Writers: Get This Book!

18 06 2018

“The best selling character eats, nods, opens, closes, says, sleeps, types, watches, turns, runs, shoots, kisses, and dies….The most important thing to note is that in the best selling novel someone is doing something as dramatic as surviving or dying, and they are not, as their less-selling friends prefer, yawning.”

This is a quantitative analysis of best sellers. What best-selling characters are most prone to do. How the plots are structured. How men and women write differently. How the novels are titled. Down to percentages of “the” in best-selling text.

The book reinforces everything you may have seen in other writing books: active characters, dynamic plots, use of  arcs, etc. But for me, this book gives a concrete foundation for all of the advice.

I’m already adapting my plots accordingly. What I have taken away so far: my characters need to express “need” in detail. I tend to underwrite. I tend to think things do not need explanations. I thought I was being economical, but I’m realizing that I’m just not committing to my characters.

Writing an action pulp series is helping me to realize I need to be bolder in my choices. This book is helping me to see that this boldness will produce results.

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Hey! I’m In This!

15 06 2018

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Every reaction, no matter how violent, always reaches some equilibrium state. This final anthology in the Enter the… apocalyptic trilogy shares stories of what the new normal looks like after the end of days.

Contributing authors include:

Richard Jones, Kevin Wetmore, Lou Antonelli, Alice Weyers, Tim Starnes, Donyae Coles, Nicholas Gregory, Emily Devenport, Timothy Turnipseed, Chad Schimke, Davyne DeSye, Zac Roe, Tom Barlow, Tim Burke, David M. Hoenig, Tori Stubbs, Bruce Golden, Holly Saiki, Lisa Timpf, Mark Wolf, Peter Talley, Allyson Russel, Anthony Addis, Richard A. Shury, Russel Hemmell, Madison Keller, Calvin Spears, Adam Breckenridge, Keith Hoskins, Amelia Kibbie, Cullen Thomas, Stephen Miller, Geneve Flynn, James Austin, Elizabeth Eve King.





Colonel Sanders and the Demonic Lover

1 06 2017

I love the conjunction of genres and the taming of monsters that occurs in paranormal romance, and much of OGOM’s research centres on this. The demon lovers of paranormal romance range from vampires (of course), through faeries, angels, and werewolves; the odder candidates include mermen, gargoyles, and even ghosts and zombies. But the monstrous lover…

via Colonel Sanders and the Demonic Lover — Open Graves, Open Minds





Writers: “Weird Fiction” Via Movie “The Void”

6 04 2017

First the trailer:

 

Now the review:

If Stuart Gordon’s “From Beyond” and John Carpenter’s “The Thing” were to have a baby in the hospital from “Hellraiser II”,  that baby would grow up short of its potential and  be “The Void”. I don’t mean that in an insulting way, but if you like your body horror with a dash of Weird, then “The Void” is for you.

Describing the plot is difficult because much of the backstory is revealed as the plot unfolds. Two rural guys shoot people dead, one flees and is picked up by a sheriff and taken to the local hospital. This hospital is closing soon due to a recent fire. Which killed the child the sheriff had with his ex-wife the ER nurse. Speaking of preggers, a country teen is about to give birth and her grandpa is there for support.  A kindly doctor, another nurse, a trainee, and another patient are introduced. A state trooper arrives.

Then within fifteen minutes of film time, there is a three-way guns out stand-off, four of these characters are dead and one has mutated into part Grizzly Bear, part butt polyp. Lovecraftian hijinks ensue. In a place beyond time and space, pacing is a problem in “The Void”.

There are magic tomes. There is a sub-basement where none existed before. There are strikingly-clad anonymous cultists. There are double-crosses and mistaken motives.

The plot holds together. The magic system is kept as simple as possible. The actors do great work with an occasionally awkward dialogue.  However, the effects rule this movie. The undead polyp creatures are all practical effects and they are gooshy. Gourmets of  horror movies will see “homages” to “Hellraiser II”, “The Thing”, “The Fly”, “From Beyond”, “In The Mouth Of Madness” and probably more.

Was there anything fresh? It’s a hell of a thing to note, but frankly, cutting pieces off your face doesn’t have the shock it once had.

First time script writers and directors here, they kept to the tried and comfortable, yet kept out of the actors way, so the performances were quite good. Someone once said you can tell if a horror was written by guys in his 20s, because those horrors will have churning uteruses, and that’s because guys in their 20s are just finding out how gross pregnancy can be. And man do uteruses churn in “The Void”! It’s all within the theme of birth and fate, but still dudes, there’s a reason why men have a waiting room.

Wait for “The Void” on Netflix.

Now the writing blather:

Note that I noted “homages”. I do not understand “homages”. An artist’s job is to swipe ideas and before using them, file off the serial numbers. Filing off serial numbers is an art. If a reader can immediately recognize a reference, the writer has only mimicked, and not made the most of the reader’s time.

