Good Movies Made By People At Home

8 05 2021

These movies have different comedy to horror ratios. If you can handle “X-Files” episodes, you’ll like these movies.

Murder Death Koreatown: This movie leans hard into its Found Footage premise in that there are no production credits at the end, nor any credits in its IMDB page. What looks like a True Crime story turns to Weird Horror.

The protagonist has been laid off from his job and is producing little video projects on his phone instead of looking for work. The townhouse he shares with his sullen girlfriend has an access street behind. One night there are gunshots. A neighbor shot her husband and instead of running for help, he staggers to die near a set of garages. Our protagonist is puzzled and records his investigation. The investigation does a neat trick in riding the edge between the protag’s dissolution and a realization of a Weird Horror. The filmmaker used elements of his neighborhood: bodegas, graffiti, anonymous storefront businesses, street corner preachers, to hint at otherworldly connections.

On Amazon Prime

Leaving DC: Why don’t White people leave their haunted house? “Leaving DC” comes up with an off-beat, elegant answer.

The protagonist is a tech engineer moving from Washington DC to a rather nice house in the West Virginia mountains. Ghostly stuff happens, etc. The man’s money is tied up in the house, but that reason to stay always came up short in other movies. Why doesn’t he leave? *Because he is chronically compulsive*. We first meet him in DC with his OCD Therapy group. We watch him move into his spotless house devoid of personal affects. We watch him crater his relations with a visitor, who then leaves because his house creeps her out. Does he leave? No, he will not be bullied. He will understand what is happening by buying cameras and microphones and scrutinizing the late night flute playing, the apparitions, and the Mysterious Signs In The Woods. Then he will formulate a detailed action plan. The end is inevitable, but like I said, elegant.

On Amazon Prime.

Creep: Movies with tiny casts work if the cast is compelling. This movie’s co-writer and lead Mark Duplass radiates charm.

When his character hires a videographer to come to his remote house and record sentimental messages, you pay attention. Mark’s character reveals traumas, only to admit he lied. He takes menacing objects and gives them absurd histories. The videographer is pulled between getting paid, politeness, and fleeing Mark’s increasing menace.

On Netflix along with its sequel Creep 2.

I guess I like these stories because they are efficient. As writers we are taught to write characters who are flawed with a recent tragedy highlighting those flaws. (Note that Duplass subverts this expectation by implying then denying any tragic backstory, which frustrates and adds to the unease). Writers are told to keep the motivations simple and relatable. Last, stories are to be economic in word and action.

A common criticism in the Amazon comments is that these movies lack strong endings. That makes sense, because none of the characters are given resources for a satisfying character transformation. “Murder Death Koreatown” and “Leaving DC” remains committed to their goals to their unfortunate endings. The time constraints keep the writer from introducing a secondary plot to give impetus to transformation. Changing their minds and fleeing would also bump up their budgets. That said, the videographer in “Creep” does flee and his arc is the more satisfying for it.

Or maybe I’m wrong. The movie “The VVitch” was shot with a cabin, a farm, and a bonfire. The parents each had a heartbreaking transformation. Certainly that movie was great and had few resources, but then it comes back around to character portrayals.

Strong character voice and motive. I’d been fixated on compelling images, but I need to work on characters more.

PS: Happy Birthday, Me!





Borderlands Bootcamp and My Vacation Encounter With Kink

15 04 2021

I am slowly bringing my hopes back up regarding writing, and my first step on this new path is to go on a writers retreat. Throughout the years, I had been told I should attend Odyssey Writers Workshop, One Of The Clarion Workshops, or Taos Toolbox. The cost is prohibitive, sure ($4K, $6K, and who knows respectively), but the reason I did not go to these events is my Depression/Anxiety got in the way. These events are obvious advantages for networking and learning on a professional level.

The Borderlands Bootcamp is run by horror publisher Borderlands Books, managed by longtime horror author Tom Monteleone. He wrote a column for Cemetery Dance magazine a while back and I’ve seen anthologies he edited. The Bootcamp always had pretty big genre names teaching this weekend long session. The session is a series of lectures with breakout sessions where a pro critiques your submission along with others in your breakout group.

