Creator / Chuck Palahniuk

Chuck Palahniuk is an American author born on February 21, 1962. He is known most for writing the novel Fight Club, which the movie was based on, and has since then garnered a respectable following. He has a minimalist writing style that utilizes a limited vocabulary, short sentences, and is meant to mimic the way an average person would talk when relaying a story to someone else. His stories typically start close to the end, with the protagonist recounting how he got there, the events of which might also be told out of chronological order as well.

His earlier works fall under the label Transgressional Fiction, while his later works contain more horror elements. Many people feel that his works are overly nihilistic and cynical, and have labeled him a shock writer. Palahniuk does not believe that his work is in any way cynical or nihilistic, and has gone on record referring to himself as a Romantic—presumably the old Chivalric Romance.

His body of work includes:

  • Fiction:
  • Non-fiction:
    • Fugitives and Refugees: A Walk in Portland, Oregon (2003)
    • Stranger Than Fiction: True Stories (2004)
    • You Do Not Talk About Fight Club: I am Jack's Completely Unauthorized Essay Collection (2008) (introduction)
  • Film:

Tropes found in Chuck Palahniuk's work include:

  • Anachronic Order: Common in many of his novels, but probably most prominent in Invisible Monsters.
  • Antihero: Practically all of the protagonists.
  • Arc Words: When he uses them, he refers to them as "choruses".
    • And what might be considered an arc color. All of his books have a passing reference to cornflower blue.
    • As well as "antifreeze green," at least when it comes to eye colors. (Fight Club and Rant are just two examples where this crops up.)
  • Author Filibuster
  • Author Appeal: Quite possibly the colors Cornflower Blue and Antifreeze Green.
    • And snarky protagonists. And graphic and/or Squicky sex scenes.
  • Beige Prose - Readers may find Palahniuk's terse style honest or lazy or anywhere in between.
  • Bestiality Is Depraved: "Red Sultan's Big Boy", a story from the collection "Make Something Up" about the horse of the infamous Mr. Hands. And don't you google.
    • Same collection also contains an angry "Intercourse a pony!" directed to noisy neighbors.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Choke and Invisible Monsters.
    • Really, Snuff might count too. It just might.
  • Black Humor
  • Body Horror: "One stupid mistake, and now he'll never be a lawyer."
  • Brown Note: He wrote a real one (Guts). See the Brown Note page.
  • Buffy Speak: Occurs frequently both in speech and narrated thoughts.
  • Catch-Phrase: Frequent. Often overlaps with Verbal Tic and Arc Words, and key examples include:
    • "I am Jack's X" from Fight Club
    • "X isn't the right word, but it's the first that comes to mind" and "What would Jesus NOT do?" from Choke
    • Several from Haunted (due to multiple narrators), such as "Don't laugh, but..." occurring frequently in Mother Nature's story.
  • Cloudcuckoolander's Minder: Hazie Coogan to Katherine Kenton in Tell-All. At least this is how she sees herself.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Occasional, though the most prevalent example is undoubtedly the first two rules of fight club.
    God asks me, "Why?"
    Why did I cause so much pain?
    Didn't I realize that each of us is a sacred, unique snowflake of special unique specialness?
  • Downer Ending: Virtually any book that doesn't have a bittersweet end. Haunted is probably the most triumphant example.
    • Pygmy has a happy ending. Well, sort of.
    • Palahniuk's own interpretation of Survivor's ending is fairly positive: The end of Survivor isn't nearly so complicated. It's noted on page 7(8?) that a pile of valuable offerings has been left in the front of the passenger cabin. This pile includes a cassette recorder. Even before our hero starts to dictate his story — during the few minutes he's supposed to be taking a piss — he's actually in the bathroom dictating the last chapter into the cassette recorder. It's just ranting, nothing important plot-wise, and it can be interrupted at any point by the destruction of the plane. The minute the fourth engine flames out, he starts the cassette talking, then bails out, into Fertility's waiting arms (she's omniscient, you know). The rest of the book is just one machine whining and bitching to another machine. The crash will destroy the smaller recorder, but the surviving black box will make it appear that Tender is dead.
  • Evil Feels Good: A recurring theme in his work.
  • Evilutionary Biologist
  • Fight Clubbing: He wrote the book on it.
  • First-Person Smartass: Every Palahniuk narrator is this.
    • Especially Victor Mancini in Choke.
    • But not Pygmy.
  • How We Got Here: In Fight Club, Survivor, Invisible Monsters and Lullaby. In an In Medias Res form, where the protagonist starts the narrative at the books climax, and recounts how they got there, and follows up with the resolution.
  • Minimalism: His whole style is based around this.
  • Money, Dear Boy: Palahniuk's explanation for the execrable Fight Club video game. To quote: "They can do whatever they want with my book as long as the fucking check clears."
  • Nightmare Face: The protagonist of Invisible Monsters. One look at this fan-made image (NSFW and very disturbing) should tell you why people are so damn afraid of her.
  • No Name Given: The narrator of Fight Club.
    • Many of his protagonists go unnamed until later in the book, often with a last named being dropped sometime before the full name.
      • The protagonist of Invisible Monsters is unnamed until the very end of the book. The protagonaist from Lullaby is named about two-thirds the way through the book. The three protagnoists in Snuff are named at different points theoughout the book, with one of them having been named as by his television persona before his real name is given.
  • One-Word Title: Most of his novels.
  • Parallel Porn Titles: Snuff includes a hurricane of them.
  • Perky Goth: He coined the term "Suicide Girl" to describe this type of woman hanging around Portland, OR. Then a website was formed to visually depict such ladies and the term stuck for good.
  • Reality Subtext: He wrote Lullaby to cope with his decision of whether his father's murderer should get the death sentence. Lullaby's probably one of his saddest works.
    • His upcoming novel Damned was written to deal with his mother's death, too.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: He's quite fond of basing parts of his novels on anecdotes he's heard or read about. Even "Guts", probably his single most disturbing piece of writing, was based on three true stories.
  • Romanticism Versus Enlightenment: His works are on the Romanticist end of the scale. The author himself even admits that he himself is a Romantic—presumably the old Chivalric Romance.
  • Shout-Out: A young repressed gay character named Trevor is killed by the titular Pygmy in Palahniuk's 2009 novel. This is a shout out to Survivor, where a young gay character named Trevor kills himself after being encouraged to do so by Tender Branson.
  • Shown Their Work: The research he carries out for his novels is thorough, to say the least. A friend of his recounted an incidence in which Palahniuk read an entire book on serial killers, the information from which ended up being used on one page of a novel he was working on (Lullaby).
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Far end of the cynical end of the scale, frequently to the point of being nihilistic, which is why many people label him as a shock writer.
  • Straight Gay: A few of his characters as well as Palahniuk himself qualify as this.
  • Straw Nihilist: Many themes of his work has drawn criticism for being overly nihilistic and cynical. Like Nietzsche, while his dark prose does come across as such, he really isn't (or so he claims). See the main entry above.
  • Strictly Formula: To some, Palahniuk constantly writing snarky protagonists can get fairly grating, case in point Haunted, in which every character has the same tone of voice.
  • Übermensch
  • Unreliable Narrator: Many of the protagonists who looking at the world filtered through their own problems, neuroses, and delusions.
  • Write Who You Know: Many of Tyler Durden's actions and lines of dialogue are based on things Palahniuk's friends have said and done. Similarly, Marla Singer is named after a girl who used to beat up his sister in school and Palahniuk decided it was the most hateful name he could think of.