More Than A Writer

More Than A Writer

There’s more to life than being a writer. Sounds heretical, blasphemous even. How can someone who blogs about writing and claims to be a writer herself say that?

Well, it’s simple really. Much as we may want to just sit in a coffee shop, our office, at a table just write every single day. We can’t. Life get’s in the way of doing that. Whether it be going to see the doctor, family events or obligations, dates with the significant other, getting sick or anything else. Life continuously throws us curveballs that stop us from spending our lives just writing.

Does that mean we shouldn’t follow that oft-quoted advice to write every day? No. There’s value in sitting down and writing something each day. It could be a poem. It could be a paragraph of a story. It could be a few words of a story. Writing every day helps keep us inspired. But it does mean we have to accept that other things will come along and prevent us from writing as much as we want on a given day.

At this point, you’re probably wondering why I started this post the way I did. Am I just being contrary and difficult in order to mess with you?

No. I’m not. I fully believe that writing every day is a great personal goal. But allowing writing to consume our lives isn’t healthy. We need to interact with others and experience life, both as people and as writers. Living life instead of merely existing for the sake of being able to write adds a depth to our writing it may not otherwise have. It aids in the ability to write emotions well. It aids in our ability to describe settings. And it gives us a chance to work out the problems in whatever we’re writing at a given point in time, which helps us when it comes to editing.

So if you find yourself being consumed by writing, take a walk. Go to a party. Go to the museum. Take up painting and set time aside for that in addition to writing. Go out with friends or to a family gathering.

Live life. You’re more than a writer. You’re the protagonist of your own story.

I can be found on Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook.


Reading/Watching/Listening To

Reading: The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

Watching: The Dark Crystal

Listening To: Nightwish| Endless Forms Most Beautiful

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!

Edgar Allan Poe & Me

Edgar Allan Poe & MeEdgar Allan PoeEdgar Allan Poe (January 19th, 1809–October 7th, 1849) is one of my all-time favorite writers.

I first came across Poe’s work when I was twelve or thirteen. This was around the same time I was discovering a love of Gothic music, fashion, and the macabre in general. If you want to learn more about this time in my life, check out the post Gothic Minimalism. It goes into much more detail than we have space for here.

Anyway…back to Poe.

As a teen inclined towards darker things, I found that Poe’s work increasingly pulled me in over time. After all, they are really good. I’ve even used Annabel Lee as the inspiration for several stories. It is just that versatile and fertile as idea fodder. But in reality, it really was the darkness.

Most of the short stories in Poe’s repertoire falls into the modern definition of the Horror genre. Families going mad, people going mad or already being insane, and circumstances both mysterious and terrifying are in abundance. Though people do tend to forget some of his works were mysteries or detective stories. His poems tend to be about a beautiful woman or the death of one.

Take note of Poe’s work as a Horror writer. Because, I admit, his work is part of what drew me to the writing the genre myself. Poe was the first writer that really gave me a glance at what Horror could be. I had already loved and read the genre before, but I hadn’t thought of it as the robust genre it is before I discovered Poe’s work.

Everything from my Horror Romance work to my SciFi Horror to my Horror that doesn’t mix in other genres is a result of the belief Horror can deal with any topic. Case in point, in a post called The Beauty In Horror, I talk briefly about a story idea that deals with a demon mother having trouble weaning her child off of her flesh and onto human flesh. That’s actually a story that I wrote. I had a lot of fun trying to make such a mundane and everyday topic scary, bringing horror into the everyday.

That idea and others, which tend to blur the line between mundane and terrifying, are my own. My love of both writing and darkness means I likely would’ve been writing Horror anyway. But Poe is the one who gets’s credit for opening my eyes much sooner than they would’ve been otherwise.

Please, feel free to follow me on Facebook and Twitter. And don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation. For an introvert, I’m pretty chatty about a lot of things.

Until next time.


Reading/Watching/Listening To

Reading: The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

Watching: Being 17

Listening To: H.I.M Darklight

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!

