Horrific & Relatable

Horrific & Relatable TitleHorror is a genre that has the goal of invoking a feeling in its readers: fear. Making the reader sweat, their heart speed up, giving them the need to look over their shoulder and sleep with the lights on for a few days after the story is done etc.But that doesn’t mean the main character, whether monster or prey, cannot be relatable. In fact, it is my belief that the more relatable the characters the more interesting the Horror story and easier it is to inspire in the reader.

That said, let’s get this show on the road. And please don’t get blood on the carpet, it’s cliche and hard to get out.

Why Should You Make Your Main Character More Human?

At its heart, Horror is a very human genre. From the prey to the monsters themselves, no matter how horrific and inhuman on the outside, the characters in a Horror story tend to reflect human needs and desires. And it is when a Horror writer masters making their characters human and relatable despite the nature of the story and whether predator or prey, that they have mastered the art of writing Horror.

When it comes to the predatory characters, like a werewolf, a vampire, a serial killer, killer ghost, aliens or something else of in the monster/predator family. The idea behind making them more relatable is that the reader is going to be in their head for anywhere from a few hundred to 80,000 words or more. And watching this truly monstrous being just do worse and worse things to their prey is both gross and, after a while, boring for the reader.

By making the monster relatable in this type of story, the reader is drawn further and further into the web. They’re forced to feel for the monster, human or otherwise, and to question their own humanity when they feel sympathy and even cheer for the monster. The capital-H Horror is coming from being face to face with their own inhuman side for the duration of the story.

This is especially true if the “monster” is experiencing a descent into darkness character arch, forcing the reader to watch them become less and less human. A very real representation of the fear most people have of losing what makes them human.

It also means fewer chances for gimmicky writing that simply grosses the reader out. I say this not because there’s no place for straight up gore in a good Horror story, there are many awesome ones that are very gory, one need only look at the sub-genre of Splatterpunk to see that. But because, like boring characters, gore for the sake of gore can bore the reader after a while and the goal is for them to read the whole story and, hopefully, enjoy it and be frightened.

This brings us to stories from the point of view of the prey. And though I don’t have as much to say as I do about monster-focused stories, I do have a bit to say. It’s been my experience as a reader that prey stories where the reader can’t relate to both the prey and the monster are harder to pull off. Not because of any lack of potential to be good stories, but because the characters not being relatable means the reader is less likely to care about what happens to either the “monster” or the “victim(s).”

The worse thing someone writing from the point of view of a werewolf’s prey, for instance, can do is to make the reader not care whether the prey survives.

How Do You Make Your Main Character More Human?

All opinionated rambling aside, there are some ways you can make your Main Character more human in the eyes of your readers, whether monster or prey.

1) Give them a backstory.

Everyone has a backstory. Things that make them who they are and motivations for what they do, whether those acting are good, bad, or some gray combination of the two. A good Horror story uses backstory to bolster sympathy for the character readers are following and, which makes things far more suspenseful than they would otherwise be.

2) Make the reader feel for them.

All the backstory in the world doesn’t matter if the reader doesn’t feel for the main character. More than sympathy, forcing the reader to feel for the character leads to that unease which makes invoking feelings of horror later on far easier. In short, emotional turmoil for main character and reader equals out to a more interesting and intense story.

So exploit the reader’s feelings. Make them want that mother alien to succeed so her children survive and feel horrified by it. Make them want the werewolf’s prey to get away and return home to their family.

Next time I will be diving back into the world of the Bullet Journal and focusing one of my favorite modules, the monthly log. In the meantime, please feel free to follow the blog, check out my Instagram and Twitter, and follow me over on Facebook.

What Aspiring Writers Can Learn From Fanfiction

I’m what I like to call an aspiring writer. Plucking away at my goal to one day be trade published. But when I first entered the more serious writing community, I was a bit shocked to discover that people really dismiss fan-fiction and think it’s a place for hacks. Not that this is surprising now, other writers also take metaphorical dumps all over various other genres like Romance after all.

