was “as pure as imported cocaine,” so I know he’s capable of loving me.

His boys warned me, multiple times; but I confused it for jealousy. They couldn’t wrap their small, drug infused minds around the fact that their King had found a good one. Sure, I endured a couple bruises and punches here and there, but he was high. I was in love. We always met each other halfway, even through detours.

The sudden halt of the train jolted my tiny body and I jumped out of my seat; just three more stops and I would finally be home.  At this stop, people coming in from work rushed into the subway like roaches entering the free world-all in packs, stuck together like a fresh pack of Newports.

Mmm…Newports. That smell always reminded me of the long nights Christian and I had on my front porch when we were seventeen. Crazy, to think that both of us would be nearing twenty five this year; and I’m the only one who kept my sobriety a promise. Christian could never, and I knew that…but I had to be the one giving him the benefit of the doubt. His mother walked out on him and his sisters when they were young; his father was never around—and his “boys,” were more like his children. Sucking him out of his money like leeches, just to feed their vices.

Christian once said he fell in love with me because I was nothing like the people around him; and while he was absolutely correct—he never knew the reason why I loved him so deeply.

He was the exact replica of my father: a drunk. The only difference both of them held, was that Christian fed more into the needles and baggies than he did the bottles. I honestly would not have minded if he were just an alcoholic; I know how to deal with those. But drug addicts? I don’t think I had ever met one until he came along.

Before him, I was just Seline. A 16 year old girl trying to get myself through high school with straight A’s, but the only thing straight about me was my edge. I never drank, never smoked; because I had seen what it was doing to my father. Witnessing addiction first hand was the only sign I needed.

But things changed my senior year. Christian had just transferred from a school in Brooklyn to my school in Queens, and I could tell it wasn’t by choice.

“Yo. What’s good love? I’m Chris.”

I looked around, making sure he wasn’t talking to me.

“Yes you, Ma. What’s good? Talk to me. Fuck with me, what’s good?”

“Class, please turn in your papers when the bell rings. Enjoy your day.”

I picked up my books and walked to the front of the class as quickly as I could, trying to avoid him.

Damnit, I remember thinking. This kid moved like Spider-Man, and he was definitely up to something…something nobody at Newtown was ready for.

When I arrived at my locker, he was standing close by. I decided to break the ice, giving him a cold stare.

“My names Seline. I’m 16, and whatever the fuck it is you want, I don’t have it. “

He looked surprised, but his lips curled into this very sexy smirk.

“Oh. So shorty has a name huh? Well, I think Seline should come chill with a real one, let me show you around my city.”

I scoffed. “Excuse me, YOUR city? You’re not even from here, shut the fuck up.”

He laughed. The sound of his laughter brought me back to my favorite summer, it was refreshing; yet…terrifying.

Weeks went by, and Christian and I became closer. I introduced him to my parents; under all the pressure in the world.

Me lo tienes que traer a la casa por lo menos una vez, para conocerlo bien./ You have to bring him home at least once, so we can get to know him better.”

My poor mother. She had no idea that she’d be reconnecting with the teenaaged version of my father all over again. His clothes constantly reeked of marijuana, but it slowly became my favorite cologne.

After school one day, we walked to my house; hand in hand. He was doing something he’d never done before—playing with my fingers.

“Babe, you good? We don’t have to go if you don’t want to; I’ll just tell her you got sick or whatever.”

He shook his head, and straightened his jacket.

“Nah, it’s all good. I just haven’t done this shit in a while, meeting a girl’s parents or whatever. You don’t get it yet babygirl, but I’m no good for you.”

I laughed it off, and continued to walk.

To my surprise, the night went insanely well. We ate, talked, laughed. My mom seemed to really like him, constantly giving me smiles and nods of approval whenever our eyes met.

Gracias Senora Ruiz, esta comida le quedo diivina/ Thanks Mrs Ruiz, the food was amazing.”

I had never heard him speak Spanish before, but I felt my eyes fill up with delight.  After he went home that night, my mom and I sat down for a talk.

“Mija, I like him for you, a lot. He reminds me of your father.”

She nodded in his direction; where he was sitting on the couch; nose buried in a Dean Koontz book.

“I know Ma, that’s why I was afraid of bringing him here. I knew you’d think that.”

