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Genre Writing: Horror – What is your fear?

We all have fears. They can be legitimate fears like losing a parent or child, losing a job, a ligament and more. Some fears appear in the form of phobias – fear of spiders, clowns, germs, heights etc. Common fears that are almost universal are the fears of anticipated pain, approach of death, of not being in control, and next to them, the fear of the unknown.

Movies like Scream/Friday the 13th, Halloween etc are scary because you don’t know who the killer is, you don’t know where they are or where they will come from. All you can expect is a knife plunging down.

Movies like Nightmare on Elm Street, Candyman, The Grudge, etc are scary because there’s a supernatural element to the “killer.” You can’t necessarily escape them once they have their sights on you.

Final Destination means you’re definitely going to die soon, unexpectedly and quite possibly, in a horrifying manner. You don’t know where and how death will approach and you can’t beat it.

They are combinations of the unknown, trying to gain control and failing, and the anticipated pain/death. And that’s scary.

The Role of the Author

As much as we all have fears, we do not all have the same fears. Someone could watch the new IT movie and scream the entire time and someone else could watch it unfazed. This is what makes horror such a fickle genre. It is mostly subjective.

When I’m ink-deep in my horror story, there are a number of thoughts that swing through. The main thought is: am I portraying a true reflection of the horror. Here are some factors to consider.

Realism:

How close to real is the story and characters. Are they believable. What are the possibilities that the story could happen, supernatural or not. Do the fantastical elements make the story ridiculous or a little too close to home.

With that I try and add as many facts as possible. Perhaps reference real things that the reader might come across or may have heard about in real life. Things like:

  • It is more effective to sew a human mouth or eyes shut than to use superglue.
  • A medical practitioner has the tools/knowledge/skills required to be a proficient serial killer. (Charles Cullen – a former nurse who is the most prolific serial killer in New Jersey history and is suspected to be the most prolific serial killer in American history.) ~ Charles Cullen
  • Nurses and paramedics have more paranormal “experiences” than most due to being present when someone is about to die. (Apparently the ghost has even been seen down in the ER, ducking in and out of patient rooms and peeking around curtains.) ~ 49 Real Nurses Share The Terrifying Hospital Ghost Stories
  • Most people don’t have foresight before someone close to them dies. Not even twins. (They may be very close, very similar in manner, habits and health, but this doesn’t mean they share some otherworldly connection that the rest of us don’t have.) ~ Can Twins Sense Each Other
  • Sleep apnoea may cause people to have waking nightmares where their bodies are paralysed and they feel a presence in the room, or someone sitting on them. Usually an unidentifiable face or shadow is present. Most attribute it to a supernatural presence. It’s not. ~ Is Sleep Paralysis Linked To Sleep Apnoea?

Sleep Paralysis gif

Logic:

How logical is the story. Do the characters react in a realistic way. Are the events in the story making sense and as close to real as possible. Sure some supernatural elements do not have complete scientific evidence, or anything we can truly attribute them to beyond an unknown force. However, there are physical manifestations that may occur preceding the supernatural, and those can be used to add the “logic” to the story.

13 Famous Curses

As Thomas Busby was being led to his execution, he reportedly shouted that anyone who sat on his favorite chair would die.

Tony Earnshaw was not a superstitious man; he initially dismissed the Busby curse as nonsense and the previous deaths associated with it as coincidences. But then people started dying on his watch. Earnshaw overheard two RAF airmen daring each other to sit on the chair. Both did, and both died in a car crash later that day…

ThinnerCurseStephenKing

Pain (Emotional/Physical):

Pain may be in a physical or emotional level. The actual knife plunging into the victim, or the emotional trauma of waiting for the inevitable knife to plunge into the victim. The emotional side of horror is just as effective as the physical. Perhaps more so. Horror is about the terror than it is about the death after all.

Stephen King’s horror focuses on the characters. Invests the reader in their lives, habits, thoughts and feelings until we are almost seeing the world through their eyes. So when the horror hits, our emotions become entangled with the character and we feel it with them.

Clive Barker on the other hand focuses on the sheer physical manifestation of that horror, both in its visual representation (description) and the brutality of it.He takes great pains in cataloging the look of his creations and the horrors they have to endure.

For me it is a combination of the two. There must be some investment into the character. Enough to make you relate to them in some way. Let you feel empathetic to their situation. The emotional trauma they experience combined with the physical torture they must endure.

“Mommy?” Evie turned from the couch, a questioning look spreading across her face and disheveled hair. Her eyes fell on the axe flashing distorted images of the TV screen.

“Mommy!” Fear laced into the voice as her body attempted to crawl into the safety of the leather. Squeaking with her movement.

Rebecca grimaced,

“I’m not your mommy.” And with all the force she could muster, swung the handle hard and fast towards the girl’s face

~ Faux – A Wattpad Horror

Horror is not Gore – It’s… Paranoia

Many people think horror equals gore. For me it’s not about gore all the time. It is about the characters and the situation leading towards the gore. By the time you as the reader get to that part, where the axe meets the face, you’ve understood the situation.

The horror of relating to the killer.

The horror of being in the victim’s shoes.

