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Genre Writing: Story Crafting in Horror Movies

It has been a while since I wrote anything in the horror genre, and as a horror writer I feel as though that is repugnant. Which is why today I announce a rather new endeavour in my genre writing segment which has been on hold since October 2017 (where has the time gone?) You can read those previous iterations here to catch up.

Story Crafting in Movies

The idea for this particular series was borne from two thoughts merging into one. The first is my desire to watch more horror movies as a source of inspiration for future works. The second is the lack of horror content on this blog connected to the sad truth that I haven’t actually written any bone-chilling tales in a while – or rather, haven’t published them to the public.

The idea itself will be simple. Each week I will watch one horror movie and from it, look at the story and how I feel it was crafted, why or why not it worked (in my opinion), look at character and character development, and see what kind of horror trope it falls under if any. I hope to look at as many types of horror movies too, from the old to the new, from slashers to supernatural to psychological and all others in-between. I predict many nightmares in my future.

So Movie Reviews?

The purpose of this genre writing segment isn’t so much to review the movie, as it is to draw out the narrative being told. To see how those elements of story telling were woven together to craft the final work and how it can be applied to your own writing (or mine). It will also include segmenting it into some of the elements I highlighted in Genre Writing: Horror – World Building which looked at the following:

  • Writing style
  • Atmosphere
  • Fear Factor
  • Character Flaws
  • Twists
  • Realism vs Logic
  • Emotional vs Psychological
  • Gore
  • and Cliches

From here I hope to see how they could be applied to writing, and then hopefully craft a story for Friday Fiction to show how I would apply those elements into my own little flash fiction.


On that note, if you know of any horror movies (good or bad) let me know in the comments please, you will definitely get a shout out.

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Inspiration – Recreation into Writing

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Recreation is an important part of my life. When you spend 8 hours a day writing as your job, and then get home and plug into your own personal writing (or articles as a freelance writer), the brain can burn out very quickly. So I try to invest some time into other fun activities to clear the mind. This involves reading, watching movies or series, playing on the Xbox or my 3DS, listening to music, making music, playing tennis or socializing with friends. You may have noticed that I never post on weekends, because those are my “tech free” days when I put my laptop away and spend the time doing other things. We all need a break.

Inspiration

I spent the last week reading and watching movies, barely touching any fictional writing. I got to finally watch the Assassins Creed movie (better than I thought!), finally got around to watching the original Ghost in the Shell anime movies (mind blown), and delved into three really grand books. Here’s the fascinating thing that happened while I was engaging my mind in something other than writing; I got inspired.

This wasn’t the “I need to write this amazing idea.” kind of inspiration. It wasn’t a feeling of intense desire to create. It wasn’t incorporating what I’d just seen and read and wanted to translate it into my own novel. No, this was far more profound. I was inspired to be true to myself.

You Are What You Write

Think of the stories you have written. Think of the books you read. There is a part of you that is drawn to those particular genres, a part of you that wants to create stories around that specific topic or train of thought or idea. It’s your idea formulating, brewing, churning and growing in your mind until you put it down in a (somewhat) coherent form.

I realised, in my quest to write mind blowing stories with amazing characters and fantastical worlds, that I was losing what was most important in my writing: me. I was so focused on pleasing everyone else, I forgot about pleasing me. Two weeks ago I wrote the article “Appealing to the Reader“, and I said the following about my need to write:

I want my stories to mean something to everyone.

And I saw the following statement as a negative thing:

I was writing for myself and hoping others would enjoy the story as much as I did.

I forgot that I am part of everyone. If my stories don’t mean anything to me, then how true can I be to them? It would explain why I ended up hating the stories I was writing because at the end of the day I was writing them for everyone else and not for me. I think that’s a major mistake.

Inspiration from Recreation

I remember thinking I was fit, you know, physically, because I played tennis although at that point I hadn’t played in months. A friend suggested I join this training thing at a Nature Reserve close to where I live. So Saturday morning I drove up to the place, kitted out and ready to exercise. I actually did fairly well but I couldn’t move my arms for two weeks afterwards. I’m not exaggerating. Anyway, one of the things we had to do was run I think 5km, and I was so focused on the path in front of me, I forgot to notice the beauty around me. It was only when I intentionally looked around to take in the rising hills, the spreading flora surviving the summer heat, the gnarled trees covered in dried moss, and the varying plants around me that I noticed the surrounding beauty. Then I thought “Now I know how to describe this type of environment in my future writing.” and filed them away in my brain.

