Twelve Tips for Writing an Unpublishable Story

Tip One: Avoid short, catchy titles.

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Tip Two: Introduce characters that your readers will soon forget.

FRANK, OWNER OF CITY IN THE SKY BINGO PARLOR

The owner of the City In The Sky bingo parlor, a thick-necked guy from New Jersey named Frank, exaggerated his Gambino-esque accent and dyed his hair black as a crow’s wing to show that he was a tough guy. But on Saturday nights, he sported a blonde wig and red high heels, and lip-synced Barbara Streisand songs at Whispers, the gay club he owned off highway 501 on the way to Myrtle Beach. Frank, a Lebanese who claimed to be Italian, had mastered makeup and jewelry; through their careful use, he could seemingly shrink his neck the way a lizard can. Frank, the Lebanese bingo parlor-owning, cross-dressing Streisand look-alike, closed every show with a tear-jerking rendition of A Star Is Born.

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Tip Three: Mock Christians of convenience.

THE MOTHER OF DORIS RICH

Forty-two years old and socially religious, Doris Rich’s mother loved the Bible, though she’d never read it. Instead, she devoured trashy Romance novels, which served as her intellectual and moral compass and explained why events in TV soap operas (which she called The Stories) really did make sense. And she adored gin. You might say that Mrs. Rich loved Jesus and sin and gin. Blind to the conflicts inherent in her trinity, Mrs. Rich lived comfortably in that space where the Bible, the soaps and the gin overlapped. “I am what I am,” she would proclaim when her passions collided.

On those nights when Mrs. Rich’s id boiled, when she felt so trashy good that no manual dexterity or battery-powered technology could sate her, she’d drive to The Paradise Lounge in Darlington, where she’d drink Cosmopolitans with extra sugar on the rim and talk to the first man in her league about how in August it was too hot to wear panties.

“I am what I am,” she’d purr.

Then she would scoot her hand up the man’s thigh in a little roller coaster act, and say, “This is the way God made me.” She’d give his meaty flesh a squeeze, sending his testicles scurrying like hermit crabs, and coo, “God don’t make no junk.” And the man would smile proudly as his glands engorged and think, But lucky for me he sure do make some trash.

You might say that Mrs. Rich considered herself a scholar in the academy of common sense, hard knocks, and country wisdom; a modern woman, having suffered the burdens of single parenthood buffered only by the house at the country club that Mr. Rich was paying for, his flush 401-K, and half his retirement if only the son-of-a-bitch would retire; and the proud proprietress of sexual prerogatives vested in God’s work and trumpeted in every worthwhile woman’s magazine.

You might say that Mrs. Rich was an ignorant white-trash slut.