She looked at me, shocked. “Porque dices eso?/ Why do you say that?”

“Because Ma, he’s a lot like Daddy. He has vices. He drinks, smokes, he’s not the ideal guy for me, Mami. But I like him.”

My mom shook her tiny head of blond curls in disbelief. She kissed my forehead and said, “Goodnight mi vida, te quiero.”

I’ll always remember that night like it was yesterday….and next month would be seven years since that day.  I’ll never forget he’d write me poems and raps and slip them into my bag every morning on our way to school. He’d buy me anything I ever wanted, and I never had to ask twice for anything.

His mom said I changed her son into the man she’d always knew he would be. But what she didn’t know, was that he was the exact image of my dear father. An addict, dependent on vices that would probably kill him, sooner than later.

When I got home, I showered and slipped into my  favorite pair of leggings and an oversized hoodie, one which I’m sure belonged to Christian.

I heard my phone ring from the other room, and ran to get it.

The name Adrian displayed on my screen.

“Seline? Seline…Seline!….Christian’s dead.”

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You can follow Natalie on the Web and social media:
Twitter: natstradamus__
Instagram: redlipstikandhiphop and natstradamusss
Website: redlipstikandhiphop.com

If you would like your short fiction or poetry to be featured in The Literary Game, send over your writing by clicking here.

In success,
Alfonso

A Simple Trick to Improve Your Prose

I’ve been honored to have had my short fiction published in some truly impressive magazines. That said, I can guarantee that if I didn’t do one simple trick to improve my prose, I would not have been published in any of the literary journals that featured my short stories.

What is that trick? Analyze how your favorite authors construct sentences.

When I delve into my personal story on The Literary Game, I never sugarcoat any of my failings. The reason I believe in such complete transparency is because I know, given my experience, that anyone can pull themselves up and become a superb writer. I certainly wasn’t always a writer with a real shot at publishing my work anywhere that was an appropriate fit; I started quite a bit more humbly than that.

I didn’t start writing until I was 20, when I decided, on a whim, to become a creative writing major while enrolled at Beloit College in Wisconsin. I felt outmatched during my time there, lost motivation to try, and my work was truly poor in quality. When I graduated, I moved back to New York City, landed a job as a teacher, and tried to forget all about the failed experiment that was my attempt to do creative writing.

My friend Russell Jaffe, a quite talented poet, moved to New York about 18 months after I graduated. We got back in touch through Facebook, and he mentioned that he was setting up a poetry reading in Williamsburg, a local arty neighborhood. Russell asked if I had written anything recently. I told him that I had not. He mentioned that he liked my stuff from Beloit, and told me if I wrote some poems, he’d put me on the show. I gained a lot of confidence from Russell’s belief in my writing’s potential and the successful show, so I started writing poetry. I amassed a huge collection of poems over four years, and then decided to do something with them, beginning to publish many in my collection and new ones as well.

As I started amassing many publishing credits for my poetry, a spontaneous rush of ideas for short fiction came into my head. Circumstances had aligned so that my friend Rairigh was able to give me a free room in rural Pennsylvania, and I had a bit of a savings from my job in academia. I quit my position and set out to be not only a poet, but also a fiction writer.

During my first few days in Clarion, Pennsylvania, I had a firm intent to write fiction, but didn’t know where to start. My sentences seemed clunky. I have always been a voracious reader, but for me, unlike many other English majors, I always saw great books as pleasure, not as something to firmly dissect and get into intellectual debates over. That being so, I rarely paid much conscious attention to the way writers constructed their sentences.

The brilliant idea that changed everything for me as a fiction writer came to me after a few frustrating days of trying, and failing, to write. I decided to head to the Clarion Public Library and study some of my favorite authors. I pulled from the shelves works by Raymond Carver, Flannery O’Connor, Carson McCullers, Cormac McCarthy, Kent Haruf, William Faulkner, and a few other authors whose work I admire. I studied exactly how they constructed sentences, how they did dialogue, how they transitioned between paragraphs, how they integrated description, how they paced their works, and every other feature that these impressive authors did regarding their prose.

