Chuck Palahniuk, Author of Fight Club — A Masterclass in Creative Living and Dangerous Writing (#457)

Photo by Adam Levey

“The goal is to make people laugh and then to really break their heart.”

— Chuck Palahniuk

Writer Chuck Palahniuk (@chuckpalahniuk) has published twenty-three national and international best-selling books. These include fifteen prose novels, a collection of short stories, two graphic novels, two coloring books, a travel guide, a collection of essays, and a memoir about his life as a writer. He was raised in a desert town with a population of three hundred at the time of his birth in 1962. He received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Oregon.

Palahniuk is best known for his novels Fight Club and Choke, both of which were made into films. Publication of his short story Guts in the Sunday Guardian prompted a sharp drop in circulation. He frequently contributed fiction to Playboy, where his stories Romance, Cannibal, and Zombie had to be personally approved by Hugh Hefner. His new book, The Invention of Sound, is coming out on September 8th.

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The transcript of this episode can be found here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

#457: Chuck Palahniuk, Author of Fight Club — A Masterclass in Creative Living and Dangerous Writing

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What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.


Want to hear an episode with someone who got to bring one of Chuck Palahniuk’s characters to the silver screen? Check out my conversation with Edward Norton here, in which we discuss the creative process, creative struggle, the challenges of bringing characters from the written word to film, the gestation of art, and much more.

#393: Edward Norton — On Creative Process, Creative Struggle, and Motherless Brooklyn


  • Connect with Chuck Palahniuk:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram


  • Why did the publication of Chuck’s short story Guts prompt a sharp drop in the Sunday Guardian‘s circulation and cause audiences to faint during readings of the piece? Perhaps most important: what influenced him to write it in the first place? [05:24]
  • When writing short stories and novels, does Chuck’s desired impact or process differ between the two formats? [10:39]
  • Who were Tom Spanbauer and Gordon Lish, and how did they help Chuck tighten up his writing? [12:28]
  • Does writing with the discipline of certain constraints ever affect Chuck’s perception of reality and the people he meets there? [15:43]
  • What is dangerous writing, and how might it be applied therapeutically? [17:31]
  • How does Chuck craft a story arc while maintaining surface tension around the idea that, as he has said, “resolution is death,” and still end it in a way that satisfies, rather than frustrates the reader? Here’s where my dog Molly might be able to teach me a thing or two about writing. [21:38]
  • A masterful short story beats a plodding novel any day, but they’re not as financially rewarding for the writer. How does Chuck think we can change this? [23:48]
  • How does Chuck go about engaging an audience so they’re immersed in the story enough to lose track of time (or, on a good day, faint)? [27:06]
  • The day Chuck understood minimalism. [30:17]
  • The secret leverage of making intentional mistakes. [31:24]
  • How Lewis Hyde’s cross-cultural explorations of mythology have helped Chuck develop modern characters with a strong, timeless connection to the past. [37:31]
  • When has Chuck suffered the consequences of disappointing his guardian angel, and what works to alleviate this suffering? [43:31]
  • Chuck explains Joseph Campbell’s secondary father concept and what it means for the challenges society faces today. [44:58]
  • How Chuck knows if he’s got a story worth telling. [47:17]
  • Why 31’s not too old to write a genre- or generation-defining novel. [49:22]
  • What Chuck thinks of narrative that tries to dictate social change, and what history tells us about how these changes usually come about. [51:16]
  • Other ways our perceptions can be skewed by inadvertent association — thoughts on fathers and daughters, Jeffrey Epstein, The Wizard of Oz, and Nazis. [55:11]
  • Has Chuck ever used narrative in hopes of obliquely, indirectly, or surreptitiously generating social change? [57:06]
  • What’s behind Chuck’s fascination with cults social models, and what does ‘liminoid’ mean in the context of these social models — particularly in traditions ranging from honeymooning to Halloween? [58:50]
  • At the risk of further hurting Chuck’s editor’s feelings, what’s the story behind his acceptance of “kiss-off” money for Fight Club? [1:05:23]
  • When it was first published, was it immediately apparent that Fight Club would become a cultural mainstay? [1:07:30]
  • Realizations Chuck came to about Fight Club as it was in the process of being made into a movie, and why he’s hesitant about sharing those realizations even now. [1:08:40]
  • Does Chuck ever worry that a flash of insight about something he’s written might plunge him headlong into an abyss that’s difficult to escape? [1:11:48]
  • What can we expect from Chuck’s latest literary offering: The Invention of Sound? [1:13:04]
  • Parting thoughts on novels as diaries, and how Chuck spent his childhood looting. [1:16:25]


The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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6 Replies to “Chuck Palahniuk, Author of Fight Club — A Masterclass in Creative Living and Dangerous Writing (#457)”

  1. When world’s collide! This is amazing! What a great way to start the morning. Both of ya’ll are role models. Can’t wait to dive in.

  2. Great job! I found this conversation to be hugely enjoyable. You clearly bring out the best in each other and both the questions and the answers were brilliant. This Podcast inspired me to go out and read “Guts”. A story by Chuck Palahniuk, inspired by Shirley Jackson! What could go wrong? Now I am carrying a trauma. I regret nothing!

  3. I need to learn more about Palahniuk. What a fascinating person and story and writer. I watched the movie, Fight Club, years ago but this interview is so much more. Touches my core. He understands using words.