Are you working on a novel that could use a touch of controversy? Is it lacking that soupçon of malaise you’d expect from an enfant terrible? Fear not. Here’s a list for clouding over your manuscript with an Houellebecqian mise en scène.
- Ensure that all the roads in your story lead to bodily decay processes. Pepper your prolonged descriptions of these processes with painful and fatal diseases.
- Invent aphorisms that lump groups of people into a type with a common characteristic. Try to combine this with political incorrectness (and maybe the point above) so as to provoke your reviewers from behind what appear to be a self-evident truths. For example, you might say ‘she had that gawp that comes from years of shopping around for palliatives for the inadequacies that women develop as their pertness succumbs to gravity.’
- Put forward observations and events with a solemnity that implies they’re highly significant. Withdraw them a page later as though they have little or no significance.
- Compare something to do with sex with something to do with death. Show how they are similar, then come down on the side of death by explicating a rationale for its superiority.
- Construct your characters’ internal worlds around burning malevolence. Give their views on who they think is stupid, lazy, weak, and pathetic; meanwhile, layer failure into meta-failure by listing each character’s failings in the way they think of the failings of others.
- Encapsulate these micro-worlds of human failure into a macro-world of their consequences that, ideally, indicate or even precipitate some future doom for humankind.
- Compare humans with animals. Don’t necessarily come down on the side of animals: the purpose is to infer that humans are little different.
- Embark on extended ruminations that move from one academic subject to another. This will, when placed amid cynicism, make breadth appear as depth.
- When the states of affairs to individual lives or a whole society are described in favourable terms, it’s imperative that those terms are sequential, logical and detached enough to appear cold, inhuman, and therefore unfavourable.