When I came back to my apartment, I started writing my first short story and it was EASY. I didn’t steal the style from any of these authors, but I had learned exactly how good writers write and adapted that to my own vision.  My summer in Clarion and fall in the nearby town of DuBois led to an impressive assortment of short fiction and my first few publications as a fiction writer.

So, in short, if you want to improve your writing, study how your favorite writers construct their prose. It will definitely help you write better.

-Alfonso

I Want To Be A Writer – What Do I Do Now?

I have had the pleasure of speaking with many individuals who are impressed by the fact that I am a published author. Quite often, the topic of conversation quickly switches to their desire to become a writer. Few of these people ever end up actually writing anything, and of those who do, many quickly become discouraged, as they have no direction as to what to do next.

For a new creative writer, one of the first questions you should ask yourself is this: What is going to be my path?

To become a writer, one who is paid, one who is recognized, one who is celebrated, you have to have more than just a vague intention. You need to develop a plan. 

When you’re starting out as a writer, unless you have achieved some degree of acclaim from some other facet of your life, you are at zero. No one knows who you are, and no one has any reason to pay attention to your writing, aside from friends and family. This is the reality. This is a discouraging starting point, but it is where at least 90% of writers start. The question then, again, is where do I start?

Below are a few separate paths you might want to explore, once you unequivocally decide that you are serious about becoming a creative writer:

  1. Begin publishing short fiction and/or poetry in reputable magazines. This has been my approach, once I became serious about becoming an author. I found journals that published writing that was similar in style and content to my own work, targeted them, and began getting published in order to start the process of making my name.
  2. Start writing your novel. Without any prior publishing credits and with no platform, you are going to have a difficult time landing a publisher for your manuscript. Undoubtedly, your only choices will be independent publishers or self-publishing. If you choose to try to get published with an independent publisher, ensure that your work is tightly edited and hire a publishing consultant. If you go the self-publishing route, be clever and persistent in your marketing approach to ensure that your work is not ignored amongst the sea of self-published novels.
  3. Connect with local writers. Find writer’s workshops or seminars in your local area and begin striking up friendships with other writers. You can have other, more experienced, writers take you under the wings and show you the ropes.
  4. Obtain proper training. I highly recommend the incredibly practical, affordable and effective Gotham Writer’s Workshop if you want a quick run-through of the principles of creative writing in an interactive environment. If you are looking to obtain your Bachelor’s Degree, enroll in a creative writing program. If you are looking to obtain a Master’s, consider applying to MFA programs.
  5. Land a writing job. One of the best ways to become an effective writer is to write daily. If you want to write creatively, perhaps landing a job in communications, where your writing acumen will be utilized and sharpened every day, would be an excellent first step before embarking on the world of creative writing.

Whichever path you choose, I wish you success in your journey as a writer. I am here for you if you have any questions.

In success,
Alfonso Colasuonno
Publisher, The Literary Game

 

 

One Key Reason Why You Might Want To Use A Pseudonym

George Orwell critiqued totalitarianism in government. Hunter S. Thompson explored⁠⁠—and lived⁠—the drug culture. Flannery O’Connor, a devout Catholic, was perhaps one of the darkest American authors ever published.

Good writing, almost as a rule, challenges its readers. There will be individuals who do not understand or do not want to understand what you are attempting to do with your writing, and they will judge you. It is unconscionable how many readers will assume that authors have the same traits as, or are advocating the traits of, some of the most despicable characters in their fiction. It is unconscionable, but that will not change anytime soon. People’s judgment of your work can cause wedges with family members, friends, publishers, and, most notably, with employers or potential employers.

Writing, at its heart, is all about conflict. By and large, most of the professional world requires the presentation of a clean-cut image. If you are writing about sex, violence, racism, or any other subject that is impolite in conversation (and cast a wide net with this), you might want to consider writing under a pseudonym so as to protect yourself from any harm in the public sphere. Employers can and do Google search potential employees. If your name is John Rogers, you might not have much to worry about, but if your name is a bit less common (like mine!) than you might want to consider if writing under a pseudonym is appropriate.

Some might say that is a cowardly approach. I wouldn’t say so, as many writers can and do make a living from their work, but that requires diligence, consistent writing, networking, editing, and publishing assistance; still, the vast majority have to rely on other means than their fictive works. My own writing tends to be extremely subversive. However, I am a freelancer and entrepreneur, aside from being a writer, so I don’t feel any discomfort if someone were to look up my name and see it attached to works of a transgressive nature. Even while I was in the workforce in a traditional job in academia, I knew who to mention my writing to and who to avoid speaking about it with. This is pretty easy to gauge and I’m sure you’ll be able to discern appropriately.

