Write in a way which will not age well

Toying with his Tamagotchi, Steve fretted silently. He was thinking about the same thing he had been thinking about for months now –  the Millennium bug. Would it mean the end of civilisation as we know it? Would governments collapse? He had read enough to know that planes would fall out of the sky – that was a given – but what other, less easy to predict effects might it have?
He rocked back and forth on his in-line skates. What if The Matrix was true, and all of this was just a simulation? When the Y2K bug hit, would he wake up in a pod full of jelly in a futuristic power station? It was as likely as anything else. Resolving to shake off this worrying line of thought, he turned and set off for home, his hungry digital pet beeping plaintively from his pocket as, in the sky above, the sound of jet engines suddenly stopped.

If the plot gets out of hand, simply synopsise large chunks

Penelope turned away from the mirror and looked her husband directly in the eyes for the first time in two months.
‘Martin,’ she said, ‘I don’t believe you.’
‘You don’t...’ He stopped, breathed, clenched his fists. ‘You don’t, do you?’
’No.’ She turned back to the mirror. ‘I don’t. You see, after Michael left that evening, I found your notebook – the one you had tucked under the corner of the carpet.’ There was silence for a few seconds.
After the ensuing argument, Penelope filed for divorce, although the process proved more costly than she had anticipated and the loan she took out to cover her legal fees would have bankrupted her had it not been for Michael’s intervention. This, though, brought its own set of problems, as Michael’s wife assumed (wrongly, as it happened) that Michael’s interest in Penelope’s wellbeing was a result of something beyond merely friendly concern. This led to an estrangement between Michael and Susan which, although not as rancourous as that between Penelope and Martin, nonetheless took its toll on all concerned. So it was that both Penelope and Michael found themselves, some months later, nominally single; it is at this point that we resume our tale...

Use semicolons because you think they look good, not because you know how they work

Then; as if by magic; the curtain fell and the entire theatre erupted into applause. I was of course delighted the reception was more than I could have hoped for I felt pride swelling; in my chest. Turning to the director; I said
’They love; me they really love; me!’
He winked; and motioned to the centre of the stage. I took my place and felt the whoosh of ;hot air; as the curtain swept up again. Clap; clap; clap; clap; clap; clap; clap; clap. Went the crowd.

Get as much detail into your opening sentence as possible

No more than three feet away from Julius (but certainly more than two feet away; perhaps thirty inches – or, in the system preferred by Helen, Julian’s wife, of whom more later, seventy-six point two centimetres – although needless to say, it seemed less) a dog which seemed to be a cross between a doberman and some kind of beagle – its appearance certainly seemed to fit the original meaning of the Old French word “beegueule” (literally, open-mouthed) from which “beagle” is derived – was barking in the key of E-flat and pawing the air in a way which, had there been an invisible miniature piano beneath its claws, might have produced a melody not dissimilar to a free jazz composition of the early sixties or, more likely, a discordant jumble of sharps and flats which, had this been the case rather than being merely a fanciful possibility (which is what it was), would have put Julius’ teeth on edge in a way which the dog’s barking, in the absence of the more musical set of noises just touched upon, was already managing to do.

Treat genre as a replacement for ideas

With a manly flick of his muscular wrist, Captain Dash Gallant engaged the space drive and accelerated into the darkness of the Cloud Nebula. His destination was Mysterion IV, the uncharted planet which, as space-legend had it, was home to the quasi-mythical race of psychic aliens known as the Klar’Voyates.
Suddenly, his heroic concentration was shattered by the wailing of the DangerAlarm-9000. He glared masculinely at the scan-screen and space-cursed under his breath at what he saw – a Mhal-Evol’Unt warship off the starside bow. Flicking open the communication channels, he manfully barked an order to his inept yet adorable robot sidekick Fumblebot.
‘Prepare all weapons for an epic battle,’ he gruffly intoned. ‘And fire up the Annihilatatron-X.’ He narrowed his steel-blue eyes at the blackness of space. ‘You never cease to amaze me, galaxy,’ he whispered heterosexually.

Don’t be put off by wildly conflicting registers of language

I shall simply tell you what I told the jury, gentle reader – I was indeed present when the shizzle went dizzle. However, myself and my homies were merely passing through the immediate vicinity at the time of the incident; if I recall correctly, we were engaged in nothing more than chilling, perhaps with a certain amount of supplementary illing, but certainly nothing close to the magnitude of the offences alleged.
In addition to this, I would like to take this opportunity to set the record straight regarding one matter – specifically, that I be the baddest pimp you ever seen and, were you to show disrespect to either myself or my close friends, I feel I should warn you that I would make a concerted effort to smoke your bitch ass.

Don’t worry about formatting

SCENE 16: An abandoned factory. CIPHERMAN – so this is the root of the problem is it?

I should have known.
Davey, “Are you sure that OCCULTIO will be here cipherman?” Just then, an enormous
F/X CRASH What’s that? Look out, DAVEY!


DAVEY-- What’s that, Cipherman?

(CIPHERMAN) ‘I said, we hear the sound of collapsing concrete, DAVEY

DAVEY: Is that an echo, or are my ears ringing? f/x ears ringing.’ CUT TO NEXT SCENE [AFTER NEXT LINE]
Occultio " bwahahahahaha! SCENE17...

