Now, don’t let the title fool you. This may come off as a casual step-by-step guide on how to tell if your novel is in the same category as Chuck Palahniuk’s novels but please, bear with me.
First things first, this clearly isn’t the usual “How-to” vlog, it’s me just talking to an imaginary audience while I sit in my desk chair and read off of a tablet. Instead, I chose the podcast route.
The portion of any novel that’ll let you know right away whether or not your book is in this particular genre is the main character. Are they unique? Do they bring a lot to the table? Do they possess the ability to create chaos? I’m afraid those were trick questions. A transgressive main character would come off as someone who’s average, they go to work just like you and me, and they don’t seem special. Yet, that doesn’t mean they don’t have the potential to be.
While they don’t possess the power to leap a building in a single bound, or even the funds to create a bulletproof super vehicle, the main character tends to stick to their roots–but not by choice. This “sticking” you often find them doing isn’t by their own agenda; it’s by society’s.
So, naturally, they try to break out of them… no matter the circumstances.
Before we continue, I’d like to point out that spoilers are coming. So, in the words of George R.R. Martin, and I’m sure many others, brace yourselves.
Now, let’s dive into the world of Chuck, juuust a little… maybe just dip a toe; rather than dive.
We’ll start with Invisible Monsters; a novel about a model who endured a very traumatic accident. Now, she wasn’t a usual model. She was one of those models who modeled clothes in unique backdrops. To make crazy outfits look “fab,” she posed next to slaughtered animals, pick ‘n’ pulls, you name it. Whatever it took to make over the top outfits look like the new trend, she did it. Naturally, anyone could get tired of the grueling schedule that is modeling. The narrator goes through the usual habits, the gossip, and keeps up with the expectations society has when it comes to models. Until… she didn’t want to.
Yet, instead of telling everyone that she wanted to quit, she shot herself in the head and… she… missed. Yepp, she shot herself in the head alright, but she didn’t die, she just shot off the bottom half of her face. This resulted in nobody recognizing her and a lack of ability to speak. She even had a speech therapist try and get her to learn how to talk as well, but without lips, it was more difficult. While this is just me bringing up the obvious; clearly without half of her face, she wasn’t modeling anymore.
She managed to get out of her version of a 9-5 and broke out of society’s expectations alright. This, however, is one of the more extreme circumstances. I’d hope that models in the non-fictional world wouldn’t shoot their faces off to get out of work. I’d hope that they’d just tell their managers that they were done. Finished. Kaput. Palahniuk really took the extreme with this one.
In that short summary, did you notice what she did? She stopped it all and she got out of it. Much like the narrator in Fight Club did. While I’ve used Fight Club several times before… I don’t believe I need to rehash this, yet here I go. Also, brace yourself for more spoilers.
Fight Club‘s narrator worked in an office building. His boss kept harping on him. All he was doing was making copies and generally not liking where he was. Naturally, he decided he needed to revamp his life. As the insomniac he is, he spends his nights at various anonymous meetings that he didn’t belong in. He went to Narcotics Anonymous, he went to Alcoholics Anonymous, he even went to a testicular cancer therapy group. Oh, and at some point along the way, he created an alter ego: Tyler Durden (or as movie buffs know, Brad Pitt). This was a result of his Dissociative Identity Disorder, have you seen Split with James McAvoy? He had that, and Tyler Durden basically kicked his butt all over the place. The narrator doesn’t even know what’s going on when Tyler is in control of his head. In fact, in Fight Club 2, they treat Tyler as if he’s a demon who’s possessing the narrator’s body.
Tyler was the one who eventually ended up creating fight club. A place where males can exert their pent-up aggression towards one another. The number one rule was that you couldn’t talk about fight club, and if you’re new; you had to fight. It’s just how it was. Well, eventually, fight club ended up globalizing. There were clubs everywhere and Tyler wanted to do more with it. So, he came up with Project Mayhem, a club where people were divided into groups and set off into the world to do illegal things.
Tyler Durden was the way that the narrator broke out of his job because his manager found out about the suspicious activity and he lost his job. Yet, his manager ended up in a fight club every now and then… but they couldn’t talk about it.
The way the narrator in Fight Club broke out of his 9-5 was also a little intense, but not as intense as Invisible Monsters Remix. If your book contains a main character similar to the two above, there’s a good chance it’s a transgressive fiction novel. If not, then you’re probably reading a dystopian, which can sometimes be confused as such (we’ll get to that next).
Anyway, thanks for listening and make sure to keep up with me over these next two weeks for more knowledge on transgressive fiction and the world of Chuck Palahniuk.