Everybody’s a writer, nowadays, and it should not be breaking news but somehow none of these writers have realized that they’re swimming in a sea of identical identities. That’s part of the problem: there’s a few legitimately good books here and there, but they’re overshadowed by piles and piles of cash-grabs and fame-attempts. That’s why we don’t have Classic Stories anymore. More and more people are reading, more and more people are writing, and the whole thing is so divided, it’s practically impossible to get a large enough group of people to endorse your piece to “Classic” status.
Luckily, you can change that. I am going to teach you how to write a Classic Story. You might just become the world’s next great force.
You’re probably wondering who I am. I, simply, am your Omniscient Narrator, and despite what might be implied, I do not think I am a Classic Writer. Rather, I am teaching you how to be one, and if you don’t believe me, then you must simply not truly appreciate the genre.
That’s the best part of writing a Classic Story. Most Classic Stories we read are from a long time ago, and really famous just because they’re the most reliable records of a bygone era. To ensure that your story is branded as Classic, wait until a few decades after you’ve died to publish it. Not only will its historic value increase significantly, but nobody can judge your perspective. What are they going to do, resurrect you? If nothing else, you can say whatever you want and it will be immediately defended by snobbish scholars because only your dead generation, “Understands your unique experiences.”
The other fun thing about writing a Classic Story is that you can make the whole thing a political rant loosely guised as a “Social Commentary”—Social Commentaries are just political rants without the politicians, anyway. Bonus points if you make the political rant relevant to your Unique Time Period. Double bonus points if you can name the names of actual politicians. Triple points if you can do all that and villainize all the people who have ever wronged you, allowing for an obvious yet still-impactful catharsis.
Most importantly, nobody may criticize you. They just don’t understand you; that’s how the Classics work. If you do all this right, entire facets of universities and museums will spend their lives dedicated to understanding what you’re even saying—
Does this even make sense?
I don’t think so. I guess I’ll have to show you.
First up, you need a Narrator. Isn’t that my job? Actually, no. I’m the Omniscient Narrator, but that makes the story sound too sterile. I mean, it’s going to sound sterile anyway, but we want to make it look like it’s not. Instead, I’m going to project my narration onto another guy. His name is Tim.
“Hello,” Tim said politely, waving a weak hand. He was slender and fragile—
Great, Tim. Go sit in the corner. Your Narrator should be the Mike Pence of your 2020 Presidential Inauguration: only there because his superior didn’t want to show up and not really talking to anybody.
Tim nodded and skipped off to the corner, before turning back around and realizing that he was in the sparce Abyss and there were no corners. Resigning to a brief existence of confusion, he plopped down in the middle of nowhere.
Don’t worry about Tim. We’ll figure out the setting, soon.
In fact, that’s an excellent segue into the next character introduction: the Two Mean Plot Devices. These two should be wealthy, rude, married, and scarcely related to the Narrator. I’m calling mine Eleanor and James.
“Hello, Tim,” Eleanor said cordially.
Remember: the Two Mean Plot Devices.
“Bleh, it’s Tim,” Eleanor corrected. “I can’t stand that guy. I saw him once on the street and he slipped and fell and kicked dirt into my mouth. He’s filthy.”
“Pleasure to meet you,” James hissed.
Because Eleanor and James are so wealthy, they have a large Mansion.
“Why am I at their Mansion if they hate me?” Tim clarified, a bit sadly.
Plot. We’ll say that they’re offering you medical care, for your fall.
“But I thought we were mean—”
You have a bit of goodness in your heart. Albeit, that goodness is encased in layers of magma, but it’s there, and will be relevant later, when we dissect humanity.
Back to what’s relevant: Eleanor and James have a large, Victorian Mansion, because they exist in Victorian Times.
“But you just compared me to the 2020 Election,” Tim mentioned, as if that hadn’t happened half a page ago.
I know, Tim. I know this is confusing, especially because I’m too busy to give you a real personality, but we’re doing a Social Commentary here. I will be and have been making references to recent Political Events. That’s the important bit. The rest is all Period Costumes; it doesn’t even need to really add up.
Anyway, Eleanor and James flung themselves—because flinging is a thing that Classic Characters do—onto their velveteen, cranberry chairs, while Tim sat in the corner of a light, cheery drawing room with an untreated scrape on his face.
For a bit, Eleanor did her duty as the wife of the house and entertained a spot of small talk, then got bored and instructed the servant that just materialized out of the Victorian depths to bring them all glasses of lemonade to match the eager spring air.
