- It must be credibly motivated, both as to the original situation and the dénouement.
- It must be technically sound as to the methods of murder and detection.
- It must be realistic in character, setting and atmosphere. It must be about real people in a real world.
- It must have a sound story value apart from the mystery element: i.e., the investigation itself must be an adventure worth reading.
- It must have enough essential simplicity to be explained easily when the time comes.
- It must baffle a reasonably intelligent reader.
- The solution must seem inevitable once revealed.
- It must not try to do everything at once. If it is a puzzle story operating in a rather cool, reasonable atmosphere, it cannot also be a violent adventure or a passionate romance.
- It must punish the criminal in one way or another, not necessarily by operation of the law…. If the detective fails to resolve the consequences of the crime, the story is an unresolved chord and leaves irritation behind it.
- It must be honest with the reader.
Open Culture unearths Raymond Chandler’s 10 rules for detective stories, many of which apply just as perfectly to storytelling in general.
Pair with Chandler’s advice on writing and the only surviving recording of his voice, then revisit other notable writerly rule-lists from Elmore Leonard, Kurt Vonnegut, Henry Miller, Margaret Atwood, Zadie Smith, Neil Gaiman, and Jack Kerouac.
Above, a list of rules from Raymond Chandler concerning the mystery/detective story. I find myself in agreement with all of them.
However, a list of rules concerning a Narrative, as presented by a (or The) Narrator, would be slightly different.
1. It must address the reader, not as a trusted confidante, but as a bothersome annoyance whose presence is necessary but unfortunate.
2. It must concern itself with the actions, utterances, and behavior of at least one set of twins.
3. It must include a dog, which must be as ridiculous as is caninically possible…If “caninically” is not an actual word, too bad.
4. It must include at least one recipe for a delicious, economical, and healthy meal, snack, or side-dish.
5. It must include hijinx, carrying-on, wacky misadventures, and ensuing hilarity.
6. It must feature a nanny.
7. It must include at least one clever invention, a description of which must prompt the reader to think or, preferably, state out loud, “Hey, that’s cool! I would like to have one of those!”
8. It must include, at the end of each chapter, a series of questions and assignments, the purpose of which must be to impress upon the reader the level of skillfulness, cleverness, and smartness of the Narrator.
9. It must feature cryptic crossword puzzles and the playing of drums in a prominent manner. It must not be a violent adventure or a passionate romance.
10. However much it purports to be written by Mr. Ellis Weiner, it must in fact be told by
I loved your book very much. I want to be a writer myself one day. How did you come up with the plot of the Templeton twins series? How long did it take you to write the Templeton twin books?
Mr. Ellis Weiner tells me he comes up with the plots of his novels during a long, grueling process in which he starts with a basic idea, and then sits at the computer “all day” and types questions to himself and then types the answers. “How can the Deans get the T’s in trouble where they can rescue themselves?” “What’s a fun invention the Prof can create that can be part of the climax of the story?” And so on.
For this reason, the creation of the plot takes almost as long as the actual writing. Not all writers work this way—many just start writing and make up their story as they go—but Mr. Ellis Weiner can’t work that way (he claims). This process is, he complains, “very inefficient.” But that’s his problem, not ours.
It takes him about three months to write a Templeton Twins book. Isn’t that sad? No, it’s not. Meanwhile, how long does it take me to narrate one? Just long enough. And that’s as it should be, since I am,
Kaylee: “Mommy, I don’t get it. Why would the audience erupt into applesauce?”
Even this kid’s mistakes are brilliant. Using context clues, what she read made no sense.
An excellent question. If I were addressed in such a manner, I would say two things: First, “My name isn’t ‘Mommy.’ Second, because the person who wrote these sentences likes very familiar phrases which adults call ‘cliches.’ Can you spot two other cliches in this selection? Of course you can. ‘Her voice filled with joy’ is one, and ‘Before she knew it’ is the other.”
After those two, it would have been a miracle if her voice had erupted into applesauce. I have no doubt that, if Kaylee grows up to be a writer, she will make it her business to be sure the audience she writes about will erupt into applesauce, appliques, appliances, or anything other than applause. I can’t wait. But I shall have to, because I am,
Why is Cassie so ridiculous?
This is an excellent question. I am tempted to answer it by asking a question of my own, namely, “Why is anybody ridiculous?” But it occurs to me that Cassie is a dog. Therefore, her mode of being-ridiculous differs from those modes as practiced by, or are associated with, or whatever I’m trying to say, human beings.
Cassie, as every schoolchild knows, is a Smooth-Haired Fox Terrier. She is pure-bred, which means both her parents were Smooth-Haired Fox Terriers, too. She is therefore the product of two different kinds of ridiculousness.
One is, that of being a S.H. Fox Terrier. To be familiar with the breed of such dogs is to be familiar with ridiculousness. They are very silly as well.