 

Researching| Constructed Worlds

Researching Constructed Worlds

Welcome to the last post in a series I like to call Researching Different Settings. I’ve already covered Historical Fiction/Settings and Contemporary settings. If you’re interested, click the links and read those posts.

This week the topic is constructed worlds.

What Is A Constructed World?

Constructed worlds are worlds that aren’t Earth. Think Vulcan and other planets from Star Trek, Middle Earth from Tolkien’s Lord of The Rings and other works. Think about your standard Fantasy and sci-fi world that isn’t Earth. Those worlds are Constructed Worlds.

This type of setting is also known as a Secondary World setting. It’s a very common setting for Epic and High Fantasy stories. Fun fact: High Fantasy and Epic Fantasy are used interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing. It has to do with the scope of the quest being undertaken in the story. I’ll be doing a post on it in the future.

The Types Of Constructed Worlds

Because of their ubiquitous nature in Fantasy, people can be forgiven for assuming there is only one type of Constructed World. In a way, they’re right. A Constructed World is a Constructed World. The history and reasons for the peculiarities will be different from our world.

However, because of the different types of research needed, ones that mimic either Contemporary Settings or Historical Settings, I would say there are actually two types of Constructed World.

Standard Constructed Worlds are the worlds you see in quite a bit of Epic, High, and Quest Fantasy. They don’t take after any specific timer period but tend to give a general feeling of being in some far off past. Often it is a pseudo-Medieval type of past, actually. I have many good books on my shelf with this setting. They’re quite enjoyable to read when the smaller details are well researched and compiled to help form a historically inaccurate, but internally consistent world.

On the upside, the research is quicker and tends to be much more focused than historically based settings. But on the downside, this does mean there’s less guidance for the writer about what topics to choose to research. This can mean stopping to do research on something seemingly small that will effect the story as a whole and delay finishing the novel, novella, or short story.

Historically Based Settings, on the other hand, mimic Historical Fiction/Settings in the complexity of the research. If the world is based on Ancient Egypt, it will require the writer to pick a period of Ancient Egyptian history and research the technology, values and customs, and various bits and pieces of the Era.

This research requirement can take months, even before the story is written. And if you ask any Historical Fiction writer, the research on little things will only be completely finished when the story is written and fully edited. It’s both rewarding and exhausting.

Basic Questions To Ask Yourself

Those writing something with a setting based on a historical period in our world’s history should start with the questions from the Historical Settings post. For those researching a Standard Constructed World, the following questions are a good starting point:

  • What do people wear?
  • What do they value as a society and why?
  • What is their technology like in various areas?
  • How are they governed?
  • How do their values affect societal opinions on gender, orientation, and various other topics?

As you can see, the list isn’t a long one. And yes, I am aware that I broke the cardinal rule of bullet points with that last bullet. It was needed. People don’t often consider views on those topics I used as an example in that question, nor others. But a world with a different history, especially in a multi-society world like our own, will have different values and views on things we take for granted. I’m going to can-o-worms the topic for a later post, which will be linked back to this one.

Before we finish up, I would like to say that you don’t have to take anything in this post as gospel. Not even the questions. The methodology in this post and the entire series are just ones that have worked for me.

Have fun. Discover what works for you. Consider this series and this post to be a springboard for your own methods.

You can find me on Facebook and Twitter.

Other Posts In The Series

Researching| Historical Fiction

Researching| Contemporary Settings


Reading/Watching/Listening To

Reading: The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

Watching: Being 17

Listening To: H.I.M Razorblade Romance

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!

On Reading Widely

On Reading Widely Title

Reading widely. In this post, I will go over what I think reading widely is and my feelings about its importance for writers. But it boils down to one thing: reading widely brings new and innovative ideas into whatever genre someone is writing in.

I could leave it at that, but it wouldn’t be fair. You, hopefully, came are reading this post to hear my own views on the topic. So, without further stalling, let’s dive into the dark and inky depths of today’s subject.