It’s springtime. That’s how you know that something’s going to happen. Now, let’s get on with the Plot.
There came a knock on the door.
“Oh, hear that knock on the door!” Eleanor remarked astutely.
“Why don’t you go and do something about it?” James replied curtly.
“I can’t. I’m a wealthy Victorian woman. I don’t do anything, except lounge on this chair,” Eleanor retorted, leaning back extravagantly.
Another servant materialized and opened the door, letting in beams of radiant, glorious sunlight.
“Are you trying to blind us?” Tim shrieked. The three named Characters grasped at their eyes, trying to resist the worst effects of the impending solar eclipse.
I have half a mind to blind all of you, because I meant that light figuratively. Reader, when you used figurative language, make sure it’s obvious. I would recommend doing that by consistently associating one character with one particular object, color, or characteristic, and really bring the point home by doing so ceaselessly.
The shining orb of brilliance announced his presence with a grand sweep into the room.
Enter Love Interest, because no Victorian Woman is safe from a Love Interest. I’m naming you Mr. Edwards.
“Do I get a first name?” asked Mr. Edwards.
No, you do not, because you are the Love Interest and Love Interests must maintain an air of mysteriousness and superiority. Nobody goes around calling the sun by its first name.
“The sun doesn’t have—“ Tim began.
Shut it, Tim. You’re my projection vessel; you’re not supposed to have real thoughts.
Anyway, Mr. Edwards, still in the doorway, for effects, kneeled down and spread his arms out over his head. “My dearest Eleanor,” he declared, “I have come to you with horrid news!”
“Why don’t you come in the house?” James prompted.
“Oh, because this news is just so tragic. I must remain here, right in this doorframe, because it may be used to represent our class differences.”
Play along, Tim. It’ll all be explained soon. Back to the tragedy.
“Affairs on one’s spouse are now illegal!”
“Oh!” Both Eleanor and James gasped, their backs buckling with the shock of the news.
“I’m certain this is bad,” Eleanor continued, “but I don’t really know why!”
It’s because both of you are cheating. On your spouses, I mean. We need some Plots, after all.
“I don’t follow,” Eleanor explained, her head whipping between two people she barely knew.
For the sake of our Readers I’ll try to break this down—but remember that when writing your own Classic Story, this is completely not necessary and honestly rather frowned upon—so that you can mimic it adequately. Eleanor was in a relationship with Mr. Edwards then, due to “Society,” she had to marry James instead, but, due to human nature, they’re—Eleanor and Mr. Edwards—still in love. It’s a bit of an issue and the beginning of a great social commentary.
Also, James has been cheating on Eleanor with somebody else.
“Who?” Eleanor and Mr. Edwards asked simultaneously, their eyes burning into James’s. He turned rather pink and made no move to deny it, probably because he knew he had no control over the matter.
Who James is cheating on Eleanor with has no actual bearing on the Plot. He cheats because he’s mean, and that’s as far as we care about that.
“Seems a bit misogynist,” Eleanor mentioned.
I know! Almost as if you all are living during the Victorian Times!
Reader, when your Story starts to fly off the rails, tone it back with some more Political Quotes.
“Eleanor, my dearest, I’m going to make our relationship great again,” Mr. Edwards declared. “Is that from 2020?”
No. 2016. Try again.
“Our love is going to feel the burn—“
Also 2016. Mr. Edwards, I know you can do it. There’s only one more way you can mess this up—
“Which is the one with the ‘H?’”
You managed to find the exact one I did not want you to, and, honestly, I don’t remember what the exact slogan was, other than there was an “H.” Here, wear this shirt: it’s got an “H” on the front.
“Does the ‘H’ symbolize happiness?”
Reader, it is perfectly acceptable to have favorite characters. For example, Mr. Edwards is currently my favorite character, because he led me into my next point: rich people are privileged.
Repeat it after me: The Wealthy Get Away With Things. I know, it sounds obvious, and nearly all of the renowned Classic Stories say the exact same thing, just written differently. Affluence is the basis of our Social Commentary, and politically it means that—
“Isn’t this removing all room for analysis?” Tim asked, like a yo-yo.
No, Tim, because I’m explaining here as the Omniscient Narrator. The real story leaves more up for interpretation. And if you think you can write a story better—
“I honestly do, because I’m literally your literary personification, and this story makes no sense.”