Where the dark no longer feels safe and the light can only ease your fears so much. Where every sound makes you shiver. Where fiction crosses over the thin line into reality.


Have you read a book or watched a movie that really scared you enough to be paranoid? What was it? Why do you think it caused those feelings in you? Let’s chat!

 

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Friday Fiction: The Faithful in Fairland

Cliche #1:

A priest who has lost his faith and now must face a supernatural evil that will lead him back to his faith.


He walks with a slight lilt. His black vestments usually hide the limp but today he wears a plain black shirt and jeans. The clerical collar makes its usual appearance and so does his dazzling white teeth smile. The congregation has gathered outside his house as a silent mob. They hold no torches or pitchforks, but their eyes are daggers and their pursed lips contain venom waiting to be unleashed.

Nonetheless he spreads his arms out in a welcome gesture, a token to his past life as pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church.

“Well this is a warm welcome.” He says to the sea of faces. The community of Fairland were always a close-knit family, and today the family is more united than ever.

“Have you truly abandoned your faith, father?” A woman says, stepping forward from the parting crowd like a biblical figure. In her hands she clutches a bible to her flowery dress.

“I have no idea what you mean?”

“Oh you know exactly what you mean.” Her knuckles turn white as she clutches the book tighter. “We know about Claire. Father.”

If the priest shows any concern it does not break on his lined face. Not even a twitch of his white-whiskered mouth.

“Claire? Claire is dead my good people. Did you come disturb me over my dead wife?”

“Oh she’s most definitely not dead.” Emily says. The crowd murmurs in agreement but keep their voices to themselves. Only the appointed speaks now.

“Emily, you were at her funeral as many of you were too.” His eyes flit to familiar faces. They do not look away but keep a steady, silent watch over him. They do not notice the tremble in his hands as he moves them behind him.

“We buried her body, you’re right pastor, but not her spirit.”

The priest’s smile widens before he barks a loud laugh. The crowd stirs uneasily.

“My, that is unexpected. As the Word of God states, absent from the body present with the Lord.” he says. Emily raises the bible like a weapon, the leather bending between her fingers.

“You dare mock the word of God!” She takes a step forward. The crowd simultaneously follow.

“You who once did the work of the Lord until drink took over your soul and tainted your words!” Emily takes a step. The crowd takes a step. The priest steps back twice until he’s in the gloom of the house.

“You who baptised our children in the holy water while you yourself baptised your soul with the blood of Satan!” By now Emily is on the porch step. The crowd funnels in behind her. As she takes a step forward, the priest shuts the door quickly. But it is too late as Emily’s foot works to jam the door. Only the door does shut with a resounding bang. He looks down at the severed foot as blood begins to gush onto his shoes.

“Oh dear Lord.” He mutters, shuffling back with his hand clutching his heart. As he whirls about he finds Emily standing before him, a stump of a foot dragging blood with it as she steps forward.

“Where has your faith gone!” She screeches. The priests quickly widening eyes now shut completely. He shuffles back, almost slipping on the blood before the door holds him up.

“Where is your faith!”

Behind him, through the door he hears the crowd chant.

“Faith. Faith. Faith.” It is monotonous. Buzzing against his ears. “Faith. Faith. Faith.”

He opens his eyes and sees Emily in her true form. The same one he buried so many years ago. Scalp caved in at the left temple where blood oozes with the wriggling form of thick white maggots. Her skin bloats against her bones, garish green over portions of porcelain white skin. She shuffles forward, the bible still clutched between the bones of her decayed hands.

When she throws the book at him, he realises it is not a bible at all. It bangs against the door beside his head and flops onto the floor open. A picture slides from the pages and lands at the man’s feet. He looks up and Emily nods her head to it. Her face no longer pulls taught but slacks downward as though forlorn. The priest bends down and lifts the image,

“Oh lord no.” He says, the image shaking between his fingers. In it is the community of Fairland, familiar faces he’d nodded to outside. He stands in front of an altar before their bodies, all of them lying haphazardly across the pews of the church. A dark shadow stands behind him, hands on his shoulder like a proud father.

“How… when…” he falls to the ground.

“After Claire died, you changed. You let it in.” Emily says. He looks to her to find her jaw hanging agape. Black liquid pours down her chin.

“Restore us before we are taken into the bowels of Sheol.” Emily whispers. Then her rotting body falls to the floor face first. As it hits with a wet smack, a rosary rolls across the floor to his feet.

“Where is my faith…” he whispers to the now empty house.


Okay it sure could use a little more work, first draft after all, but you get the gist of it yeah? And what about that silent mob? Reminds me of a scene in R.L. Stine where the kids move in to a new neighbourhood only to find all their neighbours are ghosts. *Shivers

Did I do the cliché justice? Have you read/watched anything familiar? I would love to know.

