Indulge in self-referential writing


The first line of the piece attempts to demonstrate the particular stylistic foible being parodied in the form of one short, pithy example. In the case of more plot- or structure-focused critiques, this is not always possible. However, by this, the third sentence, the conceit should have become obvious.
The paragraph break allows me to take a breath after the first joke and perhaps settle into a slightly longer bit which demonstrates the conceit more fully and pushes it a little further than was possible in the first paragraph. Now that the reader is familiar with what’s going on, they will either enjoy this second stab at it more than the first or, having already got the point, they will have completely lost interest.
Reactions to the piece are likely to be mixed, with some comments praising the writing, some contributing their own jokes based on the same formula as the original and, in rare cases, some apparently missing the fact that the work being presented is parody and defending it against other commenters’ derision. Mixed in with these will be comments from people who have noticed typos or errors of usage in the piece – these bits of well-meaning and useful feedback unfortunately tend to come across as being slightly passive-aggressive.
The longer the piece, the more likely it is that I will have outstayed my welcome and worn out the joke by the end, which will tend to fizzle out.

Allow your attention to wander


Joe stumbled as he ran, nearly falling but managing to recover without breaking his stride. He could hear the rhythmic thudding of boots on tarmac behind him, getting louder all the time. They were gaining on him. He swerved into a doorway and crouched down.
Had he been in less of a hurry, Joe might have noticed that this particular doorway was the back door of a struggling Malaysian restaurant, connecting the kitchens to the alleyway he had been running down. The owner of the restaurant, a large, sweaty man with twenty years’ experience in the catering trade, had given a speech to his staff only yesterday about the importance of keeping the back door closed for reasons not only of security but of hygiene – they were due a visit from the inspector this month and just one more infraction could lose him his license.
Of course, this fell on deaf ears for the most part – with the exception of Lee, the head chef, the staff felt no sense of commitment to the restaurant they worked at, seeing it as just another job, just another way to pass their time or pay their rent or, in the case of one of the waiters, deal drugs under his employer’s nose. Lee was another story, though. He was fiercely loyal to the Flaming Dragon – a character trait which would ultimately cost him his marriage and, in an ironic twist of fate, his job.
Joe died, by the way. The alley was a dead end and the guys chasing him caught up with him.

Reinvent clich├ęs

(With thanks to Felix Bloomfield)
‘At the conclusion of the day,’ I said, ‘you have to follow your cardiovascular muscle.’
‘It’s simple for you to declare that,’ she said. ‘I wish you could walk a kilometre in my footwear. Then the boot would be on the left foot if it started on the right or vice-versa.’
I smiled. ‘You’re as stubborn as the offspring of a horse and a donkey,’ I said. ‘Alright, have your way as the way we’re doing things.’ At this stage, I thought, it was best to just live and also let her live in her chosen manner. Arguing with her was tantamount to specifically requesting trouble and I didn’t have the digestive system necessary for it. After all, hell itself doesn’t have the same level of anger as a woman who’s been badly treated. Women, I thought to myself – can’t live with them, can’t contrive a situation where they aren’t a necessary part of your existence.

Woonerise spords

(With thanks to my father)

It was a stark and dormy night in the paravan cark. With a yuffled mawn, Bob sat on the edge of the bed and letched his stregs.
‘Roody blain,’ he muttered, listening to it ratter on the poof. He knew he would get woaking set, but he had to go – his bladder was bull to fursting and his temical choilet was broken. The tublic poilets were his only option. He took a breep death, dung open the swoor and rarted stunning. After just a stew feps, he was already boaked to the sone. Cidding round a skorner, he dopped stead. The bloor was docked by a truge huck. From the track of the buck, a parge lipe snaked into the bloilet tock, shurgling and guddering.
‘For sod’s gake,’ he shouted. ‘What are dou yoing at this nime of tight?’ A man in overalls lurned to took at him.
‘Porry, sal,’ he said. ‘Just lumping out the poos.’

Fail to notice are missing during editing


As the of battle died down and twilight fell over the fields of Paldyggen, Lothar stood atop the hill and watched.
‘So many have died here today,’ he to his squire. ‘Loyal to the last, every of them.’
‘Sir,’ muttered young man. Lothar shifted his weight and leaned on the pommel his sword. He knew what meant – one day soon, he would king. There would be more battles like this, but none as bloody or as . The path was clear now, knew. He took a breath and raised his so that all men might hear.
‘We emerge from victorious!’ he bellowed. A ragged cheer came from the below. ‘With the blood of our fallen friends still upon us,’ continued, ‘with the smell our enemies’ fear in nostrils, with swords unsheathed and , we ride!’ Another cheer rang the valley. ‘We ride to Crown Point and to !’