Write from multiple points of view within a single scene

First checking that no one was watching him, Henry took a deep breath and knocked on the door. In fact, he was being watched by a neighbourhood cat (who felt nothing but pity for him), but he failed to notice this. I hope this was worth it, Henry thought, waiting for a reply. Inside the house, Karen waited for a second knock. Henry’s persistence was one of her favourite qualities. Henry shifted nervously and counted off the seconds until he got to thirty, then knocked again.
With a joyful yelp, Karen sprang from her chair and ran to the door. The crash it made as she flung it open was audible from one end of the street, where Mr Jameson was pensively watering his flower-beds, to the other, where Mary Simmons was lying in the bath and contemplating mortality. And so it begins, Mary thought to herself as Karen mentally browsed wedding dresses and Henry found his mouth growing dry. Three hundred miles away, Henry’s mother was unaware of any of this.

Mix metaphors

Seeing the lie of the land and bracing for impact, I stepped up to the plate and prepared to eat my words. In the hollow blankness of the auditorium, my creaking cough thundered like a volcano going off, a single pistol-shot in the echoing cavern of expectation before me.
’So,’ I said, my throat as dry as my wit, which was as sharp as my tone, ‘we seem to have reached a fork in the garden path you’ve been leading me up like a lamb to the slaughter. A turning point of no return, you might say.’
I knew that this would hardly be a ground-breaking barnstormer of a speech, but so far, it was going down like the stock value of a lead balloon manufacturer. The silence that followed was as long as a freight train, as deep as a philosophy textbook and as uncomfortable as this analogy.

When writing radio drama, use dialogue to set the scene

MEREDITH: I can see a light outside, Albert.

ALBERT: Yes, Meredith, I see it also. But what the devil...



ALBERT: My God, Meredith! It’s Peter, your husband!

MEREDITH: Peter! What are you doing bursting suddenly into the room with a gun in your hand and a look of fury on your face?

PETER: I’m furious, Meredith. In fact, I’m pointing this gun at you right now.

ALBERT: Don’t worry, Meredith, I’ll wrestle him to the ground.


MEREDITH: You’re fighting him, Albert!

ALBERT: Yes, and I’m winning, too.

PETER: You have your foot on my windpipe and you are overpowering me.

Suddenly drop into reported dialogue for no apparent reason

‘My God,’ I said. ’It’s you.’
‘Yes,’ smirked the ape, ‘and I think you’ll find my neuro-circuitry is quite operational, despite your efforts.’
‘You fiend!’ I shouted, straining against the manacles. ‘But how?’
‘Ah,’ he said, giving me a toothy smile. ‘I suppose there is no harm in revealing that now. After all, you won’t live long enough to tell anyone.’
He went on to outline the intricate and surprising method by which he had restored his capacity for speech and regained control of the secret cabal and, in the process, filled in a lot of the blanks in my own understanding of the events following my escape from the submarine.
’There’s one thing I still don’t understand,’ I said. ‘How did you activate the Death Machine without Professor Gleebe’s access codes?’
He explained this to me.
‘Oh,’ I said. ’That makes sense.’

Introduce major plot elements in an off-hand manner

As the wailing of sirens got louder, Claire and Pete hunched over the glowing computer screen. Pete swallowed nervously.
‘What now?’ he said.
‘Well, now we disarm the missiles.’ Claire flexed her fingers. ‘I didn’t tell you this before, but in my spare time, I’m a skilled computer hacker. I’m sure I can crack these defence codes.’
‘Excellent,’ said Pete. ‘I’ll use my extensive jujitsu training to hold off the guards if they come through the door, which we were unable to lock behind us because the key broke off in the lock, which I forgot to mention at the time, but it did.’
‘I’m in!’ said Claire. ’The password was the middle name of the shadowy CEO of Cryptotech, who incidentally is secretly my father.’

Get someone else to do it for you

(by Sarah Armstrong, Colchester, UK)

John sauntered into the bar with the same ease that he walked through life.  He ignored the woman who started to hyperventilate when she saw him.  He didn’t have time to acknowledge them all, much as it pained him.
He sat down opposite Fidel and sighed.  Fidel’s single, thick eyebrows curled like an anxious caterpillar.
‘I don’t know why you think you’re better than me, John FK,’ Fidel spat.  ‘You know Jackie is really in love with me but you bamboozled her with your wit and charm.’
Kennedy glowed with self-consciousness, ‘She was free had to make her own choice.  I am sorry for your sake that she chose to be with me but we all have crosses to bear.’  He wiped away a single glistening teardrop, and then pointed at the distracting mass of crying women dragging their pert bodies towards him across the dirty floor.  He couldn’t pleasure them all, and Marilyn had asked him to keep his strength up. Determined not to look downwards, he raised his head with the fortitude he was bred with, the fortitude of one resigned to their genetic heritage.
Fidel shook the table with his jealousy and blew a putrid plume of acrid, grey, stinking cigar smoke across the table, ‘As you have stung my heart so will I sting your eyes.’
John coughed politely.
‘I wish I could help you to become a better person, and more attractive,’ sighed the president, as he glided away, ‘but I can’t.’
Fidel shouted after him, like a madman, ‘One day, in Texas probably, I will be revenged on you, Kennedy, and Jackie will be free to marry me!’