 

Genre Writing: Horror – Do’s and Don’ts

That task of writing is never easy. Enjoyable but not easy. Sure one can have a great session and put down five thousand amazing words with little effort. Others have written novels like this (looking at you Anne Rice/Chuck Wending/Stephen King/R.L. Stine). However, the rest of us struggle through each word and sentence and paragraph to get that completed novel. When writing, there are some general do’s and don’ts we must consider regardless of genre, to help us through the task of writing. I tackle some of these below:

First Things First

I am not Stephen King or Clive Barker or any of the amazing horror writers out there. I am me. I have a completely different persona, history, life and ability as myself. So the first thing that I never do is compare myself to the greats. I refer to them and reference them, nothing wrong with that, but when I write I do not write to become King, Lovecraft or Straub. So don’t do it either!

Don’t think cliches are overrated:

This is where people immediately falter when it comes to writing a genre. They hear other writers, published and unpublished, tell them not to write cliches. I personally think they are wrong on a fundamental level. The genre’s work because of these cliches. Look at the Orphan/Chosen One cliche in Percy Jackson, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Star Wars, King Arthur, Wheel of Time, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, The Giver and so on and so on. Imagine they told these authors “Chosen one’s are so overrated. Don’t do it.”  and how many of these great books (and movies) we would have lost.

Do it different:

Yes there are a lot of them, but there are many ways that you can write the cliche to make it different. Unique. Start with the cliche (if that’s what you have) and build on it until it’s yours.

“The merit of originality is not novelty, it is sincerity.”

~ Thomas Carlyle

Don’t assume “It’s been done before.”:

Very similar to the cliche but different on one aspect: it may not be a cliche. Think of the Marvel/DC comic book universe and the idea of mutants or humans with super powers. Now think of I am Number Four by Pittacus Lore, Jumper by Steven Gould, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs and many others (My Hero Academia!?). Each of them talk about super-powered humans but each of them tackle the story in a unique way.

Do it unique:

Very much the same advice as cliches. Find a new way to write the idea but in a unique way. Use the same perspective or character types but different from the norm. Now I’m not saying steal ideas and just re-write the characters or story, that’s a no-no. Nonetheless you can take elements you enjoyed in those and craft your own story.

Everything has already been done. Eevery story has been told, every scene has been shot. It’s our job to do it one better.

~ Stanley Kubrick

Friday Fiction: The Playground


The four fundamental elements I spoke about in Genre Writing: Horror Fundamentals are: Atmosphere. Fear Factor. Character Flaw. Plot Twist.

The sunlit jungle gyms and slides were half obscured by uniformed, screaming children. They scampered about like mice, eyes alive, front teeth missing, dirt and dust over their shorts and skirts and shirts and knee length socks. One of them, on his way down the scorching, silver pole leading to the graveled floor, looked across the playground. Three of the fourth graders were leading a second grader towards Big School. They weren’t allowed there during school hours. Not at all.

He slid down quickly and started to follow,

“Where you going Ted?” Leena asked. Ted shot her a dark look, index finger rising to his lips,

“I’m coming now.” Ted whispered, turning to see the other kids slip through the side gate.

Ted ran as quickly and quietly as he could. Were they trying to get the second grader in trouble, his mind asked. Was the kid in trouble? Why was he following them at all?

As he peeked around the corner, he felt the hairs on the nape of his neck rise. They weren’t going to the Big School after all. They were heading to the disused toilets in the back corner of the old classrooms. A bricked wall separated the two halves of the school, which had cut off the toilets from being seen. Since no one used it, there were no lights inside, and to enter you had to walk through a small corridor. All in total darkness.

Ted shivered.

Sometimes, he and his friends would dare each other to run past. Once he’d dared his friend Johnny to knock on the door. Johnny did. A moment later he’d ran out crying, claiming he’d seen massive red eyes staring at him. They never did go back.

Ted wouldn’t have followed these kids today. Not since that day with Johnny. In fact, not ever. But what if the kid was going to get fed to that red-eyed thing Johnny saw. What if the fourth graders didn’t know? What if they did know?

He thought about calling a teacher but it was already too late. They were approaching the corridor and he could hear the older boy’s snicker. The other kid was crying. But what could he really do? He didn’t know but when all the kids stepped into the corridor, Ted hurried after them.

The entrance was dark. Just a rectangular wall of black. Ted had never seen the sun shine on this side of the building. From inside he could hear whispers, and the younger boy’s sobbing. Someone told him to shut up or they’d leave him inside. Then it went eerily quiet. As though all sound had been cut off from inside.

Ted waited at edge of the corridor, leaning in to hear better. He thought he could hear shuffling. Or maybe mumbling. He wasn’t sure.

Then someone screamed and all the blood drained from his veins and filled up with liquid ice. He stood frozen. Another scream jerked him backwards against the wall. He couldn’t see or feel the shivers that took over his body. He stared at the darkness and he felt it stare back at him.

Then two red eyes blinked open. Ted screamed. His body came back to life and he pushed away from the wall to run. A warm hand gripped his calf. He screamed again.

“Ted! Ted!” He turned around and it was the second grader. He was okay. Ted fought to calm down but then he saw the streaks of red on the kid’s arm.

“What… what happened?”

The kid smiled, revealing more of the red on his teeth.

“Well… we won’t be having a bullying problem anymore.”

Did you pick up the four elements inside the story? What basics do you use to craft your story?

