How to write a Flame of the Week
Our step-by-step guide
12 January 2001
Recently we've seen a new trend in flames sent to Vulture Central. Namely, that people are trying to become Flame of the Week - often telling us about in the same email. Rarely do these "flames" make it past even the most cursory glance, although some creative efforts will find their way into Readers' Letters. This don't stop em coming though.
And so we decided that if you're gonna do it, you might as well do it right. This then is our brief, incomplete and frequently silly guide to making Flame of the Week.
- Leave your reason at the door. You must NOT have any form of conventional logic in your flame. If you're thinking then you're not writing a flame. This is possibly the hardest aspect of producing a flame and that is why we start with it. Unless you are suffering from a mental illness, you will have spent most of your life following a complex set of social rules. These are a hindrance when attempting a flame. You must create your own world and speak from there. There is no single way to do this, although tired and tested methods include illegal drug intake, sleep deprivation, compulsive masturbation and listening to Marilyn Manson.
- Don't make it too long. This is an immediate signal that some form of reasoning is going on. A true flamer has at most three paragraphs in him/her before the sheer fury and hatred overcomes them and they pass out on their keyboard - hitting the send button with their forehead.
- Pick a story to rant about but for God's sake don't read anymore than the first paragraph. And don't read this very carefully either. There are jokes and smatterings of sarcasm and irony in Register stories but these aren't for you. Everything you (don't) read is the literal truth as we see it. Once you haven't grasped the story you can start to twist the words into whatever makes you most angry.
- Tie in your hatreds/prejudices. This goes with the previous point. Remember, a flame is not about responding to a story - it is merely the vehicle by which you can tell the world what's wrong with it. You must however pay the story lip service before you start to explain why kids/dogs/indians/brits/women/socks are the most useless and evil thing in existence.
- For god's sake, don't start using correct grammar. Apostrophes, capital letters, full stops do not exist in your world. And why spell a word correctly when you can write it phonetically and still get the meaning across? If possible, try to make the flame one long sentence (this is not to be attempted by first-time flamers though). Also, try to write the flame as fast as possible and you'll find many mistakes just create themselves.
- Be deeply and personally abusive to the person you're writing to. Try to imagine them sleeping with your partner and laughing at you at the same time. Use all the blind hatred that the government has piled into you to help it start a war - for example, repeating the word Saddam or Slobodan or commie over and over again, louder and louder. Then throw out whatever comes into your head.
- Word of warning: don't use too many swear words. Odd one this, but while true flamers will not let a sentence slip past without at least one profanity, imitators put in too many. You see, the flamer will - somewhere deep deep down - have a point to make. Swear words are only to be used when the struggle to explain just how wrong the world is becomes too much to bear and a good "fuck" relieves the pressure in their skulls - briefly.
- Do not reread your flame. Tell yourself you will send it as soon as you think you have finished. This will give you the element of spontaneity and will not give your rational mind time to interject.
- Celebrate a successful flame by killing something. Many compulsive flamers keep a jar of insects next to their desk just for this reason.