The price was right and my ego had been stripped of pretense this past year, so now was the time.

I’m critiquing my fellow breakout group member submissions. Reading strangers’ work is frustrating and also humbling, in that the problems with the work are obvious but also I remember having similar problems when I first started writing. The more experienced writers had problems I could identify with, say a stylish structure that works in theory, but lacks reason using the innovation.

Here are some of the critiques I noted (serial numbers filed off and edited to remove dissembling) which may prove useful to you:

  • The writer is creating a dream. Reminding the reader it is a dream jolts the reader from the dream. Reading attributions like “said” or “asked” jolts the reader. Attach dialogue to physicality for attribution.
  • Invent everything. Create your whole world and immerse us in it. Do not use Real Life names mixed in with invented names. Do not use gods from Real Life religions who are still being worshipped.
  • If you are using flashbacks, give the flashbacks a purpose. Shorten those scenes the reader already has seen, introduce new information in each flashback. Unify the flashback with the plot by giving the flashback a reason to have been prompted (seeing a memento, hearing someone telling a lie, etc.).
  • The story begins when someone does something to being the plot. Remove all world building or reminiscence or prologue.
  • All characters must want something. They must work toward that something. It is best to have the character state what they want. I heard that NK Jemison said there is no shame in making that statement blunt and obvious.
  • A Point Of View is sensation and emotion. What does it feel like to wear the beautiful dress? How does your character feel when wearing it?
  • Every event in a story must have an emotional reaction. Either characters react to it or the POV narrator selects the words to create tone.

I’ll you know how things go at this Bootcamp.

Here’s a little story from my only overseas vacation, Ireland in the mid-’90s. Ireland is a lovely country but overall it is Kentucky with a sexier accent. It is where I had an accidental encounter with someone’s kink.

I was taking a mid-afternoon tour of the Guinness Brewery in Dublin. I followed the tour guide through the brewery, through the tunnels used to port the barrels to the trucks. In the museum, the sundry middle-aged crowd and I looked at the clay pipes used to carry the beer, and the nails driven into the pipes so that porters could drink from the pipes when they passed under. Posters of the Guinness toucan saying “My Goodness! My Guinness!” and such. We eagerly went to the gift shop, as getting Guinness gear was Goal Number One for any Irish vacation.

Once we were looking through the shirts and hats and such, a young woman hissed.

“Why are we here? I’m bored!”

The crowd seemed to part to reveal a couple. A tall man looked down at a young woman saying “Look at this stuff. This stuff is tacky!”

She was maybe five foot two and in her early twenties. Long black hair and dark eyes. She wore a teal velvet catsuit that would have been gauche on a casino floor. My brain seized up when I looked at her attire. How had I not noticed her? I mean she was hawt and fit and just this side of trashy. She stood out even in a crowd of American tourists.

“Who has even heard of this place?”

Silence fell on the crowd.

The guy was Long Island, New York personified. Maybe six foot tall wearing khakis, expensive sneakers, a Ralph Lauren sweater, all in earth tones, with wire rim glasses and a well-groomed receding hairline. He would have fit in at a dentist convention.

He looked at her with a blank helplessness.

I exchanged looks with a black guy wearing a Jameson’s sweatshirt. No one ever hearing about the Guinness brewery? She had to be kidding, right?

She continued berating him. He just looked down at her and took it. Everyone fidgeted in anticipation or confused disgust. I mean, what the hell dude?

She made it clear that she was not enjoying this vacation. That he needed to do something interesting this afternoon.

“She must be good in bed,” I muttered. The black guy raised his eyebrows and shook his head. The group moved on onto the street and went on with their lives.

I don’t remember when I realized this, but now I recognize that the woman was a domme. This guy had paid his domme to come on his vacation so he could be kink-shamed in public.