What Does “Read Widely” Mean?

To put it simply, reading widely is when a reader or writer and in this case, someone who is both, reads more than just their normal fare. It’s looking beyond the confines of Romance, Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and other genres a person may prefer in order to broaden our horizons as readers.

Why Is It Important?

Reading widely can be argued to be important for every reader, whether they’re also a writer or not. I would argue it is especially important for writers because it brings in new or little-used ideas that may otherwise have not been brought in.

One example that comes to mind is a Horror writer branching out into big-R Romance. Romance, for good or ill, is a major desire in our society. Most people want to find love. This adds an entirely new subject to the Horror writer’s repertoire of terrifying life events.

Imagine, if you will, a someone using a typical Romance genre plot with a pair of serial killers, a cannibalistic serial killer and a normal if slightly fucked up person. Or a demon from the depths of hell and an otherwise normal person who gradually comes to accept their demonic love’s nature. None of these is a pretty scenario. Though, as someone who wrote a short story about two serial killers who fellow in love, I admit a fondness for turning the mundane and even sweet terrifying. And these scenarios are right up my alley.

Now imagine someone taking a normal Mystery plot and transplanting it into a made up Fantasy world, or the very ancient past. I’m talking Homo Neanthalensis levels of ancient or early human society. While neither of those are exceedingly rare genre combinations, they’re very much still extremely fertile ground for both potential readers and the writer.

This brings us to the next topic…

How Do You Read More Widely?

I’m sure this section seems needless to some. Reading more widely is, after all, a matter of just reading things you normally don’t read more often. However, not everyone is prepared to jump right in and read more widely from here on out. Some tips seemed to be in order so that people can inch their way out of their little niche and into the wider world of reading.

  • Widen horizons in your normal genre first.
  • Try a genre closely related to your own.
  • Read works outside your normal genre by authors you already enjoy.

I won’t pretend any of these are easy. A writer may only like one genre, for example, Fantasy. But, eventually, branching out into Historical Fantasy or some other genre can gradually lead to an increase in the desire to read more standard Historical Fiction. The same can be said of Gothic Fiction, Mystery/Thriller, or any other genre. And as I mentioned previously, this makes a writer better at the craft. Benefiting not only the larger story overall but subplots as well.

A good story, whether Fantasy, Horror or another incorporates minor plots/plot variations from other genres. Learning how to master those genres and plots by reading and understanding whys and hows enhances our own work.

You can find me on Facebook and Twitter.


Reading/Watching/Listening To

Reading: The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

Watching: Being 17

Listening To: H.I.M Razorblade Romance

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!

Researching| Contemporary Settings

Researching Contemp Fic Title
Now that we’ve covered Historical Fiction, I thought we would talk about contemporary settings before moving on to the last part of the series, Secondary Worlds.

What is a contemporary setting? To do answer that, we have to answer the question of what Contemporary Fiction is. And the definition I favor is a story taking place now or in the recent past without fantastical and/or Fantasy elements.

But a contemporary setting isn’t just limited to Contemporary or as it is also known, Realistic Fiction. It can be found in certain sub-genres of Fantasy, in some Literary Fiction stories, Horror, and Mystery/Thriller/Suspense. In short, anything with a recent or present day realistic setting can be said to have a contemporary setting.

Similarities In Research

Since both Historical Fiction and contemporary settings require research, there are some ways in which they’re the same.

The most obvious is that research needs to be done in both cases, no exceptions. Even if it is a topic they are familiar with, a writer should still be checking recent developments in the topic and checking their basic facts. This allows the writer to more easily draw the reader in, to ensnare them and keep them reading the rest.

Less obvious is the benefit to the writer of doing research on and checking things they’ve assumed they know the answer to. Because as contradictory as it seems, checking facts gives the writer more room to play around and better story ideas. More room because they’re more likely find a loophole to exploit, which is especially great for those writing in genres such as Urban Fantasy. Better story ideas because each new or reaffirmed fact can potentially spark a new story or bring to light a facet of the current story which the writer hadn’t thought about.