Romanticise places

(With thanks to The Antipodean)
I still remember the unique smell of Longlake, a gentle musk that carried on the breeze and wrapped itself around you like a comfortable old coat. It blew down from the power station on the hill, swooping over the rendering plant and through the sewage works before bringing its complex odour to the main street and the children’s playground.
Ah, the playground. Many happy hours I spent in that glorious fenced-off paradise, digging through the damp woodchips beneath my feet and searching for treasure – a glinting shard of broken glass here, a mysterious used hypodermic needle there. I still remember the time I found a strange-shaped balloon with a tiny reservoir of cloudy liquid in it. That was what Longlake was like – full of mystery and hidden wonder, from the burnt-out warehouse on the edge of town to the constant screech of brakes and occasional crunches of impact that came from the section of road the locals called “decapitation corner.”
How I long to go back there, even now. They tell me that the sinkhole swallowed everything from the pawn shop to the prison, but maybe one day I’ll head back to ol’ Longlake, just to see.

LITERARY FICTION WEEK #5: End with an epiphany, no matter what


She sat down on the train toilet, feeling the crinkled sheen of the cheap toilet paper she had placed carefully on the seat. She knew that when she returned to Graeme, something would be different. Something would have changed forever. She shuffled her feet on the tacky plastic floor. Nothing stayed the same, she thought. She reached for the roll of paper by her shoulder and tore off three sheets, folded them back on each other and held them ready in her hand. She could never recapture what had gone before, what had fallen from her and been lost. Holding her breath, she strained. The train rumbled. She hardened the muscles in her abdomen and, after a few seconds, was rewarded with a muffled splash. There we go, she thought. There we go. Beyond the frosted glass of the small window above, she could just make out the shadows of trees flashing past. The journey went on.

LITERARY FICTION WEEK #4: Offer oblique biographies of your characters


As she walked down the train carriage, Annie composed an imaginary autobiography, selecting and categorising what she considered to be key facts about herself for an imagined posterity. When she was eight, she had eaten an ice-cream sandwich so cold it had given her a migraine. In her first year of university, she had lost a pair of socks when they had fallen out of her fifth-floor window. She only ate blackcurrant yoghurts when she felt she had earned them. Her bellybutton was slightly deeper than she would ideally like, plunging from the gentle curve of her stomach down into a tiny pit of wrinkled skin and fluff. It had been knotted by the midwife, whose name she did not know, in such a way as to leave a miniature knuckle of umbilical cord down at the base of the pit, like a grey-pink boulder plugging the hole. The colour of the fluff that formed in it seemed to be completely independent of the colour of the clothes she wore, emerging as small bundles of mysterious greyish lint. Sometimes, while she sat on her bed gazing at it, she imagined her navel was a separate creature in its own right, quietly observing the world from belly-height – the thought both thrilled and disgusted her.

LITERARY FICTION WEEK #3: Ask the difficult questions


She looked sidelong at Graeme. How well did she really know him, she wondered. How well did he know her? Most pressingly of all, how well did she know herself? How well did they know themselves as a couple? What did they think being a “couple” meant? Was that definition the same for each of them, or did one of them – her, she supposed – expect more than the other of this shifting, amorphous relationship? Where were they? What was happening? Would she know even if she knew? Was it, in fact, possible to know? What did she mean by “possible”? Was language ultimately subjective and, if so, did this rob it of its essential value as a conduit for shared meaning? What did she mean by “meaning,” she wondered. Why was she following this line of questioning? What was it that caused her to compulsively interrogate herself like this? Did she need the toilet? Was the journey from a state of unknowing to a state of knowing merely an illusion? Did knowledge have any intrinsic value? Seriously, did she need the toilet? How could one measure value in this context? What was it that ultimately conferred value? Another subjective judgement, perhaps? Another unknowable...
‘I’m going to the toilet,’ she said, getting up.

LITERARY FICTION WEEK #2: Invest conversations with layers of meaning


She turned to her companion and smiled.
‘Nearly there,’ she said. He nodded solemnly. They were nearly there – only two stops away now – but that wasn’t what she had meant.
‘Yes,’ he said. It was an affirmation, she felt, not only of her assertion but of the strange, unknowable bond between them. “Yes” – the undiluted positive, a simple, breathy syllable of agreement. Deceptively simple? Perhaps.
‘Have you got my ticket?’ she asked, already knowing the answer. How much of life was about asking questions you already knew the answers to, she mused. Yet the ritual had to continue. The world spun on its axis.
‘Yes,’ he said again. It sounded the same as before, this sibilant word that fell from his mouth, but it meant something subtly different, she couldn’t help but feel. What? She couldn’t say.