That said, what is “Weird Horror” or “Weird Fiction”, and what can we do about it?

Here’s Wikipedia.

You will notice in Wikipedia that Lovecraft’s definition is essentially “spooky stories where spooks can get you anywhere”. Noted editor S.T. Joshi’s academic sub-categories have diluted that dread further until it has become watery Red Bull.

The problem is that back in the 1930’s, the Weird creatures invented by Mr. Weird himself H.P. Lovecraft, those creatures were unfathomable. Now they make Cthulhu plushtoys. Non-Christian monsters are the norm now.

For me,  “Weird” contains these elements:

  1. Unknown forces existing outside our dimensions (“beyond Time and Space”).
  2. The questioning of reality itself (are we in a movie? Is that crazy guy actually shaping reality?)
  3. The interrogation of how consciousness fits within reality, especially within flesh.

For me, the goal is to create nausea, not just polypy-squid nausea. Existential nausea is the feeling you get when you consider that not only will existence go on without you, it has been without you for longer than you can comprehend both before and after, in a place that is the briefest flash in existence, if indeed “existence” actually has objective substance. Hold me.

The use of a nameless cult who know The Truth, or a scientist finding The Secret, or an artist who can shape The Universe, is how we get the reader to connect with nausea. The POV character has one assumption peeled away (like the real purpose of mission), then another (that his mission is safe), leaving to fall away the rules of society, of perception, of nature, of value, then finally, of comprehension.

If you want to learn more about “Weird”, try the movies mentioned above, especially “From Beyond” and “In The Mouth Of Madness”. Also try:

  • “Resolution”, like “ITMoM”
  • “Absentia”, for critters beyond T&S

In fiction, try:

  • Any H.P. Lovecraft, especially “The Whisperer In Darkness” and “The Color Out Of Space”. They would be standard Doctor Who fare now, but that tells you something.
  • “The Grin In The Dark”, as much as he bumbles in this book, Ramsey Campbell has some really cool ideas about the development of consciousness.

Do not try “The Weird”, a compendium by Jeff and Ann VanderMeer. I love this book, but their definition spreads so far afield as to be nearly meaningless.  Read it for entertainment.

These brief lists are of media which provokes that feeling I described.

Are there books or movies that make you wonder if you are safe at all, or sane, or even exist?  TELL ME.





Writers: A Preview of Jay Smith’s “The Resurrection Pact”

15 02 2017

Chapter One The resort concierge was a tiny, bald Frenchman in his sixties, but he towered over me in the hallway. The air of dignity and propriety he carried with him just made me feel worse. From my position, prone on the floor of the hotel hallway, I felt like a stain on his […]

via Preview: The Resurrection Pact — THEunJAYdedBOOK





Some Intriguing Horror Prose Reviews

12 02 2017

Prior to launching Horror Novel Reviews some four or five years ago I knew a slew of amazing authors. Talents like Richard Matheson, Stephen King, Dan Simmons, Robert McCammon, Joe Lansdale and Dean Koontz are kind of hard to miss. But what of the “little guys” – you know, the authors just beginning to hit […]

via The 10 Greatest Horror Authors I Discovered Through Horror Novel Reviews — Horror Novel Reviews





Listicles Can Help Writers

25 09 2016

Have you seen The Line-Up? It’s new website about noir, horror, true crime, and subjects close to my squirmy little heart. Most websites will have lists of this or that, but I find these lists on The Line-Up pleasantly surprising.

M.R. James gets respect from the more refined, but Sarah Waters doesn’t show up much. I liked “The Little Stranger”, though technically it was more a psychological gothic tale than a ghost story. Still, Waters researches the hell out of her period subjects and her descriptions did put me in the M.R. James neighborhood, which was cool seeing as she was born some decades after he died. “Hell House” is Matheson’s take on “The Haunting of Hill House” with his lurid pulpiness dripping off each page. The house’s history is delightfully over-the-top. Light chills like early King. I’m using this novel to help structure a work-in-progress.

Touch the book to see The Line-Up.

ghost-story-books-little-stranger

Once you’ve had a look at the ideas, let your mind wander. Is there an idea that strikes deep in you? Is there a way to make that idea more personal to you by applying it to your life experience? Did an image appear, or a piece of dialogue, or a character from another book or movie, or anything strike you? That’s where you begin.

Anyway, finding esoterica on lists comes in handy.

Like this list for “50 Most Haunted Houses In 50 States”. Some kind soul swept together and summarized 50 ghost stories for us to read and pick over for ideas!

hauntedplaces_markiocchelli

What could happen if a child abuser stayed overnight in the Viullisca Axe Murder House? Or if you were the ghost on the recording in St. Vincent’s Home? Touch Spooky House to see that list.

 

 








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