The other source of Cassie’s ridiculousness is that she is pure-bred. Dogs that are not pure-bred (that is, dogs whose parents are of different breeds) possess what is known as “hybrid vigor.” They—don’t ask me why—are usually healthier and sturdier than pure-bred dogs. It has something to do with genetics, which is beyond the scope of this discussion.
Pure-bred dogs, however, possess what I call “pure-bred ridiculousness.” Is this a real thing? It may not be.
Why do you never say your name, Pester in book #1? How did John and Abigail’s mom die? What is your favorite season? Why do you ALWAYS have question’s for review? What are the twins middle name?
There seems to be a misapprehension about. The invitation to “Pester the Narrator” is being taken to mean that the Narrator’s name is “Pester.” This is absurd. I (the Narrator) do have a name, but it is not Pester.
Pester is a verb. It means, to bother, annoy, or be a nuisance to. You are being invited to ANNOY THE NARRATOR, not to do some unspecified thing to a Narrator named Pester. Indeed, when readers announce that they think my name is Pester, I find it quite annoying.
That said, these other questions can be dispatched quickly. The Twins’ mother died of a disease. My favorite season is Spring, but only if it really IS Spring, and not a slightly warm late-winter or deceptively cool early summer. I have questions for review as a service to my readers, to assist them in more fully grasping the meaning of the text.
As for the twins’ middle names…that really IS a good question. I will have to think about it. Thank you for asking.
Yours almost completely truly,
Why in the world did you actually give out a meatloaf recipe? And What if I don’t like cooking ketchup? What if I don’t like ketchup? And furthermore in book one you ask if I have a cryptic crossword puzzle expert in my family, which I do and its me, then you go on about how its “too bad” that I don’t but I do. Blah blah blah etc. and so forth.
Sincerely, one of your many readers
First, let me apologize for being behind in my responding to these questions, however wrongheaded they are. Here are my answers:
1. I included a recipe for meatloaf in The Templeton Twins Have an Idea because too many of our nation’s youth do not know how to make meatloaf. If we cannot compete with the Chinese, the Europeans, the Russians, the Japanese, the South Americans, the Africans, and the Scandinavians and the Australians (and New Zealanders) in the Meatloaf Olympics, if there ever is such a thing, we will be upset. And no one wants that.
2. I am sympathetic to you if you don’t like cooking ketchup. (I am not sympathetic to you if you don’t like ketchup. Everybody likes ketchup.) I suggest you try cooking it in the manner I have described, and then come crawling back, begging my pardon. Which I will give.
3. “Blah blah blah etc. and so forth” is easy for you to say. But what about the rest of us?
Yours more truly than you can imagine,
Performance anxiety is among the most widespread of phobias; by some measures, it afflicts up to 20 percent of Americans. That group includes a striking number of people who perform for a living. Barbra Streisand developed overwhelming performance anxiety at the height of her career; for 27 years she refused to perform for the general public, appearing live only in private clubs and at charity events, where she presumably believed the pressure on her was less intense. Carly Simon abandoned the stage for seven years after collapsing from nerves before a concert in Pittsburgh in 1981. When she resumed performing, she would sometimes ask members of her band to spank her before she went onstage, to distract her from her anxiety. The singer Donny Osmond had panic attacks during performances for a number of years. (He is now a spokesman for the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.)
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
It will come as no surprise to you, the Reader, to learn that I can “relate to” this topic more than I might wish to admit. Of course I am not a performing artist; I am a narrating artist. Nonetheless, when I am invited to read my narrations in public, I find I am prone to a stunning range of anxieties and discomforts.
How do I manage? In a variety of ways. Usually, an hour before going on, I send an email to Carly Simon, requesting that she meet me in whatever venue I’m appearing in, come to the green room or holding tank or whatever pre-performing space they’ve given me, and spank me. To this date she has never once replied. But it doesn’t matter. Simply composing the email, and then waiting breathlessly for her appearance, is enough to distract me from my fears. By “show time” I am sufficiently composed to be able to go on and, as we say in the narration game, “kill.”
How could it be otherwise, when I am,
Yours more truly than is healthy,
Controversial infographic! (via HTML Giant)
Naturally, I take issue with this chart, as will everyone who has read the authors it includes. For example, are we really to believe that Philip Roth is a “less genius” writer than Gertrude Stein? Or that Hemingway was less “arrogant” than Thomas Pynchon?
No matter. Lists, charts, and graphs like this exist in order for people to deplore them. There is, however, one aspect of this graph with which I am in complete, and indeed passionate, agreement. That is how, in none of these four quadrants, the name of Mr. Ellis Weiner appears.
Mr. Ellis Weiner is, as you know, purportedly the author of The Templeton Twins Make a Scene, which has recently been published by Chronicle Books. In it you will find, and be completely crazy about, a story of which I am the narrator. Mr. Ellis Weiner’s association with it is strictly notional and, while I am not entirely sure what that word means, it can not be unrelated to the fact that his name belongs nowhere on this chart, no matter how arrogant, genius, modest, or mediocre he is.
