Today I read a clever essay by Chuck Palahniuk (author of Choke, Fight Club, and many other gems of modern literature) called 13 Writing Tips. As the title suggests, the essay deals with thirteen of the things Mr. Palahniuk finds most useful when writing, revising, and reading his own work. I found the essay engaging and constructive, but it wasn’t until I reached Number Eight that I really started to think about how the tips applied to my own writing.
“If you need more freedom around the story, draft to draft,” writes Mr. Palahniuk, “change the character names. Characters aren’t real, and they aren’t you. By arbitrarily changing their names, you get the distance you need to really torture a character. Or worse, delete a character, if that’s what the story really needs. “
I read that suggestion and physically reeled, a bit. Change my characters’ names, Chuck? Delete my characters? Surely you jest!