1. Actual plot creating ability is not important, Shakespeare took most of his plots from history or other people.
  2. Philosophical reflections on war, revenge, death, life, etc., on the other hand are essential. Look at Hamlet basically a whole play about a character debating with himself over whether or not to act, providing tons of opportunities for the characters to lapse into soliloquies on war, death, action, identity, etc.
  3. The more things that can be interpreted for symbolism (regardless of whether the symbolism was intended) the better. English teachers love to take simple objects, characters names, weather, the light in a room, the lack or presence of a semi-colon, whatever and use it to show how the book has 15 more shades of meaning than it appears to have to any normal reader.
  4. Use fancy language. By fancy language I mean pay attention to your style and sentence structure. English teachers get really excited when they can point to stylistic differences between authors.
  5. Avoid happy, funny or light hearted subject matter. Somewhere along the line it has been decided that anything too happy cannot possibly have literary value.
  6. Avoid genre fiction, especially children's literature, fantasy or romance. If you want to write fantasy call it fantastical, or magic realism, and avoid any mention of wizards in flowery robes, or dragons. If you want to write romances find some suitable literary term like gothic novel to hide behind.
  7. Appropriate subject matter for a classic is historical fiction (generally related to war and heroes), as long as it is based on historical facts, and no hint of fantasy creeps in to spoil it. Other appropriate subjects/themes are the Individual vs. Society, Individual vs. Nature, the meaning (or lack of meaning) to the universe or any other similar major literary theme.
  8. Do not be afraid to steal blatantly from other classics that have gone before you. Dante and Virgil did. In fact at least three references to great literary works or the bible are essential. English teachers seem to take such references as a clear sign that you are intelligent, and this sort of references appeal to their own intellectual elitism. (its like having special inside jokes with your friends.) If you do not actually know things to quote from try sticking a thematically appropriate quote from one of the various quote books out there. Along the same lines occasional phrases in Latin or other for language can also serve to highlight your education.
  9. Archetypes are good. They not only provide symbolism, they tie the work into other great literary works. They all enable the English teacher to go on about how your character is the prototypical human, and how much they tell us about humanity. (Note for this to really work your character has to be an adult, white christian (or religion-less) straight male, otherwise they will just be a prototypical woman figure, child figure, minority figure, etc.)
  10. Ideally you will break one of these rules just enough to pull off something new and original, like a new literary movement, new type of literary format, or new style, but not enough that you will stray into genre fiction or alienate the sensibilities of the English teachers by being too radical.

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