It seemed silly to me then and still does now. And if I’m completely honest, it also makes me a bit sad. Fan-fiction and the sites it has thrived on since the 90’s, is very much like the slushpile any publisher deals with, there’s no doubt about that and no denying it. But for all the dreck there polished diamonds, rubies, and other valuable rocks and minerals to be found by anyone who is persistent enough.

Innovation, characterization and even worldbuilding seem to thrive in fan-fiction regardless of quality. Which brings me to the point of this entire post after quite a bit of rambling: anyone who writes original work can learn a couple of very valuable lessons from fan-fiction.

Those lessons are…

  •  know your characters and your world.
  • don’t be afraid to innovate.

Take tropes and scenarios from others genres and use them in your story to create something new. Write that take on old source material like Romeo and Juliet that you haven’t seen anyone else write. Maybe they weren’t the right people to write the story and you were or hadn’t thought of the idea.

Take your characters and get to know them and the world they come from because knowing your characters more than other writers know theirs will make for a more interesting and seamless story that expands beyond the borders of the page.The more like a living person the world and characters are the less you have to struggle to make them interesting in the context of the story and can focus on the why. Why this person in this setting and at this point in time?

Join me tomorrow where I’ll be talking about one of my favorite genres, Horror, and how to to make horrific and even evil characters relatable to readers. In the meantime, please feel free to follow the blog, check out my Instagram and Twitter, and follow me over on Facebook.

Monthly Review| February 2017

February ReviewFebruary 2017 has been a pain in the behind as far as months go.

Yep. That’s right. I did basically call February a pain in the ass. And it is well deserving of that title.

february-poetry

This month I didn’t do any work on my novel “Stars,” didn’t even come close to reaching my monthly poetry goal, and blogged in a very sporadic way that drove me absolutely nuts. I also didn’t make any progress on the research for my expansion of Bringing Me Dreams or that Novella I mention is in the idea stage in a previous post. Nor send out anything on submission.

However, the month wasn’t all bad. It was my birthday this month as well. I turned 26.

I got a new desk for my birthday. Which anyone who knows me will realize makes me very happy. I didn’t have a proper workspace before now, and now I have one. And while I am on a minimalist Journey as a way of increasing my own personal happiness with life, not having a proper workspace was frustrating as opposed to minimalistic in nature. And it most certainly didn’t make me happy.

Now I am. I am no longer forced to work on the blog from my bed or the couch if I don’t want to!

I also got a Nook Glowlight Plus with a really awesome Black vegan leather case from Kate Spade. Since my birthday this past Saturday, I’ve managed to finish The Magpie Lord by KJ Charles (Amazon links: paperback & kindle), which I loved. And have gotten almost half-way through a reread of K.M. Weiland’s Outline Your Novel (Amazon links: paperback & kindle.), which I also love. Reviews for both to come in April.

Last but not least when it comes to birthday gifts was my purchase of some hair and skin care items from Chagrin Valley Soaps and a pocket-sized Traveler’s Notebook that I can’t wait to receive from Leather Quill Shoppe. I got the Pumpkin Leather Quill and my purchases from Chagrin Valley are all coconut free because I recently developed my mother and maternal grandmother’s allergy to all things coconut. Pesky thing that allergy, but Chagrin Valley has nice products. I’ve ordered from them before, and I know I won’t be disappointed despite no longer being able to use some of my favorites.

Moving on to more non-birthday related things. I managed to successfully get the Eclectic Little Dork editorial calendar for the month done with a day to spare and have already moved some things I didn’t get to this month to April’s. I haven’t been this on top of Eclectic Little Dork before.

As for things like how the blog, my Twitter, and my Instagram are doing? The blog had 39 views and 33 visitors. Not the most traffic a blog has every had by a longshot, but I’m extremely grateful to anyone who took the time to read and visit the blog. You helped to make that number possible.

My Twitter and Instagram are both currently at 16 followers. I hope to bring them both up to 30 followers or more during the course of the next month.

March Goals

  • Grow Instagram followers to 30+ and be more involved on Instagram in general.
  • Grow Twitter followers to 30+ and be more involved on Twitter in general.
  • Write 23 poems and send out a couple.
  • Write 46 pages or more on “Stars.”
  • Outline the Novella using Outline Your Novel in time for April’s Camp NaNoWriMo.
  • Evaluate the zero draft of “Bringing Me Dreams.
  • Post to the blog 14 times.

