Recommend Reading for Aspiring Writers by Stephen King

Recommended Reading for Aspiring Writers by Stephen King

Richard Bausch, In the Night Season

Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky

T. Coraghessan Boyle, The Tortilla Curtain

Michael Chabon, Werewolves in Their Youth

Roddy Doyle, The Woman Who Walked into Doors

Alex Garland, The Beach

Peter Hoeg, Smilla’s Sense of Snow

Mary Karr, The Liar’s Club

Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible

Jon Krakauer, Into Thin Air

Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories

Frank McCourt, Angela’s Ashes

Ian McEwan, The Cement Garden

Larry McMurtry, Dead Man’s Walk

Joyce Carol Oates, Zombie

Tim O’Brien, In the Lake of the Woods

Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient

Richard Russo, Mohawk

Vikram Seth, A Suitable Boy

Anne Tyler, A Patchwork Planet.

Source: Open Culture

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Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Tips on Writing a Short Story

Kurt Vonnegut on Writing a Short Story

  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  4. Every sentence must do one of two things–reveal character or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them–in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

25 ~Pickle Discovers a Clue to the Case in the Men’s Restroom

25

Gillis played with sugar packets arranging and rearranging them. Pickle test tasted packets of soy sauce, duck sauce, barbecue sauce, and spicy mustard. Pickle was on his third round of packets and began slurping the entire packet. Gillis said, “You’re hungry.”

“I didn’t say anything, Gills. How’d you know?”

“Wild guess. Let’s nose around, Dill. We’ll walk up to the buffet bar. Remember what Do Re said about the food. Look but don’t touch. You remember what we’re looking for?”

Pickle’s eyes sparkled. He was back in third grade and he knew the answer, “I sure do, Gills. I looking for senior trying to sneak extra food off the buffet to take home.”

Gillis, always sensitive to Pickle’s desire to be right, said, “Right on target, Dill. While you’re at it, if you notice anyone with only one cufflink, let me know. Take your time at the buffet bar. We’ll talk after Do Re brings us our pizzas.”

Pickle puffed up more brightly than a peacock. “I’m on it. Do you mind if I go to the restroom first?”

Gillis shrugged, “I’ll wait.” He continued rearranging sugar and sugar substitute packets.

Five minutes later Pickle returned. He slid into his chair. He bent toward Gillis and whispered, “I found some unexpected information that may help us with this case.”

Gillis nodded and signaled Pickle to continue.

Pickle reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a slip of paper. He read it, “Call Sara at 555-6767 if you want a good time.”

“How’s this going to help us?” asked Gillis.

“Sara might have seen something. Do you mind if I call her and question her alone tonight?”

“Go for it. Let me know if you had a good time. Let’s head to the buffet bar,” said Gillis.

Gillis and Pickle stood in the buffet line behind fifteen seniors. Eight of the seniors were  pushing walkers. Each of the eight walkers had a built in tray device. The seniors with walkers placed two large plates on their tray device. The remaining seven seniors had baby pouches strapped to their chests and carried a single plate. 

“Question, Gills.”

“What is it, Dill?”

“Are the seniors afraid the Golden Wok is going to run out of food? Why are they stuffing food into the baby pouches? Why do they need two plates? Watch out, one of the seniors is trying to pull his walker out of line and take a cut near the front of the line. Another senior with a walker is swearing at him. They’re swinging their walkers at each other. Should we step in?”

“Ignore it, Dill. When seniors fight over food, the early bird special, coupons, you need backup. We’re not wearing our Kevlar vests. If they take hostages, we’ll call in the SWAT team. You see that? Beautiful move, He faked swinging his walker, and squirted the guy in face with his urine sack.”

The guy who got squirted, “I’m going to sue. I just had my cataracts removed.”

The guy who did the squirting, “You sue and I’ll ban you from playing bingo.”

“Truce.”

“Truce.”

Gillis said, “I saw something on Unsolved Mysterious on cable about seniors at buffets, Dill. The world’s greatest scientists can’t figure it out. The scientists point out for every ten seniors who head to buffets only seven survive.”

“They got a seven in ten chance, Gills. Those are good odds given the price. Five ninety-nine for all you can eat. I heard a senior say he eats enough so he doesn’t have to eat for two days.”

Twenty minutes later Gillis and Pickle made it through the buffet and back to their table. Two pizzas boxes were on the table. “See anything unusual, Dill?”

