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.

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Unsettling Dioramas. From Canada. I Know, Right?

5 10 2016

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Have a look at Patti Normand’s work. She says her intention is to show how nature and humanity coexist with indifference, and how that creates an unsettling expectation. I note that characters make drastic choices without presentation of a context. Why the moosehead? This helps with the unsettling.

Is there a victim? Is there a criminal? Sometimes lives veer away (as in the woman fleeing the relationship in “Gone With Dear Trevor” on her website) and we cheer despite the resultant anguish of Trevor left behind, or sometimes the dinner becomes diner (see the recipe for “Lake Monster” accompanying “What Lies Beneath” the bottom image). Part of weird fiction is pulling the camera back so far that the idea is in the forefront of the emotion.

When framed in the trappings of bygone times like 1960s Ontario, the unsettling becomes even more cerebral. This is how “Stranger Things” and “Twin Peaks” and “X-Files” can take child murder and make it palatable.

I think right now horror is chasing “unsettling”. Times are pretty horrific, true.  Unidentifiable horrors and serial killer antiheroes distract us from our frightful obligations toward tribe and nation. How can the faceless or inaccessible pay for their crimes? The police are ineffective, the lawyers too smart, the Gospel too clear. Let Cthulhu, Hannibal Lector, or the rogue FBI agent handle it.

I am disappointed by contemporary society. If the evangelicals are correct, all the nice people I know are going to Hell (which should always be capitalized). If there is no God, then I am part of a failing justice.  I can’t be the only person feeling this. I’m sure this is why weird is doing so well and that low-budget horror is in another golden age.

Touch the weird stuff up top to see more, or just go here:  http://www.pattinormand.com/





Writer Advice: Tastes and Smells

27 09 2016

You can tell an experienced writer by the sensory detail. New writers concentrate on action. Over time, writers will add how things look and sound, then progress to hearts pounding against ribs and other physical sensations, then to how they taste and smell. The proper use of flavors and smells can evoke strong emotion.

I did not create these tools, as you can see. I am anxious to use these tools and will let you know what kind of response I get.

scaa_flavorwheel-01-18-15smells





Chewing Out From An Eyesocket Soon At A Bargain Rate

25 09 2016

and other sad fates await later this week! On the preliminary ballot for the 2014 Stoker Awards and ready for your eager eyes. Only $.99 this coming Friday.

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