Until next time everyone! Thank you for your support and be sure to join me on Friday. I’m going to be covering some misconceptions about the Bullet Journal add-on known as the weekly log.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate in links. All that means is that I may receive a small commission if you click on a link from a product I’ve recommended in this post and purchase/subscribe to one of them. I’ll only ever recommend products I’ve used and enjoyed myself.Thank you for supporting my dorky little corner of the internet!

The Pros and Cons of Writing Longhand

I love writing longhand. That is, I love to write the first drafts of poems, short stories, novellas, and novels with a pen and paper. Putting pen to paper gives me a sense of belonging to a greater tradition that dates back thousands of years as a method for telling stories. It allows me to feel more at ease when writing because I don’t have to worry about charging some sort of device.

My love of this form of writing aside, there are some pros and cons to writing longhand.

Pros

  • You don’t need to charge a pen or pencil and paper.
  • You can’t lose the first draft of a piece of writing from a computer/device crashing.
  • You don’t have to backup said device(s) to prevent the loss of a draft.
  • You can write with any pencil or pen you have on hand, printing of cursive/script.

Cons

  • Finding a longhand setup that fits your general needs can be a hassle.
  • Fire and water can damage the manuscript.
  • Transcription into an electronic device is pretty much required and annoying.

As you can see, I’m on the side of there being more pros than cons and the pros are all practical issues. But there is one major pro I neglected to put on the list: the difference in thinking pattern when writing longhand versus directly into a computer or other electronic device.

When writing on a computer or other electronic device, we can go back and change any and everything we please at the drop of a hat. And this isn’t a bad thing except that it may, for some writers, facilitate procrastination via fixing all of the fiddly bits instead of simply writing the story, Which can leave a writer in an ongoing state of limbo as far as their stories are concerned.

There may also be a general creative difference for some people. For example, I find that the story flows more naturally and feels more organic when I do my pre-editing read through if I write the story out longhand first. This then allows me to get in a quick editing pass when transcribing the story, to sort of super-charge my editing.

However, I can’t say that I find the whole lugging around of a binder to be something I like doing. So, I’m considering a move to a more portable notebook-based setup. It’s where I started when I was just a kid playing around, so it makes sense that I would eventually come to another point in my life where it would be the most logical option for me again.

Next time you get the dubious pleasure of reading an update of what I’ve been up to this month. I hope you find it as fascinating as I found this month interesting (read: frustrating.).

In the meantime, please feel free to follow the blog, check out my Instagram and Twitter, and follow me over on Facebook.

Scare Yourself First: A Horror Writing How-To

scare-yourself-titleHorror seeks to scare, terrify, and disturb. It can do this in a variety of ways, each exploiting things both readers and writers find terrifying.

Yes, you read that right. I did say the writer.

You see, the easiest way to terrify the reader and by doing so get the genre’s desired effect is to scare yourself first. To plumb the depths of your mind and soul to exploit your own fears, or twist the things you love into something you find terrifying.

How To Scare Yourself

scare-other

It may seem redundant to have a graphic reinforcing the theme of the entire post, which I already talked about in the introduction. But grasping this type of thing can be really difficult for people new to writing Horror, and any good Horror writing how-to should, in my opinion, make this type of advice clear and give plenty of chances and time for the reader to slowly absorb it.

So, how do you scare yourself so that you can better terrify your readers?

1) Look for things that scare you.

This bit of advice relies on the idea that you’re reading the genre. If not, go and read some Horror. It’s really hard to write an effective and, in this case, terrifying story if you’re not familiar with the expectations of the readers. What they’ve seen a lot of, what they haven’t seen much of, what they want to see more of as readers etc. To try to in any genre, but especially an emotion-based one like Horror, is to shoot yourself in the foot.

Don’t shoot yourself in the foot when you can start writing with an advantage over those who underestimate the genre.

If you are a Horror reader, think about the things that scare you when reading Horror. What genre tropes do you like? What was the most terrifying story you ever read?