 I saw a senior stuffing her handbag with chicken wings. Then she started packing food in her cheeks like a squirrel as she went through the buffet.”

“That’s normal according to the scientists. Once you pass a certain age, all you think about is food, how to interfere in your kids lives, and what the neighbors are doing. I meant about our case,” said Gillis.

“Can’t say I did. How about you?” asked Pickle picking out a slice of greasy pepperoni pizza.

“Don’t eat the pizza,” said Gillis.

“Why?” asked Pickle holding a grease laden piece of pepperoni pizza inches from his mouth.

“I’ll tell you in a minute. Put the pizza down carefully and wipe your hands on your shirt. I think I solved the case,” said Gillis watching the grease drip off of Pickle’s slice and slide down his chin and dripping onto his shirt.

“Something bothering you, Gills? What are you thinking about? You buried your face in your hands. What am I missing Gills? Who’s the killer? What tipped you off?”

23 ~ Gillis Can Commit for a Weekend

23

“What is it, Gills? You’re chewing on your bottom lip and twitching your nose. I always can tell when something is troubling you. Was it the cheesecake? It’s riding heavy on my stomach. I shoulda stopped at five pieces,” said Pickle.

Gillis turned slightly toward Pickle, “I was masking my feelings, Dill. I’m going to spill my guts. I’m concerned Wendy is coming on too strong. I think she wants me to make a commitment. I’m not ready for a commitment. Sure, I can commit to a one-night stand every two or three nights. I think that’s more than fair. She wants more than that. She’s looking for a guy who’ll make the coffee in the morning.”

“I know what you’re saying, Gills. I thought you should have hit the breaks when Wendy wanted to sleep with you at the dump. You say yes, it’s almost the same as saying let’s move in and get pizza with toppings we both like.”

“It’s tying me in knots, Dill. I can’t think about the case,” said Gillis.

“You got to dump her, Gills. Tell her if she wants to find commitment to look for it at Disneyland.”

“How so, Dill?” asked Gillis.

“She can find it in fantasy land.”

Fist bump.

“Man, I feel better, Dill. Thanks. Two questions, Dill. Did Bro say The Falling Leaf, The Fig Leaf, or The Golden Won Ton? Second question, what is a vegan? I’m current on all the hip stuff. Is it like Uber or Lyft? You got any ideas?” asked Gillis.

“First, Gills, you asked me four questions. That’s no problem because my mind is a highly complex, multi-functioning, state of the art, dendrite wiring, electrical circuit of irrational thought.”

Gillis made an attempt to follow Pickle’s comment. He zoned out at state of the art. Gillis said, “Get to the answers, Dill.”

Pickle answered, “I’m given you background to let you know what I say is accurate.”

I’ve got to think before I speak to him. I’m walking in a minefield each time I open my mouth, thought Gillis.

“Here’s my answers to your queries, Gills. I think the Fig Leaf is an adult sex store. I’m all in favor of starting there. As for Uber and Lyft, they’re the newest social media craze that’s out there. If we want to solve the case, we need to go to the Golden Wok. I’m certain that was the place Bro mentioned. I also have a preference for Chinese buffets. As to vegans, Ve E Gan is the person who started the exclusive society of vegans. Here’s the skinny on vegans. They’re uppity. Sampson is a perfect fit, problem is, Bro, is only a pretend uppity. As for the fourth question, I have lots of ideas. Want to hear some of them?” said Pickle. 

“Hold off for now on the ideas. I think better on a full stomach. I hope the Golden Wok adds extra MSG and high sodium soy sauce to my meal,” said Gillis.

“How so?” asked Pickle.

“MSG and high sodium have two primary purposes in any cuisine. First, they’re better than oysters for men. Second, their aroma stays on your clothes like super glue and is a highly researched and proven aphrodisiac that drives women crazy. Not that I need an edge with Wendy, but I’m taking no chances,” said Gillis.

“You changed your mind about Wendy?” asked Pickle.

“I can’t get her out of my mind. If I have to make a commitment for the weekend, I’ll do it. My team has a bye and isn’t playing this weekend,” said Gillis.

“You’re the male guru, Gills. I’m becoming a better man because of you,” said Pickle.