LITERARY FICTION WEEK #1: Open with a detailed description of something irrelevant


Low and flat – as was the rock, she supposed, that the first fish to venture gasping landward, all those millions of years ago, had struggled onto – the briefcase lay across the stranger’s knees in the thin, fluorescent light of the train carriage. It was not quite square with the man’s lap, resting a good ten degrees – roughly 0.17 radians, she quickly calculated – askew. The misalignment, seen both directly and reflected in the dark window of the train, transposed over hurtling fields and telegraph poles, bothered her a little. As for the briefcase itself, it was notable only for its consummate unremarkability; a brown gloss finish with a handle, she surmised – a briefcase so similar to the hundreds of others on that very train as to be rendered figuratively invisible. Literal invisibility, of course, remained beyond the capabilities of science and engineering. For now.
The man got off at the next stop, taking his briefcase with him.

Increase the body count


The policeman says “so where is your papers then?” And I say “hang on officer. I will get them”. But I don’t get them, instead I get a knife from the kitchen and I come back to the front door and I kill him, then I think maybe I will be in trouble, so I go to my friend Ian’s house and I say “hey Ian can you help me escape from the police because I killed a policeman”. . .
Ian looks at me and says “I don’t know man that sounds pretty bad, let me think” but I do not let him think because I kill him. Then when his wife comes home and screams and is not cool with all of it I also kill her. Anyway the police send more policemen and they have stun guns and stuff but its ok because I kill them too, I get arrested and go to court so I kill the judge and then what I do, is I drive off in a stretch Hummer, with a rocket launcher on the roof and I’m all like “Yeeeeaaaahhh!” and when ever people mess with me and stuff I kill them with the rocket launcher especially Mr Cheebing who is my teacher for double science and I’m like “no way!” and he is dead by a rocket.

Make your influences clear


‘Please, you’ve got to listen to me,’ I shouted, hammering on the door. ‘Doctor Browning! Open the door!’ It opened a crack – just enough for an eye and a shock of white hair to appear.
‘You’re crazy,’ the Doctor whispered. ‘There’s no such thing as time travel.’
‘You’ve got to believe me, Doctor,’ I pleaded. ‘I’m from the future. My name is Martin McFoo. You sent me here and now I’m stuck. You built a time machine out of a Lamborghini using uranium to generate six point one terrawatts of energy.’
‘Six point one terrawatts?’ yelled the Doctor. ‘That’s impossible!’
‘You did it, Doctor. You sent me in the car at ninety-nine miles per hour and I came back in time and now I’m probably going to sleep with my own mother. It’s kind of disturbing if you think about it.’
‘Great Skeet!’ exclaimed the Doctor.
‘Listen, please,’ I said. ‘I need to go back. You’ve got to send me back. I have to... RETURN TO THE PRESENT!’

Emphasise your villain’s bad qualities


Doctor Slithingly watched the readout on the computer screen and rubbed his hands together.
‘Excellent,’ he muttered, his voice a thin, rasping hiss. ‘Excellent!’ He laughed to himself in a chilling falsetto. ‘Soon my plan will come to fruition. Soon I will destroy them all!’ The room resounded with the sound of his insane giggling.
This was the culmination of years of research – years of testing tissue samples and creating unnatural biological hybrids – but now it was over. Now, finally, he would destroy them all – every single type and variation of leukaemia. In doing so, he would render useless the work of thousands of charitable organisations as well as denying medical professionals the world over a source of income. He would prevent the publication of hundreds of inspiring stories of survival and sacrifice which might otherwise have sold millions of copies worldwide.
‘Bwahaha!’ he laughed. ‘So long, you meddling haematological neoplasm, you!’

Emphasise your hero’s good qualities


Once upon a time, there was a king who was just and wise and strong and handsome and clever and all the people in the kingdom loved him. However, he had never found a wife. All the women in the kingdom loved him, of course, but he was so devoted to ruling his kingdom well and enjoying all the wonderful food and wine his subjects produced – particularly the wine – that he had never found the time for marriage.
In order to make his kingdom the best it could be, he took a lot of money off his subjects in taxes, so it was important that he spent lots of money on wine so they would get some of those taxes back. He was a very thoughtful king. And in order to keep his kingdom safe, he executed a criminal every day and hung the body on the gate of his palace. Some days, the king’s guards had to work very hard to find someone who looked like a criminal!
One day, he was walking in the grounds of his palace when he saw a beautiful servant girl carrying two pails of milk to the kitchen. The king, being a romantic at heart, noticed that with her hands full, there was no way the servant girl could stop him touching her...