I say this as a matter of objective fact, for I am, as always,
I am currently reading “the Templeton twins make a scene” and it is really good!!! Do you plan on writing any more books about the Templeton twins? You are an awesome writer!!!
Above, some astute comments and a timely question from Josie Mullins, who, as is plain to every eye, is an awesome reader. Let me thank you, Josie, both on behalf of myself—since it is my firm policy to thank people on my behalf when I feel the need to thank people—and even on behalf of Mr. Ellis Weiner, the nominal “author” of The Templeton Twins Make a Scene.
I happen to know that Mr. Ellis Weiner would be “happy” to write another book about the Templeton Twins—but then, why wouldn’t he be? He is never the one who is actually called upon to narrate the thing. That task always falls to me.
All things being equal, I would rather not have to do so again. But, as Josie’s note reminds us, all things are not equal. No, I have no idea what that phrase means. “Equal” to what? What “things”? Never mind.
In any case, I do know that there are readers such as Josie out in the world, readers who deserve as many Templeton Twins books as I can narrate, Chronicle Books can publish, and Mr. Ellis Weiner can pretend he helps bring into existence.
For that reason, I will talk to everyone connected with the Twins, and see what I can do. Many thanks from
Here, courtesy of “Julia,” we have a fine selection of photographs of smooth-haired fox terriers. Clearly visible: the triangular ears, the carrot-shaped tail, the long-ish snout. Not shown: the inner ridiculousness.
"But wait, Narrator," someone will surely say. "Behold the central photo of the animal shlepping a gigantic tree limb as though retrieving a thrown stick. What is ridiculous, if not that?"
Well said. So well said, in fact, that I am prepared to withdraw my previous comment. Here, indeed, is ridiculousness made manifest. Well done, “Julia.” You have the thanks of
What the heck are you doing in the world?
Pippa asks the big questions.
(Apparently she means to ask, “What in the world are you doing?”)
How often am I asked this question! Usually I reply, “I am doing that which I must do, which includes but is not limited to narrating, thinking deeply, and responding to my many ‘fans.’”
Yes, it is a life’s work just to keep up with these three tasks. Do you wonder at my exhaustion at the end of my busy day? Then, as if that weren’t enough, I must go to all the trouble of extinguishing my consciousness while hoping it will still be there when I need it the next morning. Happily, it almost always is!
But how could it not be when I am, as ever,
The son of a friend of a friend was tasked with the almost impossible assignment of creating a children’s cereal from a book. Usually, of course, the process is the reverse: how many times have we ourselves converted a box of cereal into a book? Too many to enumerate.
Here, I am delighted to report, is the happy result: Kellogg’s Fruity Templeton Crunch. I have no doubt that the Ingredients panel lists (in order of weight) “Superb narration; admirable protagonists; ridiculous dogs; devious antagonists; nanny; Vitamin R for readability.”
This puts the “consume” back into “consumer.” And when you’ve tried it, also try The Templeton Twins Make a Scene, now available in your grocer’s children’s book section, assuming you even have a grocer and he or she has children.
Bon appetit (which is French) from,
This is my favorite post in the history of Tumblr.
I’m sure that most viewers find themselves looking at, and reacting to, the short videos in the right-hand column of this Tumblr. And, of course, one grants that the scenes thus depicted are “cute” and “amusing.”
But, as a professional narrator, I find myself much more compelled by the images on the left. It is nothing short of remarkable, to me, that a dog is able to conceive, write, and display such accurate narrations of his (or her) activities. That this animal spelled “antique” correctly is itself something of a miracle. That he/she used a correct hyphen in “sneaker-sniffing” verges on the fantastical.
This animal wins my unqualified praise. Indeed, I am tempted to inquire as to how I might send him/her a copy of the newly-released The Templeton Twins Make a Scene, along with a copy of the volume to which it is the sequel, The Templeton Twins Have an Idea. For I have no doubt, not only that this dog can read, but he/she appreciates quality narration when he/she sees it.
HAHA THIS IS THE BEST THING I’VE EVER WATCHED.
Literally me if I ever try to be a parent
omfg it just keeps getting funnier
this is it. This is exactly what having two kids is like.
There is a scene, in (the newly released) The Templeton Twins Make a Scene, in which John and Abigail share a see-saw as they ponder various mysteries centered on—who else?—Dean and Dan Dean. It is, in its way, a masterpiece of narration.
But it is nothing like this. It lacks the brutal realism and unsentimental honesty of the above animation. Someone will say, “But, Narrator, doesn’t that imply that your scene is brutally unrealistic and dishonestly sentimental?” I opt to ignore that question.
Rather, let us take off our collective hat to the animation above, and then let us order 3,000 copies (each) of The Templeton Twins Make a Scene. It’s the least we can do—particularly if we are