9 Top Tips for Writing a Houellebecq Novel


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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.’
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Compare humans with animals. Don’t necessarily come down on the side of animals: the purpose is to infer that humans are little different.
  8. Embark on extended ruminations that move from one academic subject to another. This will, when placed amid cynicism, make breadth appear as depth.
  9. 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.
This entry was posted in Authors, Fiction, Houellebecq, Michel, Literature, writing tips and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to 9 Top Tips for Writing a Houellebecq Novel

  1. Jonathan says:

    Thanks for the advice – I’m going to get started on my first Houellebecq novel right away!!


  2. Tried to read ‘Atomised’ – hated it! 🙂


  3. Ste J says:

    When you first mentioned H. he sounded interesting but reading this that opinion may need to be retracted. It sounds grimmer than old French literature.


    • Jeff says:

      These ‘top tips’ pieces are somewhat tongue-in-cheek. Houellebecq’s grimness is often taken with a similar pinch of wryness.


      • Ste J says:

        After your Ballard effort, I went with this one, not being familiar with the author, I think I am just too jaded with the world at large at the moment.


        • Jeff says:

          The top tips are reductive and descriptive, so while the results are, as they’ve previously been accused ‘droll’, they also leave readers to judge for themselves where they stand. In Houellebecq’s case, where some people find the nihilism tedious, others are entertained. I haven’t necessarily stopped writing ‘straight’ reviews. I just enjoy breaking things down and poking a bit of fun. I’m also getting a bit jaded to be honest. Particularly with blogging.


          • Ste J says:

            Blogging has cycles, the love will come back, if you are added in a wider sense of life then I hear you on that. Treading water is by no means fun at all and I am in the same boat to carry on the bad sea theme.

            Liked by 1 person

  4. Excellent and, I would say, accurate. Have you read his latest, “Submission”?


  5. Jeff says:

    No. John Crace did a good digest of it for the Guardian books podcast at the end of 2015 though. A good few instances of “My cock is getting more useless by the day”. Should I get round to reading the real thing?


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