Things I’ve Learned From Books I’ve Read Part 3: Fight Club (Fact Incorporating)

Disclaimer: all books discussed in this weekly column are absolutely wonderful and deserve to be read tens of thousands of times and studied by any and all individuals looking to be a writer.  This, however, doesn’t mean that I own these books or have any right to them at all, besides my owning a copy.  I don’t think I’m in the wrong, reproducing small parts of the books here, as it is for educational purposes.  However, if I’m wrong, or if you have any questions, comments, book suggestions for the column or book/idea recommendations, comment on at the bottom or e-mail me.

In Fight Club, written by Chuck Palahniuk, we follow a no-named protagonist and Tyler Durden as they create Fight Club and later, Project Mayhem, together.

Another great technique used in Fight Club is that you learn.  You learn a lot.

Three paragraphs into the book, you’re learning why guns are so loud.  Second page, you’re different learning ways to home make explosives.  I read somewhere Fight Club is banned in some countries because you can learn these things from the book.  Third chapter, you’re learning about the movies, and projectionists, and how they do their job.

The reason this technique is so useful is, if you’re able to incorporate facts to correspond with the details of your story, you make it even more believable.

Third paragraph of Fight Club:

With my tongue I can feel the silencer holes we drilled into the barrel of the gun.  Most of the noise a gunshot makes is expanding gases, and there’s the tiny sonic boom a bullet makes because it travels so fast.  To make a silencer, you just drill holes in the barrel of the gun, a lot of holes.  This lets the gas escape and slows the bullet to below the speed of sound.

You drill the holes wrong and the gun will blow off your hand.

“This isn’t really death,” Tyler says…

I’m not sure if this is true or if it’s not, but it looks right.  I have no evidence saying this would be otherwise.

Adding facts like this, despite the fact it has nothing to do with the story (besides explaining the silencer holes statement), for novelists, using this technique more and more can totally up a word count.  The above paragraph, if we’re counting everything after the first sentence, which is where the author begins to talk about why guns are so loud, using this technique adds 57 words to the total paragraph.  And it’s even expanded to another sentence.  13 more words, which means that’s 70 more words than before. 

It also makes it more interesting to read.  Should Palahniuk have just went with, “With my tongue, I can feel the silencer holes we drilled into the barrel of the gun.  ‘This isn’t really death,’ Tyler says…”

No.  The above could work, but the higher above works even better.  Another example, this one from chapter three: talking about movie projectionists.

The old theaters that run a movie with two projectors, a projectionist has to stand right there to change projectors at the exact second so the audience never sees the break when one reel starts and one reel ran out.  You have to look for the white dots at the top, right-hand corner of the screen.   This is the warning.  Watch the movie, and you’ll see two dots at the end of the reel.

“Cigarette burns,” they’re called in the business.

After reading this, if you didn’t know this before, you’ll realize what those white dots were for.  We’ve all seen movies and seen the white dots.  I’ve thought, is something wrong with the film?  But no, that just means the projector is about to change.  Now, I watch for it.  I’ll tell whoever I’m with that the scene is about to change, when the first dot comes up.

Reading things and being able to relate to them, it’s another important part of story.  Lots of writing teachers will tell you; characters have to be able to be related to.  This is true.  If you have a character no one will be able to relate to, you have a bad character; you have a character that has no place being in your story.  But also, you have to make your world relatable to, along with your characters.  It makes a story ten times more real when the reader reads something and says, “Yeah, I’ve always wondered what those things were,” or “I see those things all the time,” referring to the last example of course.

Whether the facts presented in the story or true or untrue, they sound right.  They fit the story, and they make a little bit of sense.  You could see the facts being real.  You could see yourself reading about these things in newspapers, or magazines.  The trick to every story is getting people to believe in it, to believe it could happen.  Adding facts just adds a little bit more evidence.

Challenge: next story you write, try and think of your character’s world.  Explain something about it that’s important to the story.  Look at the above two examples if you’re unsure.

Rules about adding facts to your story: They have to be relevant (it doesn’t matter that your character knows how to sew if it has nothing to do with the story), and they have to be interesting (no one wants to read about the world of accounting).  Keep these things in mind when thinking about using this technique.

Next week: Fight Club and openers

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1 Response to “Things I’ve Learned From Books I’ve Read Part 3: Fight Club (Fact Incorporating)”



  1. 1 Naruto Manga & Spoiler | Genius Iq « Naruto Trackback on August 20, 2009 at 2:02 pm

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