First Draft Done, What I Have Learned, and Publishing Coaches

30 11 2017

This will be  my usual post about writing, terse yet rambling, with some sundry crits at the end of movies and writers who have caught my brain.

doggo

So! Finished with draft one of Lampreyhead at 25K words. The world building was fun. The story is set in contemporary Philadelphia because I know the Northeast US well. Religious aspects appeared, were inevitable really, which added a whole new layer to the characters and conflict. The jokes are good. There may be one darling, but we’ll see if it survives (the “moist” joke I posted on my FB three weeks ago.)

How did I write the draft and what did I learn? I did a bit of an outline, but it was way too spare. I discovered a good way to outline a few weeks ago, but I also discovered that very few writers enjoy writing outlines or synopsis.  New method for outlining is like the Snowflake Method of writing novels: one line summary of each chapter, then add three lines to each summary, then add three more lines to each of those lines, etc. I’ll try to do that next time.

So, with what I thought was an adequate outline, I used Rachel Aaron’s method of speed writing, so I wrote the fun scenes first and backfilled the remainder of the plot. Writing the filler was not only a bit tedious, it exposed the gaps in my outline. Writing the draft took longer than it needed to, but this is how we learn.

I had a tough time getting a grip on the protagonist. I had behavior for scenes, I had previous short stories, but I didn’t have a deeper character profile that could support this work.

I kept his nerdiness and built around that. I considered that LH was 700 years old and that he would be a little bored. Being made Evil, he knew there is a God because religious items caused injury. However, I had him go 700 years without knowing who made him or why. His problem became the reverse of Mortality: is there a Satan to justify his existence?

Supporting characters fulfilled their functions, but they need more depth in the second draft. He meets the werewolf who will be a recurring character in the series, but the were doesn’t have a lot of agency. The Mortal in this story (needed to help bring out the supernatural world-building) became a sophisticated businesswoman thrill-seeker; can I pull off this complicated character?

I was hoping to market this series as “Erotic Paranormal”, but I have no experience in writing erotica. Besides, the plot only has one valid erotic scene. I’m now looking at the humor market.

I have to finish the second draft for my writers group, that deadline being Sunday.

I learned about Publishing Coaches on the Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing Podcast. My research has provided a couple of names and I will be contacting them tonight.

Recent discoveries: the movie “The Devil’s Candy” is a pleasant throwback haunted house horror that’s well made. “The Midnight Meat Train” squandered a great production on a weak Clive Barker story. “Cult of Chucky” still camps it up, but keep an eye on Fionna Dorrif, because she is excellent. Belgian horror “Raw” takes your unsettling French moodiness to a college for veteranarians, but worry not, the animals are safe from the cannibal sisters. “Demonic” takes ghost hunters to a haunted house, but even Maria Bello can’t save us from a flat ending.

 





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.





Another Great Review For “Death”!

30 01 2014

Less than a buck for three tales of death gone wrong!

http://goo.gl/94dOPa








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