Misuse apostrophe’s

The last of the suns ray’s are fading as the boy’s walk with slow and heavy step’s toward’s their homes’.
‘The day’s are getting longer,’ say’s Ross.
‘Thats because Summers here,’ say’s Rosss brother. He sigh’s and kicks’ a pebble along the paths edge. It rattle’s down a drain and disappear’s from Rosss view. He raise’s hi’s eye’s to the cloud’s and squint’s.
‘Whatre you’re plan’s now schools over?’ he say’s. His’ brother shrug’s hi’s shoulder’s.
‘I dont know,’ he say’s. ‘Maybe work on my grammar.’

Base your characters on real people

Penny, thirty-three, beautiful and neighbourly, was trying to hold back tears as she pegged out the washing, which she did every Tuesday and Friday at 6pm.
‘Oh,’ she sobbed quietly to herself, ‘if only there was someone who could comfort me. I am so distraught, although I do a good job of hiding it and you’d have to be very attuned to the subtle details of my daily routine to realise.’
Just then, her husband, whose name isn't really important, came out of the house. Swinging his grotesque muscly arms by his side, he walked stupidly over to Penny.
‘What’s wrong?’ he asked like an idiot. Penny dabbed at her hazel-brown (with flecks of green (although it would only be possible to tell from a distance with a good-quality telescope in the right lighting)) eyes with the hem of a summer dress which, had she been wearing it, would have made her look like an angel as she took the bins out on Thursdays.
‘Oh, nothing,’ she said, her voice like a spring meadow. ‘I just wish there was someone who could look after me better than you do. Someone who really cares for me. Someone with a comprehensive knowledge of optics and a good vantage point.’


O! My wailing heart! My quaking soul!
My wailing, quaking heart-soul!
Now the void of empty voidness opens before me
and is empty

O blackness! O darkness! O despair!
The sorrow of fifty billion apocalypses
rises like an army of seventy trillion skeletons,
each carrying a dying child
and weeping.
My soul screams – why?
Why? Why? Why? Why?
It howls despairingly like the despairing ghost of a despairing banshee.
Why? Why? Why? Why? Why?
Why did I forget
to charge my phone?

Start your novel at least three chapters before the first significant event of the plot

Alan picked up his slice of toast and bit into it thoughtfully. The crescent shape left by his teeth was like a smaller version of the shark bite Julia would suffer next week, but at the moment, Alan knew nothing about that. Wiping the crumbs from the corner of his mouth, he reached for his coffee. As he lifted the mug, the surface of the drink rippled like a deceptively calm ocean which, any moment now, sharks would come leaping out of. He slurped it, completely unaware.
So far, today had been disappointing. The arrival of the post hadn’t brought the parcel he’d been waiting for – the new scuba mask with anti-fog coating which would eventually (although not for some days) save his life. There wasn’t even a postcard from Julia, despite her still, at this point, having enough fingers to write one. He wanted to know what the weather was like out on the west coast before he set off to join her there on Thursday.
Of course, today was Monday, so there was still plenty of time. Maybe a postcard would come tomorrow, or the day after. Until then, reflected Alan, he just had to get through his last few days at work, which promised to be mind-numbingly repetitive and predictable, exactly unlike a shark attack.

Write in impenetrable dialect

Wha’ an’ ha’ summit oder t’ nessle, blothen. An’ thar fudur hibitza an’took! Fla booter ’eth snine? Naggle ta, po’ o’ lo’ sho’. An tho’? An tho’ fladabble.
‘Gisae tha’ fun’dut?’ hir giffled.
‘Asai ha’ tooter!’ Ai tankled.
Haba greathen thei’ pulten, asa lanwag ba’ cracket an’ waggle. Wha’ tae boleg ah video recorder fae t’ sanner an’ video recorder ben.
‘Wha’ tae boleg ah video recorder?’ hettled ai, gravenish.
‘Gisae ha’ tooter,’ cam spalber eth.

Personify every object

The hat, old and disillusioned, sat on Leo’s head like a passenger on a bus which is not only late, but has forgotten which route it was supposed to be taking. The feather drooping pathetically from the hat’s side seemed to have given up any hope of escape and was now, to all intents and purposes, playing dead. Leo shuffled his shoes, which were not having the best day, on the gravel; first the chewing gum they had picked up two miles back and now this. As for the chewing gum, it was just disappointed to be stuck to a pair of shoes with such a low tolerance for discomfort.
Leo’s grimy, tactless finger hovered hesitantly over the unsuspecting doorbell for a second before pushing it. The sound of the chimes filled the inside of the house like a sumo wrestler in a minicab before dying away like a sumo wrestler on life support. The silence which followed outstayed its welcome like a guest at a party which didn’t want to be thrown, much like a shot-putt entertaining thoughts of retirement in a country cottage which sits contentedly on a hilltop which reaches for the clouds like a dieter for cream cakes which wish they didn’t have to be eaten.

Choose a narrator who is peripheral to the story

It all began in the summer of 2003. At least, I think it did – I was on holiday at the time, but when I got back, I heard that Lisa and Penny had fallen out. Apparently, they’d had some kind of big bust-up over something, though I’m not sure what. Let me set the scene for you. Lisa is in her late thirties and works as an administrator for a respected legal firm. Or maybe it’s local government. I’m not really sure – she doesn’t talk about work much. I haven’t seen her in a few months. Penny, on the other hand, is an enigma. By which I mean I haven’t met Penny.
Anyway, I’m not entirely clear what the issue was between them, but it came to a head in either a coffee shop or the public library. They’d either just met a few days before or known each other for years and they were really close friends, or possibly just acquaintances. But then this thing happened, which was either an argument over money or a disagreement about politics, and that led to a series of events which I’m not entirely clear on, but I think they ended up being closer friends as a result. Or maybe they never spoke again. I should ask Rachel. I kind of know Lisa through Rachel. Anyway, crazy story. Just goes to show.