Genre Writing: Horror Fundamentals

It was a dark and stormy night. The monster under the bed reached for my dangling arm. Little did it know, I was waiting for it instead.

And that’s how you write a horror story. Well not really, but the little piece of micro fiction above uses basic elements I include into all my horror stories. In today’s segment, I will be breaking down the story to show you how I write horror.

Remember, this isn’t the only way or the best way to write horror, it’s my method for building the foundation of a horror. Right, let’s get into it.

It’s All About Atmosphere – It was a dark and stormy night.

Atmosphere is such an important aspect of horror. It creates the mood of the story and helps put the reader’s frame of mind into the right state. Subconsciously, the reader knows the story is going to be dark. You see it on TV and in movies. The Blacklist is my favourite TV series. It has a dark grungy tinge to it compared to NCIS Los Angeles where everything looks hued in gold (ugh). If you watch horror films, you’ll notice that there’s a dark tinge to everything, even during the day.

Which is why the phrase “It was a dark and stormy night.” became so popular in writing. People knew immediately that what was to follow wouldn’t be good. Because good things never happen during stormy nights.

Vocabulary Is Important: I am a descriptive writer. I want you to have a strong image of the world, characters, mood, and world as you read. Each word I use must convey something. Whether it is unease, foreboding, anxiety, apprehension, or tension. From describing the world to describing the character. Atmosphere is my scary soundtrack playing in the background, building you up for the scare.

At night however, the park was a void surrounded by dark, silent husks, watching over the emptiness.

~Current WIP

Fear Factor: The monster under the bed.

Everyone has a fear. It could be spiders, heights, enclosed spaces, clowns, snakes and various other things. There are movies and books for each of those fears I’ve listed. The greatest fear however, is the fear of the unknown. You may not be afraid of spiders because you’ve had a pet spider and you think they are adorable. But what if the spider started acting in a way you’re not used to. Uncharacteristically. Malicious. Vicious. Dangerous. Would you be afraid then?

Then of course you have the occult and that’s a whole different set of unknown variables.

 

Create the Fear: When I write horror, I do not know what everyone’s fear is. In that case, I will either use my own fears, or find a situation that could induce fear with the right elements. Things like:

  • I’m home alone… but there’s a noise in the house.
  • I find an old journal… but it starts filling itself out.
  • I wake up… it’s the middle of the night and there’s a shadow at the foot of my bed.

Occasionally I will use real-life experiences (sleep apnea – sleep paralysis) or really creepy facts, for the basis of my horror.

Did you know that when you wake up at around 2-3AM without reason, there’s an 80% chance that someone is staring at you?

The Characters Are Flawed – …reached for my dangling arm.

Some horror writers use subtle descriptions to show a character flaw, something as mundane as hair, nails, a smile, eyes etc. These specific details become the medium to show how characters digress during the course of the story. We are shown that they are “real” people. At the same time they begin to fall into a character type. Things like artificial features create a character trope. The flawless cheerleader equals killer fodder. The grungy outcast equals the hero. The religious zealot equals crazy misunderstood sub-antagonist.

Also, when someone is in a stressful situation they may lose their sense of self, letting themselves go, lack sleep etc which may cause them to make bad decisions. Actions may also show a break in their character, like leaving an arm dangling over the edge of a bed (bad mistake) when they would have snuggled into their blankets. When someone is put into an unknown situation, they may react differently to their usual self. Fear does that. The teen getting chased who goes upstairs. The kid who tries to get over their fear by going to the basement. The character who stands to fight instead of running.

Describe Their Digression: Characters barely start off insane (unless you’re writing from the “killer’s” perspective.) I’ll start off with the character being “normal”, doing the right things and being a productive member of society. Then slowly I let the paranoia sink in. Something as routine as opening the wardrobe becomes an anxiety inducing experience. The sense of “safety” vanishes and the characters have nervous breakdowns during regular everyday occurrences. The fear becomes irrationally real. When done right, you too as the reader will feel their apprehension.

It was a door. Just a door. Wood. Golden handle. Keyhole. A door. Nothing seemed to exist past the door; not the voices from the television set in the lounge, not the incessant banging from the brat in the adjacent apartment, and not the beep of the microwave stating its completed cycle. Only the door.

~ Current WIP

The Twist – Little did it know, I was waiting for it instead.

Horror is a delve into the darker, perhaps more realistic side of humanity. The side where bad things happen to good people. Adding a twist to the story can create strong tension between the reader and the unfolding story.

Foreshadowing works wonders when creating clever, unexpected twists. For instance, there might be a monster that appears under a bed. You show a new character buying a new bed and bringing it home. At night they go to bed and they hear scratching below. The reader anticipates the monster but when the character checks under the bed, there’s nothing. As they rise back to get into bed… BOOM monster is under the sheets.

Make or Break The Cliche: Cliche’s are great because they work. The monster under/in the bed/wardrobe/basement/attic is a common component in horror. Much like the dilapidated haunted house. They work because there are a lot of unknown variables attached to them. And its dark in there.