Looking back, I am annoyed that this dweeb pulled an unsuspecting tour group into his humiliation fantasy. Not cool at all. Let this learn ye! Keep your kinks thoroughly consensual.





Hey I’ve Done Artsy Things! Here’s Some Advice…

2 03 2021
I had Chili with Pancakes. This has placed me in an expansive mood. It could have been A Mistake.

As stated in my bio, I’ve been published professionally and have had a novel be received to some critical acclaim. I’ve produced two movies available on Netflix (DVD only) with a clip appearing on “Americas Funniest Home Videos”. Performed sketch and improv comedy on stage. Lived a life and had some struggles. The struggles include clinical depression and anxiety, which I think I’ll write about more as I become comfortable with sharing.

So! Advice about Art! Heed me!

Go Where No One Else Goes. Try music no one else listens to. Read things no one else is reading. Try an unusual movie. It’s not just being into something “before it was cool”. It means finding ideas, plotting, descriptions, moods, to expand your expression. Conversely, if you’ve seen it before, set it aside or find a personal analog. “Why play in someone else’s sandbox?” says Darryl Schweitzer. You could write a werewolf story, or you can sift and find what scares you about werewolves, then come up with your own creation. Use what is unique to you in your work. I watched way too much TV as a child then became a video producer. Readers say that I sequence action, block characters within space, and do dialogue really well. I owe that to my education outside of writing. What do you do well?

You Are Not The Idea. You are not learning to write to turn this one idea into a story. This idea may be a bad idea. You are learning to write storiesssss. You are on a journey of continual frustration which will never end.

The Best Symbolism Is Accidental. “Go deep for the big fish” says David Lynch. I take that to mean that you can tap into deeper emotion if you work with something personal, even idiosyncratic. Every story an editor ever liked was based on my personal experience. When I tried inventing a story from whole-cloth, the plot had no tension. When I tried forcing a moral onto a story, the characters would be flat. Just write a story.

Embarrass Your Mother. I don’t know who first said “write something that would embarrass your mother” but yes, allow yourself to express something unorthodox. Three things will happen: you will discover many others already expressing that same thing; you will clarify a belief you held; or you will make an ass of yourself. You will discover your vulnerabilities and prejudices and you will survive the embarrassment. Which brings me to…

Love Your Accidents. An accident can take you in unexplored directions. If a person looks at our writing and says “I love how you did this obscure thing”, do not say “what the hell are you talking about?”. Your proper response is “yes, I particularly love that obscure thing and you are ingeniously perceptive for having noticed.” This obscure thing has a whole universe of potential behind it. Explore its possibilities. It is a surprise to you, so it will be a surprise to your audience if you maybe explored the accident further.

Keep Your Editors Close, But Keep Your Beta Readers Closer. We write for ourselves, yes, because otherwise we write mush. But when we send the stories out, choose your publications well. Cultivate a relationship with your favorite publishers. Send to them as frequently as possible. Greet the editors at conventions, remind them that you met, tell them what you liked about their recent editions. Be sincere! Editors deal with liars every day and can sense meaningless flattery. As for beta readers…they are your greatest asset and your greatest vulnerability. I have been working with my writers group for almost 30 years. They may know more about me than my family or my counselor. They have allowed me to be base, dumb, disgusting, hostile, and have coached me into writing stories people enjoy. Be gracious to beta readers! Help them as they help you! Forgetting to mention them in an Acknowledgments may turn into a flame war on File 770.com.

Remember: we are always talking to the phantoms of our expectations.





Writers: Use Your Quirks and There Are Bad Ideas

24 11 2020

Been sick last year and only recently got to reading stuff again. Been noticing writers giving writing advice, and those writers having only like a few short story credits.

This is puzzling because I wouldn’t have had the temerity. Then I realized, hey, I’ve got lots of credits now and a novel that made the 2014 long list for Best Novel in the Stoker Awards.

So okay, maybe I’ve got something to say now. I’ll start with this:

Avoid what everyone else is doing. Lovecraft is now what “Cherry-Flavor” was in the ’90s: it will either be an overpowering flavor punch or not taste anything like the original cherry.