If I have to repeat what the point of this story is, I am going to physically murder somebody—actually, that brings me right to the next Plot Point.
“Eleanor, my dearest, my ray of brightness in this darkened world,” Mr. Edwards proclaimed. He was radiating and the “H” on his shirt glowed brighter than the brightest star. “Please, Eleanor, run away with me. We can have a life free of society’s constraints!”
“No you can’t!” James shrieked, attacking Mr. Edwards with a vase and all the intensity of a Primary Debate—rather like Brayden of my Elementary Class did, though Brayden's weapon of choice was a Merriam-Webster Dictionary, and he didn't actually hit any people. It was slightly disconcerting either way. With one heavy clonk to the head, Mr. Edwards crumpled to the ground, the light from his earnest being extinguished forever.
“Oh, my,” Eleanor sighed. She flounced out of the room, clearly tired by all this dueling. Any remaining goodness in her heart seemed to evaporate as Mr. Edwards gulped his last breaths.
Tim. Now’s your time to shine.
Tim stared at the murdered and the murderer, serenely staring ahead as if none of this was out of the ordinary, and opened his mouth a few times, no words coming out.
Wake up, Tim.
“You…just killed Mr. Edwards.”
I heard that MENSA needs a few more. You should apply to their ranks.
“What? Why? Was there no more efficient way to do this?”
I mean, I guess I could have just sent Mr. Edwards on his way, but that wouldn’t have quite gotten the point across, now wouldn’t it?
“Is anybody going to call the police?”
I was going to tell you to do that.
“But it’s Victorian Times. There are no telephones.”
Reader, this is why you give your Narrator as little agency as possible. Give them any at all, and they will use it to destroy you.
Tim summoned a servant, who materialized and ran off to go and fetch the police. For Plot’s sake, three police arrived as quickly as if they had been waiting two rooms over. Their abrupt appearance startled Tim into jumping and shouting, which provided James with the ability to exit the room and hide away from the clutches of the justice system.
“Sport,” one policeman said, patting Tim patronizingly on the shoulder, “there has been a murder, and I think that, for your best interest, you should leave the harsh detecting to the adults.”
“First of all,” Tim said abruptly, “I am an adult, and second of all, I literally witnessed this murder.”
“Sport,” the policeman repeated, “we’re probably going to need to cut this man open.”
“Couldn’t you just do a DNA test?”
“Sport, these are the Victorian Times, and we haven’t figured that out yet.”
“But I saw the murder happen!” Tim insisted. “James did it! James murdered Mr. Edwards because Mr. Edwards had been seducing his wife, Eleanor—now that I think about it, both Eleanor and James should be arrested, because they cheated on each other, and apparently that’s illegal now.”
The policemen looked at Tim like he was Tom Steyer talking about climate change.
“I mean,” Tim continued, “you can see that Mr. Edwards died from being knocked on the head by a vase. A vase owned by James, in James’s house. The only three others in James’s house were me, James, and Eleanor, and being as those two already need to be arrested, you might as well—“
“That’s going to be a “No” from me, Sport.” The patronizing policeman patted Tim on the shoulder, again. “I can’t arrest those two.”
“Because, according to the rigid social hierarchy that I am supposed to physically represent, we can’t actually punish the wealthy. At all.”
Tim opened his mouth, this time with a little squeak.
“Listen, Sport, I know that this happens in real life, but it wouldn’t be quite so obvious: you wouldn’t have two outright nasty people evading arrest while the personification of happiness dies in front of your eyes, and only your eyes, because you’re a representation of the average citizen influenced by but not yet blinded by corruption, but that’s a lesson we all need to learn.” The patting moved up to Tim’s head. “Consider yourself lucky: you’ve been graced with the knowledge of society’s faults already, when you’re still young.”
Tim looked like he was about to cry. “If I’m still young, can I use this new knowledge to fix society?”
A different policeman, this one with the same vaguely-yellow haircut as Lindsey Graham, stepped between the patting policeman and Tim. “No; instead, you’re going to grow depressed and enter an asylum, and avoid potential romantic relationships due to this trauma. Also, you’re going to be the one organizing this ‘Mr. Edwards’s’ funeral.”
Reader, if you manage to pull this all of, you will solidify yourself as one of the Great Faces of Literary History—truly ground-breaking, if I may say.
Tim shook his head. “I’m confused.”
Isn’t everybody? After all, you haven’t written a Classic Story until you’re thoroughly confused.