I use cliche’s often. What I do, however, is add a twist to them just to mix things up. I direct the reader through the usual expected path, then throw in hints that imply one thing, only to reveal it to be something else. For instance, writing about a haunted house, but making the monsters inside be the victims instead. Here’s one story playing on this idea: Friday Fiction – Random Prompt

Stephen King is an example of an author who varies the stories he writes. For instance, he writes the cliched haunted house story in The Shining. On the other hand, he takes a mundane object like a car, and turns it into Christine, the car with a mind of its own.

The Beauty of Horror

While horror freaks me out, it is that very fact that makes it such a beautiful thing. That words on paper could induce as much fear and paranoia as a movie. How words can impact the mind and emotions. It’s just great.


In my next segment I’ll talk about my research. It’s quite interesting if I do say so myself and the first rule of research is… don’t get freaked out haha.

Have these points helped you out in anyway? Are there any fundamentals that you use in your writing, horror or otherwise? You got any tips of your own? I would love to know.

Friday Fiction: Hope

Earlier this week in my new segment, Genre Writing, I touched on two fundamental elements I use when writing a story. Today you get to read a short story based on these two elements. They are: Emotion, and Idea. Read the blog post to get the full explanation yeah? For those who have already, (or skipped reading it, it’s cool don’t worry) enjoy!

*

Fundamentals: Idea – Image Prompt. Emotion – Sadness

Words: 385

None can fathom the depth of his sadness. Below the expanse of heaven, his people move about with self-righteous nonchalance. They harvest from fields with praise only to their hands and tools. They forget that the rain they depend on comes not from their efforts. The soil they churn has been there before them. The seeds they plant borne from the land they did not create. They craft their own god and call him science, technology, human advancement and other names. Had they forgotten him so quickly?

He descends from his throne to an unknown island where he dons the garb of a simple fisherman. Here his creations thrive. Two gargantuan trees, capped by thick foliage, lilt towards the dark waters like tired sentries. Their smaller brethren once sprouted across the land. Now bricked buildings stand in their way and a different breed thrives.

“Good evening sir.” A silhouette says. It’s attire is as dark as the sky. Crisp. Clean. Over the heart is a golden pin that reads Greg – Manager.

“Good evening to you.” He says to Greg the Manager.

“I didn’t know the fishermen were still working tonight.” Greg says. His eyes turn towards the waters where there are lights in the distance. No boats bob between.

“I was merely visiting.” He says. Greg smiles.

“No worries. Do you need a place to stay for the evening? We’re fully booked but I’m sure I can find a place for you just for the night.”

“I am a mere fisherman. I cannot afford this place.”

“Don’t worry about that sir. Also, I noticed there aren’t any boats left. How are you going to head home?”

The man turns towards the waters, then back at Greg.

“Are you sure?”

Greg turns to the water and sure enough a dinghy sits against the shore.

“What in heaven’s name…”

“Anyway Greg, thank you for your kindness this evening. You have given me some hope yet.”

“Hope for what?”

“Humanity.” Greg is still staring at the dinghy but when he turns to the man, he is no longer a fisherman. His robes glow gold and flow to the floor.

The man points to the sky. The clouds flare with light the colour of dusk, as flames of jagged lightning break across the sky. Then he is gone.


Hope you enjoyed this little tale. May you have a grand weekend ahead!

 

 

Genre Writing: Fundamentals

Much of what I’ve read when it comes to choosing a genre is confusing. The reason it’s confusing? Motivation.

I’ve read articles that tell you not to limit yourself to a genre – you’ll stifle your writing. Some are references to other authors who have a multi-genre story where the novels they write are not defined by a type… and shouldn’t be. These blog posts have said things like,

“The easiest choice to make is not to choose at all. By choosing to stay open to writing in any genre you are free to pursue any idea that grabs you.”

Some articles are geared towards what the audience/publisher wants or how to get published. They say things like,

“Choosing the right genre makes it easier to get your book into the hands of readers who are likely to enjoy it the most.” and “Stay current with what’s showing up in the market.”

As for me personally, I write according to what I want to write. Similar to the former point above with one exception; I gear the idea towards a genre or let the genre guide the idea. I limit myself or have free reign. The only time I have an audience or publisher in mind, is if I’m entering a competition or given specifics about what to write.

How do I Choose a Genre?

There are two contributing factors that determine what kind of story I’m going to write. They are Emotion and Idea.

Emotion

I’m a pretty emotional guy. Well maybe that’s the wrong way to put it… I am temperamental when it comes to my stories… uhhhh, okay I am affected by mood. Yes that’s it, I am affected by mood. How does that work? Well here are some examples.

  • Genre: I can write a horror story at any time. It’s my default genre. The genre then guides the idea forward into a story where I flesh out the idea but always referring to the genre. Examples are:
    • Horror: Scare the living daylights out of the reader. What are things I am afraid of? How do I set the mood to reflect fear? How do the characters deal with this fear?
    • Sci-fi: Futuristic technology at its finest. What is something on the fringe of technological possibility that tells a great story? What setting best captures this world? How do the characters react to this world?
    • Fantasy: Knights and Magic. What world suits this genre? What kind of characters can I expect? What epic adventure can the characters undertake to capture this genre?