Do not contextualise dialogue

He burst into the room.
‘So it was you all along.’
‘Yes, that’s right.’
‘You were behind the whole thing!’
‘Not quite. You see, it was his idea.’
‘Whose idea?’
‘My idea.’
‘You? But I thought you were...’
‘Not quite. You see...’
‘No, let him answer for himself.’
‘Where did you come from?’
‘I was behind him.’
‘No, the first one.’
‘Hang on, which of you was the murderer? I’ve lost track.’
‘I think it was him.’
‘Was he the one who burst into the room, or was that you?’
‘I think it was me.’
‘Who spoke first?’
‘How many of us are there?’
‘One, two, three – and myself. I make it four.’
‘What about her?’
‘Oh, hi everyone. Have we found out who the murderer is yet?’

Select words for their impressiveness rather than their relevance

As it was after eight of the clock and I was in a particularly ecbatic frame of psyche, I decided to oscillate by the publican’s place of business and masticate the rind for a short sojourn. Swinging open the door dyspeptically, I offered my hearty felicities to the barkeep.
‘Is it not an octamerous day outside?’ I proffered. ‘The firmament is tetravalent with hodometry and the avian population is positively miasmic in its pulchritude.’
‘Oh Christ,’ vociferated the proprietor sacrilegiously. ‘It’s you again.’

End with a twist no reader could reasonably have foreseen

(With thanks to Tim Clare)

‘So, you discovered the secret behind...’ The General paused, a strangely blank look in his eyes. ‘Behind... Behi... Behi... Behi...’ Now the whole room was flickering. I looked down at my hands and saw my fingers blurring in and out of reality. Then, with a snap, it was all gone.
As my eyes adjusted to the light, I smelled electrical burning.
‘Neural simulator offline,’ said a voice. I blinked.
‘Puh... Peter?’ I said. ‘Is that you?’
‘Not exactly,’ said Peter. ‘My real name is Doctor Hadrian. I inserted myself into your neural simulation as Peter in order to guide you.’
‘But.. why?’ I asked. He smiled and peeled an electrode off my temple.
‘Because I’m your father, Jake. I’m not dead after all – I was kept alive by aliens. And the aliens are God. And this is the year 8500 and we’re in space.’
‘Ah,’ I said. ‘That explains everything.’ Doctor Hadrian nodded.
‘And you’re a robot,’ he said.

Let the passive tense be used*

The door was being knocked on. Olivia was getting up, walking across the room and stopping. A hesitation was being performed by her; a doubt was surfacing in her mind. Her head was having the thought who is it? running through it. This knowledge was not in her possession.
Slowly, the key was being turned in the lock by Olivia. The handle was being pulled and the door was swinging open. Outside, the space where she might have expected a person to be was not currently occupied by a person.
‘That’s odd,’ her voice was saying. ‘I could have sworn...’ The swearing that she could have been doing was having to do with the hearing of a knocking sound previously to the moment which was currently passing. Suddenly, a shadowy figure was looming in the doorway. A surprise attack was taking place. A screaming sound was being emitted by Olivia as she was being murdered.

* As has been pointed out by my erudite readers, this passage has a mish-mash of present-participle and past progressive tenses, a passive voice and a steaming pile of gerunds for good measure. Please see the comments section below.

Qualify every description

Standing on my feet on the floor of my kitchen in my home in Glasgow, I looked with my blue eyes out of the double-glazed window which sat in the middle of the wall like a clear panel of carefully-engineered plastic in the middle of an interior wall. The rain was falling from clouds and through the air, down towards the ground, where it landed, making wet puddles of water on the grey pavement far below where it had started from.
I was hungry in my stomach. Scratching the back of my head with the fingers of my left hand, I opened the door of the fridge which stood next to the window on the opposite side of the room from the tall oak door. An electric light inside the fridge came on inside the fridge and illuminated the inside of the fridge. With my right hand, I picked up the Davidstow mature cheddar cheese which sat next to a brightly-coloured plastic tub of butter-substitute vegetable-oil-based spread. I also picked up the vegetable-oil-based spread. I would have a sandwich to eat with my mouth.

If you find a phrase you like, keep repeating it

Needless to say, I was fully aware of the behind-the-scenes machinations which, needless to say, would ultimately result in my departure from the executive board of VoxMagic Enterprises. The VP of Product Interface Experience who was, needless to say, a close personal friend of mine, kept me fully informed of who was saying what to whom and when – needless to say, this involved me needlessly hearing a lot of what people had to say about me, which, needless to say, was not all of a positive nature.
Needless to say, this period of needless nay-saying was brought to a swift (although, needless to say, temporary) end by the introduction of our revolutionary predictive transcription system, VoxMagic Ultra, which, needless to say, changed the whole face of voice recognition technology, allowing, as it did, the pre-emptive conversion of spoken sound to text. Needless to say, it was an exciting time for the whole industry, no matter what anyone might needlessly say about the needs of, say, the consumer and, it needs to be said, I was at the forefront of this (needless to say) revolutionary paradigm-shift. For the first time, we had produced speech recognition software so advanced that we had eliminated the need to actually say anything.