This means that research for both Historical Fiction and contemporary settings makes for a better, more enjoyable story when done right.

Differences In Research

Similarities aside, there is what I find to be one really obvious difference between researching contemporary settings and researching Historical Fiction.

The research is quicker.

In both, the writer needs to know more than the reader in order to give the impression of an expansive and living world. But there’s a far greater volume to be done when the story is Historical Fiction. Even when a writer hyper focuses on topics relevant to their story, the scope of those topics isn’t so broad most of the time. The only time this is really true is if the character is of a different faith or is from/ live in a different culture from the writer.

A Brief Genre Talk

I mentioned earlier that some subgenres have a contemporary setting for their stories. Even gave you a glimpse at the start of this post. But it seemed silly to not give you more of an idea of what I’m talking about. With that in mind, I’ve picked four genres that use or may use a contemporary setting.

Urban Fantasy, as the name suggest, tends to have a modern, city-based setting. This can be highly involved if the writer isn’t familiar with the city and/or the country the city is located. It also means the writer needs to check the lore for the Fantasy element if it exists and check the technology. Introducing the wrong sort of phone, car and such is important for engaging the reader.

Paranormal Fiction often takes place in an urban setting and has much of the same concerns as Urban Fantasty. However, it may also take place in a small town. The second isn’t common in Urban Fantasy and means a writer not familiar with small-town life will need to research what life is like in a small town.

Non- Historical Horror opens up an entirely new can of rotting flesh for a writer. A Horror writer may need to research the lore of a monster, ways to kill people, and things like serial killer stats. They may even wish to look up historic killers/serial killers for inspiration.

You would think realism wouldn’t matter as much with Non-Historical Horror. But, speaking as a Horror writer and reader, Horror readers like their scares to make sense. If it seems silly, then it isn’t likely to scare them.

Non-Historical Literary Fiction, on the other hand, has both the least involved and most in-depth research of all four example genres. Literary Fiction or Lit Fic may mean the writer needs to look into stats on rape, abuse, the psychology of both the abuser and the abused. Racism, economics, and other such topics may be a factor as well. Never mind a myriad of other topics depending on the premise of their story. It’s a manifold type of research because of the nature of Literary Fiction regardless of setting.

I originally wanted to give you basics questions researching contemporary settings, but that seemed moot. As you can tell, the list of topics a writer may need to research when working with a contemporary setting isn’t consistent across the board. That means there are no defining questions to answer. No template. But if you need one, modifying the questions in the first post in this series may help.

You’ll probably notice a new section at the end of this post. I’m tentatively calling it Reading, Watching, and Listening To. In it, you will find bits off media that I’m focused on at the moment. Some will end up reviewed on the blog, others won’t be and are just things I’m currently enjoying. All will include purchase links in case anyone is interested in them. For those who don’t like it, my Bullet Journal posts won’t be including it in order to give people a bit of a break.

Until next time, I can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

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Reading/Watching/Listening To

Reading: The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

Watching: Being 17

Listening To: H.I.M Razorblade Romance

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!

Researching| Historical Fiction

Researching Hist Fic Title.png

This being late thing is starting to become a pattern. I don’t like it. Hopefully, I can get back on track this month.

Historical Fiction is one of my favorite genres to read. I love a wonderfully researched story that transports me into the past. So it should come as no surprise that I would start this series, which I’m calling Researching For Writers, with researching Historical Fiction. Not only do I love the genre, I firmly believe being able to research this story translates into being more easily able to research stories with Secondary World and Contemporary settings.

What Is Historical Fiction?

There are a few accepted definitions of the genre, but my favorite is that Historical Fictions is fiction set at least fifty years in the past, and not something the writer experienced themselves.

I particularly like that definition because it makes sense. It’s concrete and separates Historical Fiction from Autobiographical Fiction, fiction based on the author’s life. A type of fiction that doesn’t have a set time period of its own.