However, depending on how I’m feeling, a genre can become multiple genres. This is how my emotions affect the genre:

  • Horror Romance: When I feel happiness or joy I am able to write something light, but my love of horror twists it into a dark tale.
  • Dark Fantasy: Excitement courses through my veins and I’m inspired by the idea of an adventure but horror twists it into something darker.

Idea

Like many creatives, I get sparks of ideas that start off with “Wouldn’t it be cool if…?” From there on the idea manifests itself into a genre. Examples are:

  • What if Idea: There was a girl who found a coin…
    • Horror: The coin belonged to a demonic being who slowly starts to possess her the longer she keeps it.
    • Sci-fi: The coin has “3017” on it with the face of a robot. She’s then pulled into the future.
    • Fantasy: The coin allows her to cast “magic” and she finds there are more people with these special coins.
    • Romance: A boy runs up to her and says it’s his coin and they find a common ground on coins.
    • Steampunk: The coin only works on a specific automaton that powers a steam-powered machine.

Sometimes emotion can affect the idea, but on most parts it plays a lesser role and I try to match my emotions/mood to the idea. Unless it sparks a beautiful new story from the idea…

Fundamental of Genre Writing

These are just some of the basic ways that I will come up with a story. For the next segments I will discuss how I brainstorm ideas when writing horror, and more in-depth. I will show the tips and tricks I use, the research sites and the whole process. With it, I will post a short story on Friday to show how I implemented it.

Looking forward to seeing you.


How do you come up with ideas for a story you’re writing? Do emotions play any role? Is genre important or the idea or both?

As a reader, have you ever wondered how an author came up with an idea? Do you only read certain genres or read specific authors because they focus on your favourite genre?

I’d love to know.

Friday Fiction: Regrets

 

“There is no black and white when it comes to stalking. You’re either doing it or not doing it.” Haley said. She leaned over my shoulder. Her scent filled the air.

“It’s Instagram though.”

“Right. Legalized stalking but it’s still stalking.”

I swiped through the images then stopped. The image was of my stalkee – Jordan Washington. She’d tilted her head just enough to let the black braids hang down one side of her face onto the picnic table. Sunlight dulled against her face enough that it made her skin almost golden brown. And she had a pretty face.

“You see that don’t you?” I asked Haley. I could hear the grin in her voice,

“She’s definitely pretty.”

I pinched my fingers together against the screen and slowly pulled them apart. Zooming in past her shoulder to the tree in the distance. I kept my fingers from shaking and ignored the hairs on my nape rising.

“You see that though?”

“No I… oh…” Haley’s hand gripped my shoulder tight. “Dude!”

“I know. Hold on check.” I swiped through a couple more images, zooming into key areas just beyond Jordan’s smiling face. One of these was in her bedroom and the mirror behind her reflected the open window.

“Tyrone.”

“Yeah?”

“That’s you isn’t it?”

“Yes and no. Either I have an evil twin brother, an evil clone… or someone out there is pretending to be me.”

Haley’s hand gripped tighter.

“Or some-thing.”

*

Jordan Washington. That’s where it begins. That’s. Where. It. Begins. Begins. Ends. There is no… there is no time and there is all the time. All. The. Time.

I am. I am not ready to lose her. Not again. Not when I must. I must…  Must find. Must find Jordan. Must. Save. Her.

*

Jordan lay under the covers with her phone shaking between her hands. She hadn’t logged in to Instagram in months yet new photos kept posting themselves on her feed. Each of them with his figure in the back. The wooden floorboards creaked. An invisible weight pushing against her chest, squeezing her lungs together. Her breath came out short and shallow and she fought to keep it quiet. From beyond the blanket she sensed a shadow. Like cold hands pressing down her shoulders, grazing her spine from neck to lower back. A single harried breath echoed across her room, freezing her on the spot. Her hands were shaking so bad the phone fell out and hit the bed.

“GET OUT TYRONE!” She screamed, throwing the blankets off and sitting up quickly. The room was empty. Silent. She swiveled her head around thinking she might see him and hoping she wouldn’t. Nothing.

“I need to get out of here.” She whispered into the air, hands running through her hair. She’d already bought her train ticket and couldn’t wait for morning. Whatever game Tyrone was playing she couldn’t take it anymore. She slipped under the cover and picked up the phone to see the time.

Her breath caught in her throat for a second before a scream escaped her lips. The screen was filled with Tyrone’s face, haggard and drooping. Two words were emblazoned across the image.

“I’m. Coming.”

*

Fog sat across the horizon like a blanket, cloaking the street enough that we could barely see what was ahead of us.

“Put on the fog lights.” Haley said.

“I did. It’s not working.”

“Well then drive faster! Or… do something!” She sat forward on the passenger seat. Her hand angled away from her lips as teeth chewed through fingernails. She’d been like this since I picked her up five minutes ago. Outside, the morning fog continued its endless descent.

“If we get into an accident then it will all be for naught.”

Haley shook her head,

“If we don’t get there quickly it may be too late.”

I sat closer to the steering wheel and peered through the fog. I knew the road well enough but even in that fog it was difficult to anticipate anything. Eventually we saw the off-ramp we had to take, and the green sign above us.