 Ten minutes latter Gillis and Pickle pulled into a small, left behind in the 80’s, strip mall on the city’s East side. Gillis surveyed the parking lot and nodded his head toward the Golden Wok. He tapped Pickle on the shoulder, “You got to hand it to the owner of the Golden Wok, Dill, he knew how to pick the best strip mall for his cuisine. Look at the crowd. This place is a gold mine. There’s a Dollar Tree, Goodwill, a blood bank, chiropractor, and a psychic healer. I’m going to grab the last handicap parking space before anyone gets it.”

“You better hurry Gills, look over there,” said Pickle. He pointed to an SUV  packed with seniors heading toward the handicap parking place. The SUV had a large handicap tag hanging from the rearview mirror.

“Not to worry. Pickle. I’ll nick the cart corral so it’ll tip in front of them. They’ll have to take the long way around. Get the rag ready to hang over the sign,” said Gillis.

Gillis’s pickup and the SUV filled with seniors were on a collision course for the same handicap parking spot. Gillis underestimated the driving agility of his competitor. A white haired guy with a NASCAR hat knocked over a trash barrel sending refuse spewing, then he nicked the cart corral blocking Gillis and Pickle from pulling ahead. Gillis swerved to avoid a collision with a mom pushing a stroller with twins. His quick action avoided a tragedy, but brought his pickup into contact with a live chicken delivery truck destined for the Golden Wok. Moments later two hundred chickens bust loose from captivity. A pickup truck loaded with illegal Mexican farm workers skidded to a stop. The illegal workers jumped out and chased the chickens. Leon, Do Re, and Buttercup came out of the restaurant. Leon waved a butcher knife and screamed obscenities at the illegal workers. Every other obscenity began with the word mother. One of the illegal Mexican farm workers brandished a machete and returned the obscenities to Leon in Spanish. Gillis worked his way around the chaotic scene and whacked the SUV on the right rear taillight causing it to spin 180 degrees and face away from the handicap parking space.

Gillis and Pickle, their Smith and Wesson’s drawn, piled out of the pickup. Gillis hustled to the driver’s side door of the SUV and set himself in a shooter’s stance with his gun aimed at the 80 year old driver. Pickle in the same stance on the passenger side of the SUV aimed his gun at seventy-seven year old cue tip on the passenger side. 

Gillis screamed, “Come out with your hands behind your heads, driver’s registration between your lips. Anybody with false teeth leave them in the car.”

A moment later, clink, clink. From the inside of the car, “Watch it Helen, I don’t have a second pair.” 

“Where’d you get those Jack, they almost look real.” 

“You had a fake gold tooth put in your uppers? Does Medicare pay for it?”

The seven seniors lined up facing the SUV, their hands on the roof, spread eagle. “Pat em down, Dill. They might be carrying,” ordered Gillis.

Gillis announced, “I’m calling backup. You have the right to remain silent, anything you say will be ignored. If you make a false move, my partner will blast you with pepper spray. Is anyone recording this to put on the Internet?”

“What are we charged with, Officer,” said an 85 year old woman.

Gillis blurted out the first thought in his mind, “We’ve been watching this sex ring for months. We’ve finally got you with the goods.”

An old woman snapped at the man next to her, “Harold, I told you to leave the condoms at the retirement home. At my age I don’t need safe sex. I need sex.

THE BUMBLING DETECTIVES RETURN ON MONDAY ~ WHAT WRECKAGE WILL THEY CAUSE NEXT WEEK?

17 ~ Gillis Plans to Chronicle Messages Left on Bathroom Stall Doors

17

Gillis pulled into Green Tree Park, turned off the road and pulled onto the grass. He gunned the motor causing the tires to spin making large ruts in the well kept picnic area. He drove his pickup around the picnic area practicing spinouts. When he was satisfied he mastered the spinout, he cut over to the bike and running trail and took a left to head toward the park pavilion. 

“Dill, here’s a tip. When you have a crime scene in the park, you have to get off the road, and take the bike trail. It’s quicker and the bikers usually will get out of your way. If they’re wearing headphones you get up close and blast the siren, scares the hell out of them and teaches them a good lesson.”

“I learn something new everyday from you, Gills. Thanks for being my mentor. BTW, the young kids will love playing with all the dirt you kicked up in the picnic area,” said an appreciative Pickle. 

Two blasts of the siren later, Gillis reached the park pavilion. He drove across the grass, and cut over to the parking lot and pulled into a handicap parking space. Pickle reached into the glove compartment, pulled out an oily rag, got out of the pickup, and draped the rag over the handicap sign. A moment later, Gillis joined him.