Of course, whether you choose to use a pseudonym or not is up to you. If you are unsure, ask yourself the following six questions and then decide:

  1. How edgy is my writing? 
  2. Is there a significant likelihood of damage coming to my finances, family, or person if I were to publish under my own name?
  3. Do I want the privacy that a pseudonym provides or do I prefer the spotlight?
  4. How memorable is my given name? 
  5. How literary does my given name feel?
  6. Do I write in multiple genres and thus want to keep my audiences separate?

Regardless of whether you choose to use a pseudonym or not, I wish you the very best in your literary endeavors.

Sincerely,
Alfonso Colasuonno
Publisher, The Literary Game

 

No Publisher Should Ever Be Overlooked

When you’re an aspiring writer, any offer to publish your writing should be accepted graciously!

Now, I don’t necessarily mean vanity presses, but that’s a post for another day. Any competitive press or literary magazine that would like to publish the manuscript of your novel, poetry, or short fiction should (in most cases) be accepted wholeheartedly.

There are certain places that everyone would like to publish with. Of course you’d probably like to publish with The New Yorker, Granta, Glimmer Train, Tin House, PANK, Word Riot, or any of the Big 5 publishers—so would every other writer; that doesn’t mean that the obscure journal with a subscription list of 1,000 should be overlooked.

The fact is that any competitive press is just that—competitive. They screen out lots of writers’ work. If any publisher or press likes what you’ve sent them, that’s a huge victory. It’s not a slight to get published somewhere that isn’t widely known, even amongst literary crowds. Keep in mind that the big publishers pay attention and are always scouting for new talent. If nothing else, you are building quite a portfolio.

The reality is that it’s just not common for most writers to start at the top of the heap, unless they have a wide platform from being notable for some feat other than writing. If you have the chops to get published, no matter where, that’s a huge victory. Embrace it. The journals and presses that you may be seeking to publish with quite possibly may take note, and soon you will be on your way!

-Alfonso

Six Ways to Write Creatively

If you’re an aspiring writer, you may find yourself drawn to one specific type of creative writing. This post intends to be a quick guide to different types of writing. Feel free to play around and see what may happen if you try a different direction.

Poetry

If you have a background as a musician, write lyrics, or rap, you may want to try poetry. Contrary to what you may have heard, it doesn’t have to rhyme. In fact, rhyming poetry is pretty much passé. If you can make your writing have a musicality to it, give poetry a try!

Short Fiction

Have you tried to write a novel and got stuck somewhere along the line? Are you a part of the ADHD generation? Try short fiction! Just keep in mind that short fiction requires a different approach from a novel. In short fiction, you aren’t telling a whole narrative, but merely presenting a snapshot. If brevity is a strong point, give short fiction a try!

Novels

Do you have patience? If your answer isn’t an unequivocal yes, beware of the novel. The novel is often seen as the only “real” type of writing by many aspiring writers, but that’s simply not true; all creative writing has merit. While practically all writers love reading novels, please note that this is an ambitious goal. If you have the patience, desire, and organizational skills to tackle a novel, then go for it!

Creative Nonfiction

Is your life so interesting that you don’t need to even make things up? Why not try writing creative nonfiction? In creative nonfiction, you take the same approach as you would to a novel or short fiction, but the difference is you draw from your own real experiences. Remember this though, just because it happened doesn’t mean it’s interesting. Make sure to write in the same way you would approaching something fictional!

Screenplays

Be honest, do you prefer watching a good movie to reading a good book? If so, you might want to try writing a screenplay. Remember that writing a screenplay is different from a novel or short fiction, as you are writing with a focus on the visuals. If you’re less a “pure” writer and more of an all-around creative, you may want to give writing a screenplay a try!

Plays

Do you have a flare for the dramatic? Are you an actor? Do you find writing dialogue to be remarkably easy, but description and introspection to be harder to execute? Try writing a play! Just remember to keep focused on the fact that this will take place on a stage and write accordingly.