Abuse enjambement

I walked along an empty beach
just as the autumn sun was reach-
ing the height of its ascent
and that tableaux became cement-
ed in my mind and in my mem-
ory that day in late Septem-
ber. I stood and watched for min-
utes the pale and glimmerin-
g face of that great child of heav-
en glide across the sky so lev-

Make your characters incapable of learning anything

‘Zalbotron! So you’re the one who’s been sabotaging the oxygen systems? How could you!’ The robot shook its head with what seemed to Gretta like a look of remorse.
‘Oh Zalbotron,’ said Gretta, sadly. ‘And I thought we were friends.’
*I HAVE NO CONCEPT OF FRIENDSHIP* *I AM PROGRAMMED ONLY TO KILL* Gretta put a hand on the robot’s shoulder.
‘Don’t be so hard on yourself,’ she said. ‘I’ll be your friend.’ The robot whirred for a second.
‘Well, if we’re going to teach you about friendship, Zalbotron, the first lesson you need is that friendship is all about forgiveness.’ She smiled. ‘I forgive you, Zalbotron, and I’m sure you won’t try to kill me again.’
‘Silly old Zalbotron!’ laughed Gretta. ‘You do say some funny things! Come on, let’s go and leave you unattended near the life support computer.’

Give every character a tragic backstory

Rape victim Sarah Nuffield examined the tiles on her rack. The triple word score seemed out of reach for now, but maybe if she...
‘Come on, come on,’ barked Pete, who had lost an eye in the same childhood accident which had killed his twin brother. ‘We haven’t got all day.’
‘Oh Pete,’ laughed Andrea, whose crippling bouts of depression had led her more than once to the brink of suicide. ‘Leave Sarah alone. It’s only a game.’
‘Yeah, Pete,’ said Simon. ‘You took long enough on your turn.’ He flashed Pete the sympathetic smile which had been his trademark since he had escaped from the religious cult which had indoctrinated him, taken all his money and forced him never to see his family again.
‘I’m sorry,’ said Pete, bravely struggling with his lack of adequate depth perception, ‘but I’ve got a real doozy lined up here.’
‘Lucky you,’ said Sarah. ‘The only word I can make is “anguish,” and I can’t find a place to put it.’
‘How about there?’ said Andrea, with a chuckle. ‘Using the “A” from “trauma?”’

HOMAGE WEEK #5: Try too hard to be J.R.R. Tolkien

Leotharg son of Peotharg, grandkin of Beotharg, whose horn had sounded over the fields of Giethen at the battle of Eyoiwylin Pass even as his people, descendants of Thargotharg the forgotten, sought shelter in the Great Forest of Than’Dythyll, sat down heavily.
‘Epyothnell of Yangdril,’ he said, ’protector of those who are lost and prophesied Lord of Balthangdrang’Grathril.’
‘Speak,’ replied Epyothnell of Yangdril, protector of those who are lost and prophesied Lord of Balthangdrang’Grathril.
‘My wounds are deep,’ said Leotharg son of Peotharg, nephew of Eotharg, second cousin of Uluklolotharg, ‘but I come before you to ask a boon.’
‘If it is in my power, it shall be made so,’ said Epyothnell of Yangdril of the bloodline of Esh, namer of the tree and maker of the book of chronicles. Leotharg bowed his head in supplication, as was the custom, and spoke.
‘I want to change my name,’ he said.

HOMAGE WEEK #4: Try too hard to be Raymond Chandler

He fixed me with the kind of look a drunk gives to the bottom of an empty glass. I felt a cold rivulet of sweat sliding down my spine. If I had a chance in hell of getting back to my car, it seemed like I was going to be the last to know about it.
‘Seems like I’m not needed here,’ I said, flicking a fictional mote of dust off my sleeve. ‘I’ll leave you gentlemen in peace.’ As I turned, I heard the sound of chairs scraping back across the concrete floor behind me.
‘No, you gotta stay,’ said the big guy, with a smile that could have rotted fruit. I stopped, but didn’t look round.
‘I’m fine,’ I muttered. My gut turned over like a hooker right after she’s earned her money and now she just wants to sleep, damn it.

HOMAGE WEEK #3: Try too hard to be James Joyce

Redoubtable son of the peatstenched bogland Christian Yeoman bent low his back in a gesture of genuflection as ancient as the genus of the meat that lay undigested in his bowel. Placing one unremarkable hand against the other, he lowmurmured Roman syllables through dry lips – an observance which lasted only as long as the abatement of his gastric activity would allow. Finally, in a hot rush of brackish bile which itself was a catechism of sorts, he half-suppressed, half-amplified a belch which was as miasmically potent as it was profane. As if in response, somewhere high and far across the ancient city, an albatross called out.
– And yourself the flyaway scoundrel, said Christian, although to the empty graveyard as much as the bird, he thought. What do you think of the matter? What’s your view?
As quickly as it had downswooped into consciousness though it was gone and away and then came only the wind and the clouds oh the clouds like the souls of those long departed but not yet by their warmbreathed kin forgotten no not yet not yet not yet.

HOMAGE WEEK #2: Try too hard to be Vladimir Nabokov

Given the prurient vigilance of my (if I am permitted to say) chaetiferous would-be lapidators, I fear and suspect that this tristisonous recounting of my own purgative and perhaps, I will readily admit, parachronistic account of the circumstances surrounding the events of which we were previously talking may prove to be somewhat invidious. As you are no doubt already cognisant, I am resident – have been resident – remain resident – in what is perhaps best described as an establishment whose express purpose is the containment of persons of what might be termed, I suppose, sociological interest (persons, it is now painfully evident, such as myself).