Pastiche? Create your own sandbox. (Granted, this attitude kept me from modeling on older stories, thus learning how to write using that long-accepted method). So, in thinking more about it, use pastiches as templates for your own quirks.

What is a “quirk”?

A quirk is something that affects you, even on an oddly personal level. What creeps you? What scares you? Make the list long. Let me try one:

Airports devoid of people. Only seeing the top of someone’s head behind a shop counter. Crabs, and the evidence that evolution prefers crab physiology. Rot within something otherwise healthy. Prostate or colon disease. Dementia. Not having control of yourself and cruelly rejecting a loved one. Watching a series of tragedies in someone’s life with them not knowing they are all related. Eye injuries. Home invasions (I won’t even watch home invasion movies), THIS FRIGGIN BITCH….

Look at your lists and see if anything is uncommon or even unique. Use your pastiche to add your own dismaying quirk.

Know that you have a story idea and not just a neat visual or a Revelation of Horror. A story idea will have a transformation. A story idea will have a conflict. A story idea will have someone to care about.

Most neat visuals and RoHs are the germ of a story idea. Ask “How did this happen?” Ask “What happens next?” Play with that germ. Add elements of other ideas. Add this idea to other ideas.

Push an idea beyond reasonable boundaries. Where does it become new? Where does it become horrific? When does it become ridiculous?

What would make it tragic? Of all the people you know personally, who would be the worst person to deal with this story idea?

Does the idea now give you a thrill? Write it. Someone will like it.

Can’t make the idea work? You may not be able to write the idea at this time. Or it could be a bad idea.

Something people told me: there is no such thing as a bad idea. YES THERE IS. I’ve had them. Cupid’s cousin and the Quiver of Dysfunctional Relationships is a great one-liner. I tried for years to make it work. It does not. Will it work in another story with other ideas? Been messing with it for almost thirty years, so I don’t think so. You want the idea? Take it, it’s yours.

Something people told me but I did not believe: You are in a lifelong learning process. Even if no one likes this story, it is written and out of your head so new stories can grow. Writing is like a hobby in that it is a lifelong process. Are you better than you were two years ago? Do others appreciate your work more than when you started? Those are the guideposts to use to measure your progress.

I passed my first million words after twenty years of writing, around in 2010. I have to admit that even though I got stuff published before 2010, I didn’t write anything interesting until a few years ago.





Get Your “Lampreyhead” On Today!

9 10 2018

The buzz is getting buzzier! Page reads are flying on Kindle Unlimited. Says a reviewer:

I could see this as a series on SyFy.

Starring Bruce Campbell? Swoon!

Is the reader right? Could this be sponsored by Geico?

Have a look for yourself. It’s on Kindle Unlimited or get it for free on today!

Book-1-Fishtown-Pback





How Strong Is Your Protagonist?

3 01 2017

Have a look at Fiction University’s checklist and find out.





Our Fascism Will Be Prettier

14 12 2016

 





I Was About To Write About Story Plots For Beginners, Then I Found This…

12 12 2016

…and it covers everything I could say. It even cites stuff I would cite.

Do you want to write a story? Have (nice guy) be pulled into getting (worthy thing), then fight (bad thing), then (worse thing), then (boss fight). The experience of doing this changes the (nice guy) by making (him) more (emotional reaction).

Provide a sidekick for emotional balance.

I’ve been sending stories out since 1989. It’s only been in the last few years that I’ve realized it is this simple. I’m plotting out my newer novel, a Space Epic with humor and body horror, using this article.





How Deep A Horror Movie Can Go

27 10 2016

I would like to do something like this in a story or a video, but how? It takes “meta” in a whole different direction.

Touch Dakota Fanning’s hotter sister for more.

neon-demon





Common Things That’ll Kill You Or Maybe Inspire A Horror Story

9 10 2016

Touch the cold buffet for more.

morgue

 

 








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