Space Monkey: But Sir, in Project Mayhem we have no names!If you've ever had to deal with creative writing students, or anyone eager to be accepted into the literary community, this scene from the movie Fight Club might seem familiar to you. Take what might once have been a handy bit of advice, generalize it beyond all meaning, and turn it into a religion. Then escape into the real world and trot around like a drug-sniffing dog, digging through story after story for a forbidden phrase, blind to the larger context or the rhythm of the sentence, and point dutifully until Master tells you how clever you are. Repeat forever.
Narrator: This is a man, and he has a name: Robert Paulson. He's dead now because of us. Do you understand that?
Another Space Monkey: I understand. In death, a member of Project Mayhem has a name. His name is Robert Paulson.
Space Monkeys: (chanting) His name is Robert Paulson...
Narrator: Stop it.
Space Monkeys: (chanting) His name is Robert Paulson. His name is Robert Paulson...
Narrator: Shut up! This is all over with!
Space Monkeys: His name is Robert Paulson. His name is Robert Paulson. His name is Robert Paulson. His name is Robert Paulson. His name is Robert Paulson...
Most of these literary space monkeys can show you a few pages of paper tiger examples, complete with sanitized alternatives. But even the best rule is only an approximation. The
You know what? This is a waste of time. I probably only got into this rant because I wanted to put off working on something important that I should have already finished. Here's the short version: don't be seduced by simple truths.
I can't believe I almost wrote an essay about writing.