By examining the things terrify you in your own reading adventures, it allows you to use those things to terrify readers with similar tastes to you.

2) Write About Your Fears.

Another easy way to write a story that terrifies both yourself and your readers by extension is to write about the things which you already know terrify you.

Are you scared of ghosts? Write a ghost story. Scared of the dark or deep waters? Write a story featuring either or even both of those fears.

The idea behind this bit of advice is that, like other bits of advice before and after in this Horror writing how-to, you’re trying to lend a hard to master and indescribable quality to your writing. To create the impression for the reader that your heart raced, palms sweat, and flight or fight response was in overdrive while you were writing.

3) Turn Something You Love Into Something Scary.

The aim of this isn’t to ruin your enjoyment of the thing you love, but to ask yourself…what if? What if you have a character who enjoys drinking tea or coffee as much as you do that is going to be killed by a monster, serial killer, curse etc. as soon as they finish their cup? What if you have a romantic scene with cuddling, but one of the people cuddling is a flesh eating demon or a serial killer?

4)Take A Happy Memory And Apply It To A Horrifying Situation. Try Writing From The Monster’s Viewpoint.

Happy memories invoke many feelings in us. Therefore, it stands to reason that turning those memories into terrifying situations is an effective way of creating a truly terrifying story.

Think of something like a baby shower, a birthday party, your first kiss etc. What would that first kiss be like if you were a monster that ate their victim’s soul via kiss? What would a baby shower look like if the people holding it were demons or flesh-eating aliens? A birthday party that is normal and then, at the last minute, turns terrifying when it becomes obvious everyone is going to die?

5)Try Writing From The Monster’s Viewpoint.

A lot of Horror stories are from the point of view of the victim. The person being pursued by the demonic stalker, being followed by the werewolf, trying to outrun the serial killer that is after them and things like that.

Less common is the same situation from the point of view of the monster, which is what makes it so effective. By writing from the viewpoint of the monster, you immediately put the reader at a disadvantage. They’re being forced to identify with someone or something a writer normal doesn’t ask them to. The monster, in essence, no matter how monstrous, becomes human to the reader for the duration of the story.

monster-humanity

This is also a great place to go for little-known monsters instead of something everyone else is doing. How many people are writing from the viewpoint of a ghoul just coming of age? Someone who is an unusual strain of vampire? A serial killer that isn’t Dexter-like in their channeling their murderous impulses for the greater good?

While the number is insignificant, it gives an advantage when done right.

Another way to give yourself this advantage is to read books on the craft of monster creation and writing Horror. I recommend the follow books:

Writing Monsters by Philip Athans (Amazon link.).

On Writing Horror (Amazon link.).

Horror Upon Horror by Suzanne Ruthven (Amazon link.).

Until next time.  Feel free to follow me on Twitter and Instagram and the blog or check out my Facebook page if that is what you prefer. I hope anyone reading this has been able to get something out of it.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate in links. All that means is that I may receive a small commission if you click on a link from a product I’ve recommended in this post and purchase/subscribe to one of them. I’ll only ever recommend products I’ve used and enjoyed myself.Thank you for supporting my dorky little corner of the internet!

My Research Process

Each good writer has their own method of research. A method that is, among other things, the following:

Now, what qualifies as adaptable and reliable will change from person to person. But my own personal method works for me, and that’s all any of us can ask for. I hope that by detailing my method, someone will be able to take bits and pieces to create one that works for them.

My Method

Though I wouldn’t call it complicated, my method of research and taking notes does have a number of components that make it work for me as a writer. I use an analog capture method like the Bullet Journal, start with the most interesting thing first, make sure to answer some basic questions, and follow a note-taking procedure that I find to be effective in my own work.

Starting With The Interesting Stuff

If someone asked me, I would say this is the most important part of my personal research method. More important than how I take notes, my questions lists, or the way I use a Bullet Journal to capture notes and other information.

Without it, the other two would be a moot point. Who wants to spend hours and hours researching something that they have no interest in? Not me and definitely not when it comes to my writing, which I love.

It is with this in mind that I always try to start with the subject I find most interesting first when undertaking research. Starting with the interesting subject leads to more investment in the research itself. It also means that I am able to, through my research, develop an interest in areas I didn’t previously find interesting.

