Hints: #5 — You Do You

It’s that time again.

Welcome back to Hints, a miniseries in Mr. Horne’s Book of Secrets.

The writing landscape is full of advice you can’t take. There’s so much information, and lots of contradictions. Just trying to decipher the secrets of good writing is a chore, and it distracts you from actually writing.

But does that mean you have to throw it all out and start from zero? Nobody should have to do that, and nobody is really asking you to. Still, advice doesn’t always help. It takes too much control away from you and keeps you from listening to your instincts.

What you really need…is a hint.

“Hints: because you only need a little help.”


Hey you, person who wants to be a writer. Wanna see a magic trick?

Well, you are in for a treat. Because I’ve got one that never fails.

First, pick a card, any card.

And I do mean ANY card. I have no idea where you are, so just pick up the nearest card you have, whether it be a flash card, a credit card, a Magic: The Gathering card, or any other kind of card. Just pick a card and hold on to it (and, whatever you do, don’t let me see it).

You have your card? Good. Now, while holding the card, think about the reason you want to be a writer. Think about it with all your willpower. Make it stand out in your mind until it’s the only thing in there.

Focus, now. You need to put your all into this, or the magic won’t work.

Keep thinking. Keep thinking: why do you want to be a writer?

And now, without looking at your card, I will read your mind, and reveal to the entire world the reason why you want to be a writer.

It’s because you’ve read a lot of books, and you are moved to emulation.

Did I get it right? Of course I did (don’t be ridiculous). That’s why every writer wants to be a writer. It’s a classic case of “Monkey see, monkey do.”

The Problem with Examples

But hey, if that’s every writer’s reason for writing, then it must be a pretty good reason, right?

Well, yeah, it’s a good reason. But it is also a reason that comes with a lot of problems. Because emulation alone is not a worthy cause. The books you are emulating, after all, have already been written.

So, at some point, you’re going to have to ask yourself, “What am I about?” You have to move away from the books you’ve always known and create the book no one has ever conceived before.

It’s a tough road. You have so many good examples in front of you, in the form of authors you have loved, but you can’t be any of them. And that’s why living by example becomes a problem for the budding writer.

Becoming Your Own Favorite Author

Being that this is a Hint, and not a roadmap, there’s only so much I can tell you. And it’s not like I, or anyone else, can teach you how to be yourself.

But I can offer this one simple exercise—something you can do to come to terms with  yourself. Think of it as another magic trick (a better one, I promise).

For this new trick, you’re going to need a mirror. And it doesn’t have to be big, and it doesn’t have to be expensive, but you need some way to look at yourself. Because this is going to be a dialogue, okay?

So look at yourself in the mirror. And look closely.

Take a good long look, and remember to focus.

Really put your whole self into it.

So what do you see?

Oh crap….

Evacuate the website. Everyone get to your positions. This is not a drill.

Mr. Devil’s Advocate: “You heard the man. Navigate away from this page, before…”


Too late.

Dr. H: “That’s right, Mr. Horne. The hour is upon you, and before this day is done you’ll be nothing more than a bloody husk under my wheels.

Dr. H: “Speaking of which…

Dr. H: “My magical time-traveling hot air balloon is still in the shop from our last encounter. So say hello to my vintage Ford Model T.

Dexter, the Talking Chinchilla: “…”

Dr. H: “You won’t be able to knock me out of the sky this time. Now prepare to be mowed down at a top speed of twenty miles per hour!

He really means it. Everyone needs to retreat to a safe distance, now.

Mr. DA: “Which plan are we implementing?”

He’s attacking in a terrestrial vehicle, 1920s era.

Mr. DA: “So plan C-27, then?”

Yes. We’ve been over this.

Dexter, the Talking Chinchilla: “…”

Dr. H: “Think fast.



Dr. H: “Yikes indeed, Mr. Horne.

Dr. H: “Because if you don’t watch your step, you’ll catch a taste of my Cuban machete from the Spanish-American War.

Wow, that’s like a magic wand for giving people tetanus.

Dr. H: “That had not crossed my mind. But I suppose so, yes.

Stop this madness now, Horatio. We can both get out of this with our hands clean.

Dr. H: “The past cannot be undone, Mr. Horne. And it’s too late for mere words.

Dexter, the Talking Chinchilla: “…”

Dr. H: “Now prepare yourself for the final curtain.

Horatio, wait!