Watching Assassin’s Creed and Ghost in the Shell inspired my story telling. Both these movies have fascinating storylines that play on this idea of self. Who we are. How we perceive ourselves and the world around us. Although completely different contexts (historical fiction VS cyberpunk) they both touch on different aspects of this idea.

I read an amazing book this week called Killing Gravity by author Corey J. White. It was fast paced, written well, and carried a particular mood through each setting. I was noticing the writer’s style, how the environment was described, how characters were portrayed, the world building aspects and a number of elements that made the novella work. Not surprising that Corey stated the following for his inspiration:

I can’t remember why I decided the main character would be a psychic space witch, but when it came to thinking about how Mars’ telekinetic abilities worked and the scale of destruction she could cause, I took inspiration from Akira.

More generally, I’ll take inspiration from anything and everything, including song titles, lyrics, books, comics, articles, and graffiti.

 Yesterday I wrote a 1000 word short story while listening to Gothic instrumental music from YouTube. My upcoming novella “Innocence” was inspired by an online prompt and drew elements from a number of horror books I read. Dying multiple times in Dark Souls almost spawned quite a gritty short story. Images on Deviant Art and artists I follow on Instagram inspire some of my stories.

My point is this: don’t take the things you do outside of writing for granted. Everything feeds into everything else. Pay attention to the world around you. More importantly, love what you write!


What inspires you when you’re writing? What has that inspiration led to?

Suspended Disbelief: The Beauty of the Arts

Reading_by_talewhisper

Suspended disbelief is a term coined by Samuel Taylor Coleridge,  a poet and aesthetic philosopher, who suggested that if a writer could infuse “human interest and a semblance of truth” into a fantastic tale, the reader would suspend judgement concerning the implausibility of the narrative.

I have known from a very young age that I love reading. I remember in my final year of high school, my second grade teacher (grade two for us South Africans) called me aside and proceeded to tell me about how I chose the biggest book to read in class, how she had to dissuade me from reading it.

I remember walking to the local library a couple of years later, the small square building located within walking distance from the school grounds, excited by the prospect of the kind of books I could find. Whether I would be able to read the entire Goosebumps collection by the end of the year was one of the pervading thoughts in that 10-20 minute walk. I remember leaving the library with a stack of books, seven in total, even though at that age we were not allowed to take more than three. I remember sitting under the stairs, lost within a fictional world while the rest of my peers played soccer during break-time.

Most of my youth was spent behind a book.

Reading as an Adult

Yesterday I sat in my car reading Endgame: The Calling by James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton, the book I mentioned in my Wednesday Book Impression. The book that I love so much. Yes, that one. I didn’t realize just how engaging the book was until I had to stop reading, and suddenly my mind tried to reconcile reality and fiction, that those adept young teens on a mission to win a deadly game against each other don’t exist; that I’m back to the world where Nthato Morakabi exists and has things to do. It was a profound experience. It was a testament to the brilliance of the book and the authors’ ability to truly get me to suspend disbelief.

All those years in my youth were spent in suspended disbelief, where kids could transform into any animal they touched, where little towns where actually filled with ghosts and the main protagonist only realizes this when the ghosts chase him into a forest and surround him. Suspended disbelief. What a subtle yet powerful phenomenon reading is.

The Power of writing

Writers, artists, musicians, dancers and other creative people have such an amazing and unique gift. We take these for granted and yet they permeate every aspect of our lives. Consider the last movie you truly enjoyed, the emotions that coursed through you as you sat there engaged for 90 or so minutes. Did you consider that someone wrote that script? That someone composed the music, arranged it. That someone played it accordingly. That it was filmed, edited and compiled to be what it finally was. And finally, that it was done so well that you too, during that time were dangling precariously on the edge of suspended disbelief as those characters came to life in the acting. Amazing.

I am truly inspired and at the same time completely overwhelmed by the power behind it all. That I could write a story that would leave someone mentally engaged, emotionally shaken and physically stimulated by an arrangement of letters and words and sentences. That I too could be so taken by another person’s creative mind that reality ceases to exists.

Now that, is the power of art.


Have you ever been taken by a book, movie, song or any other creative art in such a manner?

 

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