Primary Sources and Secondary Sources

I think anyone who remembers research papers in school and college vaguely remembers what primary and secondary sources are. I certainly do. But no in-depth post about researching Historical Fiction would be complete without defining these words for the sake of clarity.

Primary Sources are sources of information from the time period you’ve chosen to set your story in. A letter from the American Revolutionary War, World War I or World War II would be a great example of a primary source. This type of source is really great at giving a writer a feel for the era they’re writing about. The thoughts, the lives, and technology of the time. Which can lead to even more ideas about how to fit the story into the era it is set in.

Secondary Sources are sources of information from after the event. Sources such as documentaries, books, and magazine articles about a certain era in time. Because of their separation from the event, these sources are great for learning basic facts and how to interpret the primary sources you’re coming across in your research.

Basic Questions

History is vast. This is especially true if we’re counting pre-history as part of human history, which we really should if taking Historical Fiction seriously as a genre. And because it’s so vast I want to take a brief detour and talk about some basic questions to jumpstart your research before getting into where to find your sources and evaluating them.

I find these questions are most effectively answered if I start by reading a general text on a historical era I’ve chosen to write about, but don’t be afraid to try to answer in a way that works for you. What works is more important than strictly following someone else’s methodology.

  • What do people eat?
  • What is their clothing like?
  • How are they governed?
  • What is the technology of the time like?
  • What is the prevailing opinion on various topics?

They’re very general, but at this stage, that’s perfectly OK. Remember I tend to read a general text on an era or event before delving deeper into things. Those texts tend to provide me with the basic answers to those questions, which then inform more in-depth questions I wish to research later on.

Location, Location, Location

Perhaps more important than having a set of questions handy for directing your research is being able to locate your sources. There’s no shortage of ways to do this. But this also brings to mind a quote from a great book to dealing with research, Going To The Sources. In it, the author notes that people are prone to starting and sometimes ending their research on the internet. This is completely true. And while I’m certainly not as anti-internet as the author of said book, I can honestly say I don’t think this habit is a good thing.

Depending on how close to the location of our story we live, basing everything on the internet at the very least robs us of being able to absorb the setting we’ve chosen. The internet, great resource that it is, can’t replace visiting real historical locations or the feeling invoked by handling or even just seeing the primary sources we’d previously seen pictures of. It can’t orient us in time so completely like those experiences often do. So with that in mind, I thought I would talk about finding sources in real life.

Public Libraries are great for locating secondary sources that can introduce you to the time period. But they’re also a place where the local paper tends to store their older editions on things like microfiche, which is sadly becoming rare as time moves on. This makes them great for local historical research.

University Libraries are a great option for those with access to one. Especially for those who are going to school or can get permission to use the resources at a given university as they tend to have a more varied collection than your typical public library.

Museums are great for really getting a look at something. While you generally won’t be able to handle things in a museum unless under special circumstances, being able to just see a bit of history really brings the time to life.

Historical Societies are a great way to actually be able to get your hands on local records that can inform and enrich the story you’re writing. Though, there are general rules about handling the material, which tend to be primary sources instead of secondary ones. What you can handle, what can be taken into the rooms housing the materials, if you need protective gear of any sort in order to be able to access the material etc.

Much like seeing the object in a museum, being able to come face to face with history in this way makes the time period and its people more real. Even if you do come across views and attitudes you find disturbing during the process, which you likely will at some point.

Evaluation

Now that you’ve found your sources, it’s time to examine them. Unreliable sources are the bane of a researcher. Here are some quick tips:

  • If starting somewhere like Wikipedia, make sure article cites its sources and they’re easily traceable, the author of said sources being in good standing with the academic community.
  • The same can be said of books. Citing sources and being in good standing is important for all of them.
  • When reading documents from the era, keep in mind that even modern texts tend to show the biases of the author.
  • When handling artifacts, if you have the chance, look for indications of the era. Sometimes things can be dated incorrectly and it’s up to you to be able to spot the differences.

Until next time, you can find me on Twitter and Facebook.

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.