How To Write A Novel Super Fast!

29 06 2023

Usually, How-To-Write-Fast advice is deceptive. If you look close, most advice promising an increased word count avoids factoring in outlining, editing, and proofing. The advice in this article makes it plain right up front: you will be writing total word-splorp that you will have to clean up, but clean-up is faster than struggling to fill a page.

Also, I knew Mary Berman many years ago and knew her to be a responsible, methodical essayist who already had huge word counts. This advice will seem familiar to the experienced, but I plan to revisit it soon.

Isabel Cañas on speed-drafting a novel via Mary Berman’s Substack

Junji Ito: Good Monsters Are Realized, Not Designed

27 06 2023

Tomie was written and illustrated by Junji Ito. Ito was inspired to create Tomie by the phenomenon of lizard tail regeneration.[1] Ito’s initial concept for the manga was to depict the strangeness of a girl who was nonchalantly attending school, but in reality was dead.[2] He further explained that the original concept was that for some reason a dead person would come back to life and visit their former friends as if nothing had happened.[3] As he developed the story, Ito established that the titular character would be a mean-spirited girl because he believed it would be more interesting if the manga featured someone that wasn’t likable.[2]

He noted that the proliferation of Tomie was created while writing a serial storyline, which helped greatly to convey the concept of regeneration.”

from Fandom wiki article for Junji Ito

How Alan Moore Finds The Emotional Core

22 06 2023

“He gives the example of being disturbed by tv news footage of a starving child (this was the ’80s, so it was the Live Aid era). And going through a process of asking: why does that disturb me? No really, why does that disturb me? No really, why does that disturb me?

He ends up coming to the conclusion that if he allows the honest and ugly truth, the fact that there’s someone out there whose life is just misery and pain implies that there’s no meaning to the universe and therefore no meaning to his, Alan Moore’s, existence. If you’ve read Watchmen you can see that became the emotional core of the Rorschach-in-prison chapter, the one that ends “We are alone. There is nothing else.”

For the life of me, I can’t find where I found this quote. But it seems to be where my own writing is leading.

What George Saunders Says About MFAs.

20 06 2023

I took this photo.

Specificity is one of them; cause and effect is another. What I object to is the idea that there are universal principles in writing. We know there aren’t. A good MFA program is about one specific person, me, who has a very prejudicial idea of writing, meeting another person, you, who has an equally prejudicial sense of it. Then I have to find a way to tap that person lightly and help a little. Whenever I hear somebody say with confidence, “You have to show, don’t tell,” or, “Write what you know”… that’s all true to the extent it is until it isn’t.

At the beginning of the semester, I say, “I’m going to act like I really know what I’m talking about. But believe me, every day when I go to write, I have to remind myself that I don’t, because this is a particular story. It’s not every story. It’s this particular one.” I say to this incredibly talented group of people, “Look, we’re all in the same mess together, which is that we want to be writers, but it’s hard. Nobody can give you a general answer.” There’s a lot that’s wrong with the MFA model and the workshop model. What I try to do is keep undercutting it so that we’re aware of the limits of the experiment.

from “How George Saunders Is Making Sense Of The World Right Now” –, January 21, 2021

A New Veracity: How To Make Your Story More “Real”

16 06 2023

Been listening to true supernatural podcasts, “Spooked”, “Radio Rental”, others. “Spooked” seems to get suckered by obvious fictions. “RR” stories less dramatic, but seem more “realistic”. That got me wondering: what makes a “real” ghost story more “real”.

A discerning mind will be suspicious of any testimony conforming to three-beat or Save-The-Cat formulas, certainly. But if I may, there are other narrative aspects that probably raise suspicion, aspects that are often overlooked. Movies and novels have more leeway in avoiding these poorly-used aspects. but in short stories, it should be possible to tweak and make the short stories seem more realistic.

The podcast “Spooked” annoyed me so much that I haven’t listened to the current season. Maybe they’ve improved. They present edited interviews with the event witnesses.

When a story seems fake to me, there’s: 1) a tight timeline (over a weekend; when we moved into a new house), 2) one single POV sees *every supernatural event*, 3) activity escalates from tension to physical menace, especially if escalations are in three beats, 4) all clues point to a simple, traditional answer (my dead uncle, a folk curse, La Llorona).

The interviews sound sincere. Maybe they are. Maybe the events actually happened. But what makes something seem more realistic to me? The “Radio Rental” stories generally has those elements.

The stories on “Radio Rental” also are presented with edited interviews.

The stories seem more real because they: 1) usually take place over months, years (multiple sightings or activities), 2) not just one POV sees everything (some events are described second-hand), 3) use multiple means to address the events (flickering lights examined by multiple electricians and Fire Marshalls), 4) have moments of NOPE (a noise is *not* investigated due to fear), 5) end seemingly unresolved.

I maintain that the best horror could happen without the characters even knowing. Have you seen “Session 9”? Each character experiences their own seemingly mundane events, and the viewer is the only one who knows there is a single force that drives the plot. At the movie’s end, all the characters see is a stressed man on a murder spree.

Does that remind you of a story that you like?

As for the photo, I took that two weeks ago in NYC harbor.

When Social Media Helps Writers

5 06 2023

Sam Comerford on Twitter: “Question: What makes you really hate a protagonist? Like something that really rubs you the wrong way about them? This can be trope-wise or otherwise. I’m just looking for examples.” / Twitter

Twitter is a dumpster fire that’s on its way out. But like Instagram and TikTok, writers post opinions and insights, and ask questions which can give an inkling of when a trope is about to become worn. Dumpster fires can illuminate; just don’t breathe the fumes.

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