Lincoln Station

It was still early enough that we had ample parking space, but there was still some life. A woman hauling out a large travel bag. Business men in suits chatting on phones. Children clinging to parents. All of them swaddled in heavy clothing. It was unceremoniously cold.

“Dude just park anywhere.”

“Chill!”

“I can’t chill! You saw that last post this morning right? That Tyrone-Clone keeps getting closer with each pic and this time it was literally standing over her. By her bed!”

“Why can’t she see it though? Or feel him? Or something!”

Haley shrugged, then chewed another nail, gazing off towards the train tracks in the distance.

“Maybe she does.”

I found a space and we jumped out of the car, racing towards the open platform where a small group had already formed. I could see the faces of those around us watching with raised brows, upturned lips or rolling eyes.

“I can’t see her.” Haley called from the other side of the crowd. I walked to the edge of the platform to see better. I would have thought in such a small group she would be easy to see. The sound of the train approaching rumbled the tracks. I turned towards it, squinting through the fog.

I saw her. On the platform ahead of us. Just a dark silhouette walking slowly away but it was her alright.

“Found her!” I shouted but Haley didn’t respond. Maybe she’d gone into the building to find her. It didn’t matter. I rushed towards her, past the little white barriers that looked like tombstones. The fog was dissipating enough that I could make out the roofs of houses from across the tracks.

“Jordan!” I screamed. The figure didn’t turn around. I ran towards it quickly, feelings my fingers and toes growing numb in the cold. My breath puffed out in clouds.

“Jordan!” She whirled about quickly to face me, her eyes wide and mouth agape.

“No!” She ran. I chased.

“He’s coming!” I screamed at her, following.

“Get away!”

The tracks grumbled louder. A horn blared. A headlight cut through the fog.

“Jordan!”

She tripped. The world seemed to slow down as I watched her arms waving in an effort to balance herself. Her foot twisted. She leaned a little too close to the edge. Then she was falling. Onto the tracks. A screeching sound resounded as the train attempted to brake.

“JORDAN!”

*

The fog swirled around me like a cold hand. A silhouette appeared from it. Tall. Dark. Eyes like egg-yolks and yellowing teeth as sharp as knives.

“You messed up again Tyron. Man. How many times do you gotta do this?”

“Jordan.” The words escaped in a sigh. Everything turned blurry as tears filled my eyes.

“Yeah, yeah. Jordan this. Jordan that. You wanna save her? Again?”

My head shot up and I gazed at this…person.

“Yes.” I said.

“Good. This is going to hurt… again.”

*

“There is no black and white when it comes to stalking. You’re either doing it or not doing it.” Haley said. She leaned over my shoulder. Her scent filled the air.

“It’s Instagram though.”

“Right. Legalized stalking but it’s still stalking.”

 

The Idea Fiend – Aligning Your Thoughts

If you’re a writer, I’m pretty sure you have days when ideas flood your mind like an overfilled dam. Whether those ideas are for stories, characters, worlds, or plot points, if managed badly they could get seriously overwhelming.

Align Your Thoughts

I’m currently working on multiple projects (when am I not) and the result is a growing folder of first drafts, story notes and, occasionally, quotes. I don’t have a plan for them other than, “I’ll get to it eventually.” And unfortunately that eventuality never comes to fruition.

“If only. Those must be the two saddest words in the world.”
― Mercedes Lackey

What I’ve started doing is the following:

  • Create a Project:  I use X-Mind, a free mind mapping tool, to plan my ideas. Each idea gets its own bubble and I explore each one enough to have some of the basics covered.
  • Make Notes: When I’m not at my computer I use my phone or a notepad to jot down the ideas. Nothing long-winded or detailed. I write short, simple points in bullet form, then link them as I see fit while the ideas flourish.
  • Voice Notes: When I’m driving, I usually put my phone on the dashboard with the voice recorder on and just talk about my ideas. I probably look weird but… aren’t all authors?

Once I have all the ideas, I explore each of them using the age old method: Who? What? Where? When? Why? (and how?)

Things to cover

This method is useful for exploring various aspects of an idea. When it comes to story ideas I use them as follows:

  • Who: Who are the characters in the story?
  • What: What is the story about? What are the characters doing? What is their motivation?
  • Where: Where is the story taking place?
  • When: When is the story taking place?
  • Why: Why are the characters doing what they are doing? Why is the story happening?
  • How: How am I telling this story? Perspective. Genre. Style. Tone. Voice. Etc.

The same method can be applied to scenes.

  • Who: Who are the characters in this scene?
  • What: What is this scene about? What are the characters doing? What happened before? What will happen afterwards?
  • Where: Where is this scene taking place? Where are the characters?
  • When: When is this scene in the story?
  • Why: Why are the characters doing what they are doing? Why is this scene happening?
  • How: How do I start/end this scene? How do I move the story forward?

Things to keep in mind

While having a billion (exaggeration) ideas and jotting each one down is great, the truth is: you can’t write out every idea into a story. Here’s some quick tips on what to do with all of them:

Choose the best/favourite one.

Not all the ideas you have will be great. That’s a given. So why not choose your favourite. If that one doesn’t work, choose the idea that works best or is fleshed out more.