Everyone, take cover. Get the detonator ready, Mr. Devil’s Advocate.

And Hint Guy, you…


Dr. H: “Behold the rapid-fire fury of my tommy gun. Get ready to lose everything you love, Mr. Horne.

Hint Guy…

You…killed Hint Guy.

How could…Why would…?

I don’t believe it. Even knowing who you are. After everything you’ve done, I didn’t think you had it in you. And now he’s gone. Why, Horatio? ANSWER ME!

Dexter, the Talking Chinchilla: “…”


Dr. H: “Oh don’t look so surprised. This was never going to end without death. And it hardly matters how many people I have to go through to get to you. As far as I’m concerned, this entire reality, and all who live in it, are a farce. So what are you going to do now, Mr. Horne? Now that you know just how serious I am?

*Blinks away a tear* Mr. Devil’s Advocate, is the device in place?

Mr. DA: “Everything is ready.”

Give me the detonator.

Mr. DA: “You sure about this?”


Mr. DA: “Okay. Okay.” *Hands it over*


You know what, Horatio? You’re right. This is the final curtain.

And you know what else? I have been preparing for it. Tell me, do you know the greatest weakness of the Ford Model T?

Dr. H: “What are you talking about?

Sorry. The correct answer was “Less than ideal road conditions.” And it so happens that I haven’t repaved the site in a long, long time.

Dr. H: “What the…? Arrrgh. What a time to need 4-wheel drive. Why do the roads have to be so terrible around here?

Well, if you must know, the ground around here lacks structural integrity, due to large limestone deposits deep beneath the surface, which are constantly getting eroded by groundwater.

Dr. H: “Are you telling me that we’re sitting on top of a limestone cavern?

Oh no. I’m not telling you anything. Think of my words as more of…a hint.

But seriously, once I use this detonator, and set off the charges placed around that pothole, you are going to be trapped in an underground chasm, forever.

Dr. H: “WHAT?! That’s insane. You can’t possibly be willing to…

That’s right. I wasn’t willing to. For the longest time. Looking back, that hesitation seems so useless.

Dr. H: “I’ll probably die!

Oh, is death suddenly a problem for you? When did that happen?

Dr. H: “Look, if you’re going to kill me, then at least let me have my last words.” *Takes a deep breath* “Remember to donate to PBS. Their quality programming is made possible by viewers like…”

I gave at the office.

*Crunches the detonator button*

Dexter, the Talking Chinchilla: “…”


Finally Over

Mr. DA: “Oh. I wasn’t expecting it to be so…like that.”

I’m sorry it came to this.

Mr. DA: “Did you have to do it? Really?”

You don’t need to ask that. He’s almost killed both of us before. Poor Hint Guy….

Mr. DA: “I’m not saying you didn’t do the right thing. It’s in my job description to represent unthinkable actions, and I’ve advocated for far worse than what you’ve demonstrated today. Still, are you going to be alright?”

Yeah. I understand that Horatio’s madness was mostly my fault. It was up to me to fix this mess. I only hope that…

*Sirens approach from the distance*

Or Maybe Not

Police Officer: “Good morning, sirs. We have an arrest warrant here for one Mr. Horne.”

A warrant? Whatever for.

Police Officer: “You are wanted as a person of interest in the murder of Horatio Heliogabalus.”

Mr. DA: “That was awfully quick.”

Police Officer: “Yeah, well, that’s what happens when you document your crime from beginning to end on a personal blog. It makes the whole process go that much faster. Honestly, I kind of want to thank you.”

Mr. DA: “And am I under arrest?”

Police Officer: “Our orders are only to bring in Mr. Horne. Everyone else is free to go.”

Can they do this?

Mr. DA: “It looks like they can. The paperwork is all here.”

What’s going to happen to me?

Police Officer: “You’re going to jail. There will be a hearing. A trial date will be set. And if you can make bail, you’ll be released. Until then, you’re coming with us, sir.”

What do I do?

Mr. DA: “Cooperate with the officers, but don’t sign anything or say anything until I get there.”

*Gets shoved into a police car*

The blog! Someone has to take care of the blog while I’m away.

Mr. DA: “I can handle that.”

What? No. Bad idea. There has to be another way. Officers, let me talk to my counsel for a min…

*The car screeches away*

Mr. DA: “What an amazing morning. Oh look, it’s my lunch break.”




[This week’s tagline: “Where people come…for revenge.”]