Pickle said, “The handicap folks have a great lobby, Gills. They get all the best parking spaces. Never seen anything like it.”

 “No kidding, Dill. There’s even a three hundred dollar fine for parking in these spaces if you don’t have a valid sticker.”

“What handicap space Gills? I don’t see any,” laughed Pickle.

The detectives fist bumped. They turned and walk over to the crime scene. Gillis spotted two patrolmen on the scene. He said, “Looks like Fluke and Fluck. Don’t know why they don’t  change their names, Dill. Somebody’s always writing about them on the commode stall walls. A lot of what is written is pretty creative. I’ve been thinking of using my vacation to travel across country and chronicle the writing on bathroom walls and I’ll take plenty of photos. My goal is to put together a coffee table book of women and men who will perform all kinds of weird sex acts along with their phone numbers.”

“Brilliant, Gills. Brilliant. Can I go with you?” asked Pickle.

Gillis had different plans. He said, “I got a hunch Wendy will be riding with me. She’ll get the lady’s stalls and I’ll get the men stalls. It will be a big seller.”

“Did you read her text, Gills? Did she sext you? Can I see the photo?” begged Pickle.

“Haven’t had a second to check it out. I sent her a quick text, telling her I’d be a bit late. I told her there is a key under the mat. Told her to go in and make herself at home, take a bath and lounge around in one of my tee shirts until I arrive.”

“You got all the moves, Gills. Jagger could have learned from you,” said Pickle.

I know what you mean, Dill.” 

Pickle waved to the officers, “Hey Flicker, how they hanging?”

Fluke adjusted his belt, folded his arms across his chest, and said, “Up yours Pickle.”

“Hey Fluke, fluck you,” saidPickle

“I’m senior here, guys, leave Fluke alone. He took a lot of ribbing at the briefing at the start of the shift. I keep telling him to change his name,” said Fluck.

“No offense Fluke and Fluck,” said Pickle.

“None taken, Pickle,” said Fluke and Fluck.

“This how you guys found the corpse? Where’s the head? Gutted right? What’s that over there?” said Gillis.

“That’s where Fluke puked. First time he’s seen a gutted corpse. It’s to be expected. The head’s over there. No witnesses. We come through this time of night to chase out teenagers drinking or having sex, that kind of thing. Slow night, usually we can confiscate four or five six packs of beer. I haven’t bought beer in ages. We confiscate it, tell the kids we’re letting them off easy and to drive safely even if they’re stoned. Between us it’s the paperwork connected with a DUI, it’s not worth it,” said Fluck.

“I hear yah. Did the same thing before I made detective,” said Gillis. 

“I think the ME might have something for you when the body’s examined,” said Fluck.

“Wendy’s here? Where is she?” said Gillis looking all around.

“Be gentle with her, Gillis. I hear she’s going through a bad breakup. Don’t know whose fault it is. Usually in these cases there’s always a third party interfering in what seemed like a perfect relationship,” said Fluck.

“I’d like to get my hands on the bastard. Wendy’s naïve and innocent. She was telling me she believes in one great love. Well, it looks the piece of crap she married proved that wrong,” said Gillis.

Fluck walked over to the deceased, shined his tactical flashlight on the victim’s cavity. “If I’m not mistaken, it looks like a coin in the cavity, right there.”

Gillis and Pickle bent over and stared on the spot where Loomis flashed his light. Gillis nudged Pickle, He said, “That’s a piece of bone. How do you figure it’s a coin Fluck, “What’s wrong with Fluke? Where’s he going. Oh, he’s puking again. He might need counseling to get that under control. Here comes Wendy. I’ll remember what you said when I hit on her.”

Fluck looked over to the ME wagon, “You and Wendy Flox? She broke up with Courageous’ son Pat, yesterday. You’re almost twice her age.”

“Hey, what can I say. I’m better looking than Pat. I got seniority over him. I’m further up the pay scale than him. And, I please the ladies, it’s a well known fact. Plus, a twenty-four hour waiting period on a breakup is all that’s expected. I think the twenty-four hour limit has been reached.”

Pickle chimed in, “Gills is right. You can go in any of the women’s room at headquarters. Check out the inside of the stall doors. You’ll find the women writing, If you want a good time call Gillis 555-2222.”

“How do you know what’s inside the stall doors?” asks Fluke, his face a combination of purple, yellow, and orange.

“Common knowledge, Fluke.”