Test it out.

Sometimes the best thing to do is to try out each idea. Choose a couple of your favourites/best and give them a test trial. Take your characters for a walk, explore your world, tell part of the story, or analyse your plot in short paragraphs. See which one is worth focusing on first.

Let it simmer

This is a slightly “dangerous” one but could be useful. Let ideas simmer for a while and do something else. You might gain an epiphany while you cook/clean/game/exercise etc. Just don’t let them sit for too long or you’ll be counterproductive.

Ask a friend

Or a writers group if you’re part of one, or fellow bloggers/writers. Gain some fresh insight to help you make a good choice. Bounce the ideas off people you trust.

Draw it out

Or make an actual mind map or some visual aid – like the wall you see in detective movies. It’s difficult to see your computer files or notes in their individual spaces. Pin them up or use sticky notes with a couple of words then tie them all in using red string (wool is best… also, sarcasm – although now that I think about it…).

Above all else, enjoy the process! One of the worst things to happen is for you to hate the idea you were so excited about. Just remember: the (recycle) bin is a terrible place for an idea to be.


What do you do when you have too many ideas? Please share your advice, you never know who you might help in the process.

Friday Fiction: Puddles

Image courtesy of Michael Gaida – Pixabay

Puddles. They form around us slowly with little to no regard to them. After all we are too focused on their initial form pelting us from above while at our feet they swarm together. Coalesce.

“I don’t understand why you have to leave so often.” Her umbrella is a burst of sunshine on an otherwise rainy Tuesday morning. She drapes it over her shoulder so that it fans around her slick hair like a halo. As stressed as I am, and as upset as she is, I cannot help but marvel at her.

“I explained it to you already Aly.” I say. Rather, I plead. Cold droplets sink into my skull like ice.

“The boss needs me is not a suitable excuse Jer.”

“Yeah I know but…”

“But nothing.” She tucks black strands behind her ear. For a moment the spider tattoo flashes on her dark skin then it’s gone.

“I promise I’ll make it up to you.”

She sighs. Both hands clutch the handle of the umbrella and her body twists at an angle. It’s her ‘I’m thinking’ posture. It’s her ‘I haven’t decided’ posture. It’s one she never has on the field. Not that she knows I know.

“Emiliano’s. Seven PM sharp. Or we’re done.” She says. I smile. Her lips twitch but she holds it in.

“Emiliano’s it is. I’m really sorry babe.”

Her lips pout but the dark eyes are smiling. With a whirl she’s slipped through the droplets and for a moment only a shape in the suspended raindrops is evidence of her existence. Then they crash to the floor and become part of the growing puddle.

*

The agency is a maze of business suits, college frat boys in plaid shirts and short shorts, and the sloppy rag-tag team of programmers donning comfort-style attire. One of the Slops is shuffling beside me with his rooted iPhone running an Android OS.

“Alyssa is gonna get you killed Jer.”

“If she doesn’t kill me first.”

“She could. She’s an…” the Slop leans his head towards me, “An Aranea.”

“Tell the whole world why don’t you.”

“Aw man the whole agency knows. You know they know. Don’t understand the secret.”

I turn to the Slop. He’s blonde hair is cut like one of those famous boy bands from the 90’s but his semi-beard ages him to guitar playing bard. Like that guy from Passenger.

“It’s not so much a secret as a taboo-subject. Like how we all suspect the fries of a particular fast-food franchise but never mention it.” Slop from Passenger nods his head sagely.

“I hear she’s on your recon list. That’s some taboo betrayal right there.”

For a moment there’s a surge of cold that hits my chest. And then it’s gone.

“Her ability is unique.” And so is her face I muse, “If we can pass that on to our future kids, it won’t matter that she’s Aranea. Because family always wins.”

“Just gotta watch the TV to know that.”

“Totally.”

*

It’s 6 PM when I arrive at Emiliano’s. A velvet rope separate the chumps from the high-end chumps. For tonight, I’m a high-paying chump. The rain has abated but fine sheets of it plonk down gently. Caressing the quiet lamp-lit streets and passing pedestrians.

“Did you ever wonder if the person in the puddle is real, and you’re just a reflection of him?”

Alyssa is beside me as though she’s always been there. Only the dryness of her trench coat gives it away. Her head is cast down to a reflection of our murky silhouettes on the street. There is no shape to the puddle.

“Then we’re both reflections with that kind of logic.” I slide up next to her. The umbrella hangs at her side unopened. She doesn’t need it.

“That’s so like you.” She says softly, “Missing the depth. Quick to try sussing out the logic.”

“Well I…”

“Sometimes I wish I were the reflection, you know.” I realise then she hasn’t looked at me. I step to her and she’s suddenly facing the opposite direction. “Reflections never have to feel.”

When she turns to me, her eyes are puddles. They do not seep. Or flood. They merely… coalesce.

“Tell the agency I said hi.”

And then she was gone. Her silhouette shaped the air for a moment. Even her tears. Then they washed my feet in a cold splash, forming puddles.


Happy Friday all! Hope you enjoyed my  story. Good luck on your writing fellow authors and hope you have a great weekend!

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