Generally, it means I look at big picture books first or in the case of a book on Hatshepsut that I’m reading, look at things from an individual to system approach. This was the life of Hatshepsut at this time in Ancient Egyptian history, how was it influenced by big picture things going on in Egyptian history at the time? This is what life was like in 1917, what impact would it have on the lives of the character in my story?

Analog Information Capture

analog

I prefer to capture as much information as I can via my Bullet Journal and binders or notebooks. Using and analog or non-digital method, whether a Bullet Journal or something else, means that I don’t have to worry about my computer or some other device conking out on me when I’m in the middle of doing something. This allows for an uninterrupted flow when I’m researching or writing.

You don’t need to use a Bullet Journal for this to work. I just love the Bullet Journal as a method of analog information capturing. Mainly because I’ve found it to work for a variety of different applications in my life. The benefit for my research process, in particular, is astounding.

If using a Bullet Journal for research, however, I would suggest dedicating it to a specific project instead of multiple projects. I like to keep the following types of things in my project related Bullet Journals:

  • research notes.
  • a bibliography.
  • a project breakdown.
  • a basic questions list.

The basic questions list will be explained and so will my notes, but the bibliography is basically the same as a research paper or a secondary source text like Whirlwind by John Ferling (Amazon link). It’s a good way for me to keep track of what I read for a project/novel. Sometimes it’s short and sometimes long.

Sometimes it’s short and sometimes long.

The project breakdown, which I reference here and here (Link pending.), allows me more control over the scheduling aspect of the process.

Another thing someone may want to add in is a log of some sort, a tracker for research hours. Which I will be incorporating into things myself. Like I mentioned at the start, a good research process is adaptable and reliable.

Questions Lists

questions-list-1

For some strange reason, I like lists. I just do. They’re useful ways of keeping information straight. Which is part of the reason the Bullet Journal works so well for me, being that it is, in it’s most basic form, a book of lists and/or sketches.

One of the types of lists I kept, even before I started to use a Bullet Journal, was what I like to call a  basic questions list. It’s something that helps me determine the basics of a story’s setting. Which may seem odd, but considering how influential to the story setting can be, is something I’ve found makes sense to know in order to frame my research.

My basic questions lists, generally, fall into one of three categories: secondary world, historical, and Earth-based settings. Each playing a part in how much research and the type of research I may need to do for a project.

secondary-world-questions

The research needed for secondary world settings, whether Fantasy or Science Fiction, tends to vary depending on the story. Something it shares with the Earth-based settings. A setting based in whole or part on a specific place and time requires more research, in my experience than one with a more nebulous base.

earth-based-questions

Earth-based stories also have a variable amount of research, but where they differ from Secondary World stories is that, for my work, the range of genres is wider and the research very detail oriented rather than big picture. This type of set of questions also tends to mean that the story is either near future, contemporary, or near past. Something which, itself, helps with the research being more detail based.

historical-questions

Lastly, we have the historical questions. Historical stories, be they Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Horror etc. require the most research. Because in order for the story to ring true and make sense, the story needs to make sense within the chosen time period.

Answering my historical questions list is the one I take the most time on out of all three for. I like research, so I devote quite a bit of time to research in all three cases. But I spend longer researching the questions on my historical list in order to be better able to determine my plot, character histories, if something I want to do in a story is even possible and how etc.

Notes

note-taking

Notes are the last part of my research methodology. They’re separated into two types, primary and secondary, because that makes them easier to label and reference later if and when I need them.

secondary-source-notes-2

Secondary source notes, or notes made on materials not contemporary to the event, are done like the picture above. Doing it this way allows me the flexibility of incorporating any needed changes to this part of my process pretty easily. Like in a previous post, where I mentioned that I’m trying to make the area below direct quotes into their own miniature references.

Primary source notes are, as mentioned in the same post, done differently. What I didn’t mention is that I’m working on distinguishing notes that deal with terminology. For now, I’m experimenting with a gold dot to signal those types of notes. So far, I like it.

