Writing Tips

The Ruthless Writer

by Jim Denney

“Don’t let people interfere with you. Boot ’em out, turn off the phone, hide away, get it done.”

—Ray Bradbury

Samuel Taylor Coleridge lived near the English village of Porlock on the Bristol Channel. He became addicted to the opiate drug laudanum after his doctor prescribed it for an illness. One evening in 1797, Coleridge took a dose of the drug while reading a book about Kubla Khan, the thirteenth century Mongol emperor. Under the drug’s influence, he experienced a vision. Line after line of epic poetry sprang into his mind.

He shook himself to full consciousness, hurried to his desk and began writing down the poem that came to him in the vision—

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan

A stately pleasure-dome decree:

Where Alph, the sacred river, ran

Through caverns measureless to man

Down to a sunless sea… .

By Coleridge’s own account, he had written fifty-four lines when he heard a knock at the door. Answering the door, Coleridge found “a person on business from Porlock.” Coleridge invited the unannounced visitor in and they chatted for about an hour. When the person from Porlock left, Coleridge returned to his desk—only to find that he couldn’t remember the rest of the poem. The fifty-four lines he written before the knock at his door are the only lines that remain. So Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan” remains unfinished.



Why Most Attempts at Onomatopoeia Fail

I have an axe to grind, and it’s with the “literary device” onomatopoeia. I placed literary device in quotations because in my opinion, onomatopoeia is about as useful as a plug with no outlet.

I hate onomatopoeia and when I say hate, I don’t mean “kind of dislike it, but know it’s good for me” in the way some people say they hate the gym. No, I mean that most attempts at onomatopoeia manage to somehow slither down my butt-crack and give me a sudden attack of the hemorrhoids.



5 Settings that Cause a Scene

The need to write a story is often triggered by a scene that’s so intriguing, you shove an old lady out of a bathroom stall to write your idea on a piece of toilet paper before you forget. Not saying that’s something I’ve done before…

Regardless, that spark of a scene could be inspired by a character that’s dying to come to life. Maybe it was a diabolical plot you need someone to suffer. Other times, you just want to use a particular setting.