HOMAGE WEEK #1: Try too hard to be Ernest Hemingway

The night had come. Brett squinted. It was dark. This was the last day of his life. There was water below him. He was in a boat. In an instant, he felt the night around him. Cold. There was a scar on his back, running from his left shoulder blade down to his right hip. He had got this scar from wrestling. He had wrestled bears. Bears were mean.
‘I’m hungry,’ he muttered, but there was no one there to hear him. He felt the burden of the concept of masculinity weighing down on him. Also, he felt a pressing need to void his bowels. Then, he heard the dull report of a distant gunshot. A previously unmentioned army had begun its advance.

If in doubt, initiate sex

‘Phew,’ said Professor Benkin. ‘It looks like the readings from the Bohm reactor are back at normal levels. That was a close one.’
‘It certainly was,’ purred Alex, stroking his arm. ‘But what should we do to pass the time before the lockdown ends?’
‘I’m sure we’ll think of something,’ Professor Benkin grinned.

Twenty minutes later, the vault door juddered into motion and rose to reveal a group of hazard-suited figures.
‘You took your time,’ said the Professor, putting his socks back on. The foremost figure pulled off her hazard helmet, releasing a cascade of luscious, chestnut-brown hair.
‘We thought you might appreciate some... time alone,’ she said, with a smirk. ‘But you two are going to need all your energy for the journey back.’
‘Why?’ asked Alex.
‘Oh,’ she said, running her fingertips lightly over her Geiger counter, ‘you’ll find out.’

Three hours later, the exhausted scientists arrived back at their lab, only to find a very special visitor waiting for them.
‘Professor Benkin. Dr. Molloy,’ said the President. ‘The Government of the United States wishes to show their gratitude for your heroic efforts.’ He smiled seductively. ‘In any way we can...’

Build tension

Helen reached out for the sandwich, every muscle in her arm tensing with the effort of it. Even now, committed as she was to the plan, she wasn’t sure she could do it. The distance from the sofa to the table might simply be too great. Even if she managed to stretch her already aching arm far enough to touch the sandwich, could she get it off the table and securely into her grip? It was too late to back down now.
She took a deep breath and lunged forward. For a moment, her hand grasped at empty air and she felt the vertiginous pull of the hard wooden floor a full foot, maybe two, below. Then, just as panic was beginning to set in, she felt the soft, crumby sensation of bread under her fingers. This was it! Now she just had to hang on long enough to get it to her waiting mouth and the cheesy, buttery, wholemeal taste of victory would be hers.

Try to cater for all tastes

Peter (or Melanie) loved his (or her) job as a [climate researcher / troubled teen vampire / astronaut / professional wrestler]. Every day he/she went to [the lab / the alley behind the blood bank / Mars / the gym] and did his/her best to [document the effects of global warming / not kill people / set up a viable permafrost retrieval system so that future colonists could have drinking water / slam Deathface Dragon with a clawhold suplex]. It was a tough job, but someone had to do it.
The day our story takes place started like any other, but it was a day that would change Peter or Melanie’s life forever. He/she was just [compiling rainfall data / thinking about the transitory nature of human life / calibrating the drilling equipment / doing abdominal crunches] when a stranger walked into the [lab / alley / crater / ring] and, more quickly than he/she had ever believed possible, Peter/Melanie [fell in love / fell in love / fell in love / spin-flipped from the turnbuckle and clotheslined the stranger].

Censor your characters

‘I’ve been a docker for twenty stinking years and now you’re telling me I’m out of a job because of these flipping cut-backs?’ Eddie clenched his fists. ‘Well, you can go forget yourself! I’m blinking angry about this!’
‘For fudge’s sake, Eddie, calm down,’ said his supervisor, spreading his hands in a soothing gesture. ‘It’s not my decision. It’s those blinking numbskulls in management who’ve come up with this frolicking plan.’
‘Yeah?’ muttered Eddie. ‘Well, they’re out of their damp minds. I ought to go up there and smash their flaking heads in.’
‘I talked to them already, Ed. They say they can’t change the situation.’
‘Can’t?’ said Eddie. ‘They can’t? That’s what they always say. It’s can’t this and can’t that and can’t the other. If you ask me, they’re a bunch of–’
‘Eddie,’ his supervisor interrupted. ‘I need you to flapping cool it right flouncing now.’

Drink & draft

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Abuse Alliteration

Charismatic charity chairman Charlie Chung chastised chain-smoking charwoman Charlotte Chambers.
‘Charlotte,’ chattered Charlie. ‘Chaste, childless Charlotte. Charmlessly choking choirs, chomping chorizo chunks, chanting chancel charivaris.’ Charlie chronicled Charlotte’s chronic cheek. ‘Change, Charlotte, change!’
‘Ch!’ chuckled chubby Charlotte. ‘Change? Charlatan Charlie Chung champions change? Charming!’
‘Charlotte,’ Charlie chided. Charlotte chewed chillingly.
‘Choose Christ,’ challenged chagrined Charlotte, channelling Chaplin’s chutzpah.

Fixate on clothing

The door was answered by a woman wearing a square-necked smock dress with a ruched hem. It was light brown with cream details and a subtle floral pattern; the stitching, although perhaps not as durable as it could be, was of a good standard and the general impression was of a high-quality garment, albeit one with a limited lifespan. Her shoes were blunt-toed black leather low-heel pumps, stylish yet comfortable and projecting an air of casual professionalism. Her cardigan was a loose-knit off-white woollen number, available from all good retailers.
‘Is this 57 The Birches?’ I asked.
‘No,’ she said. ‘That’s next door.’
‘Oh, sorry,’ I said. I walked up the drive and then down the garden path of the house next door. I rang the bell. After a few seconds, the door was answered by a man in an argyle sweater with grey and blue patterning, the collar of his shirt protruding from the neck...