Since both all of these things are done in a Bullet Journal, I make use of a hack known as threading. Threading is when you write the next or last page that is part of the collection next to the number of the current page. It’s most useful when the parts of a collection are separated by several pages being used for pages that are part of other collections.

Materials I Use

The Zebra Z-Grip Flight in Broad (Amazon link.).

The Uni-ball Signo UM-153 in Gold (Amazon link.).

The Moleskine Classic Notebook in Large (Amazon link.).

That all for now. Feel free to follow me on Twitter and Instagram and the blog or check out my Facebook page if that is what you prefer. I hope anyone reading this has been able to get something out of it.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate in links. All that means is that I may receive a small commission if you click on a link from a product I’ve recommended in this post and purchase/subscribe to one of them. I’ll only ever recommend products I’ve used and enjoyed myself.Thank you for supporting my dorky little corner of the internet!

An Introduction To My Current Projects

An Intro To My Current Projects

Part of being a writer and choosing to blog about writing is sharing things personal to us. And what could be more personal than information about our projects?

The projects a writer chooses to undertake and share tell stories about who we are, what matters to us. With that in mind, I would like to introduce you to my current projects.

Written In The Stars

Written In The Stars, YA SF I tend to just call this one Stars. That’s even the way I labeled it when writing the outline for this post.

Stars is a Near Future Scifi story aimed at the YA market and based on my favorite play by Shakespeare: Romeo & Juliet. And I have to admit, I just love this story.

It’s epistolary in nature. Which means that the story is told in a diary, letter or newspaper article etc. format. The format is a fun one to work with and part of the reason I enjoy writing the story so much. Though, I have to admit  I haven’t been working on it as often as I would like in the last couple of months.

Then there is the alien species in my story, which I will from now on be calling X when I talk about them. Besides just being awesome and thoroughly alien, I love that having the Romeo and Juliet relationship be a human-alien couple allows me to talk about some things I find to be important. Namely, the following:

  • racism.
  • integration.
  • friendship.
  • coming to terms with who you’re attracted to.

All of this including a Black 17-year-old girl who already identified as part of the LGBT spectrum. In short? LGBT, Girls of Color, Romeo & Juliet, and aliens! What’s not to love about that?

Bringing Me Dreams

Bringing Me Dreams, Gothic HorrorThis story actually started as a Camp NaNoWriMo novella in July of 2015 and plays into my love of Gothic Fiction and Gothic Horror. Particularly my love of vampires and/or immortals. Because if you know me, you know how much I love vampires and other types of immortal beings. Though the draw of vampires is, of course, their predatory nature and the fact they prey on humans. There’s just something appealing about that.

However, this story isn’t just all about vampires. It also features an interracial lesbian relationship, the story being seen through the eyes of the character who is a Woman of Color (A woman who isn’t White.), angst, and a story within a story.

I’m still in the prewriting phase of things at the moment. Rereading the story and tearing it apart, research, trying to decide which part of the story I want to write first and all that Jazz that comes before getting into the writing for me.

So far it has been fun and I love it.

I should also mention that “Bringing Me Dreams” is based on and inspired by the poem Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe. It’s damn good and I urge anyone who hasn’t read it to do so.

Which brings me to the last project…

The Novella

The Gothic NovellaMy Unnamed Novella is what I’ve been mentally calling “If Wednesday Addams fell in love in a Secondary Fantasy world.” (Yes, that is a mouthful and I can’t wait until I find a more concrete title for it.)

It’s, of course, based on an obvious love of the iconic Wednesday Addams. Not to mention inspired by the some of my favorite songs by the band HIM, the poem “Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allan Poe, and Lord Byron’s poem “She Walks In Beauty.”

However, you may be surprised to find out that is it still, like Bringing Me Dreams, in the planning stages. The only truly active project of the three is “Stars” and I like that because it takes some of the pressure off of writing.

One more thing before I go. I write longhand, meaning I write the story out on paper before transcribing it into a document. There’s a post coming on this next week where I will go into my whys and hows, but don’t be afraid to write longhand if typing into a computer isn’t working for you. It may be that you just need a change of scenery.

As always, thank you for reading. Please feel free to follow the blog if you want to. You can also find me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook if that is your preference.