Posts Tagged ‘Novels’

We’ve all seen, or read, at least one horror story or movie with a child as a main antagonist, or even the protagonist. There are countless works of fiction that fall into one of these categories. Such as: The Shining-Stephen King, IT-Stephen King, The Omen-David Seltzer, (to the more recent works like the 2011 movie Don’t Be Afraid of The Dark) and so many others.

It’s my (loose) belief, that there is a right and wrong way to use children in horror. This is all a matter of personal opinion, and I’m not going to rule out the greatness of a story just because of my beliefs, but let me outline how I use children in horror.

I try to steer away from a child protagonist. It’s just what I like. I think creepy children in horror should be outlawed (not seriously). It could just be that they scare me so much I avoid them in my stories like they have the plague (and in most cases they really look like they have it), but no matter the reason, I choose to mainly use children as antagonists in my stories. The young antagonist reminds us so of what we were afraid of as children, and is that not where all our modern fears are rooted? To me, the creepy kid is a depthless monster. They often have little motivation, or motivation not easily understood by the audience. When you think about what makes children murder, how many possibilities can you come up with? Abused (or murdered) by parents, bullied at school (or murdered by bullies), and the son/daughter of the devil, are just about all I can think of (off the top of my head). There are only so many ways and times that these concepts can be used (but of course there are always going to be spin-offs and twists on these tried and true child protagonist motivations).

To me, the child protagonist unleashes a largely overdone genre of horror, in which the antagonist is disarmed by worry for a child who is actually out to get them. This is useful, for suspense and surprise, but, I feel it’s often not done “right”. (Do any of you know what I mean by this? I hope so.)

I don’t know exactly why child protagonists bother me, it could be that I feel that youth should be care free, fun, and light, not dark, evil, and murderous.

No matter what side of my debate you fall on, the usefulness of children in horror cannot be ignored. Time and time again, I turn to child antagonists to give my stories a youthful naïve tone, and to (hopefully) remind the adults out there of what they were afraid of as children. The Wish, is one such story of mine, where a young boy finds an old brassy urn buried in the sink hole behind his family’s home. He makes a wish, out of anger, and finds that it comes true. This would never work with an adult, because one of the main factors in this story is the main character’s naivety and inability to stop making wishes in hope that they will turn out alright this time. There’s also: The Dark Place, The Property, Potty Training, The Puddle, and one, currently untitled, about a boy with ear infections who goes to a “Free Clinic” for treatment and ends up worse for wear upon leaving. The boy’s oblivious mother continues to take him to the doctor, believing that her boy will be all better soon.

Just as sure as the sun comes up every day, be sure that horror writers across the world (myself included) will continue to utilize children in horror as an invaluable character, unmatched by their adult counterparts.

When making your antagonist a child (let’s say under the age of 16), it’s important to understand children, how their minds work, their thought process, and basic behavior characteristics. (The Writer’s Guide to Character Traits by Linda N. Edelstein, Ph.D., is a priceless tool in this regard. In it, she outlines basic behavior patterns and characteristics for different age groups, and also contains adult characteristics as well) One thing I do, is watch children (not in a creepy way, I swear!), pay attention to how they interact with each other and adults. I have two younger brothers (both well under the age of 16), and two nieces (one coming up on two yrs and the other will be one). Watching them (especially with each other) gives me ideas for new stories. Be sure to take note in their mannerisms, the words they use, how they seem to see the world, and how they react to the unknown and fear. As always, I stress RESEARCH. Do more and more and more, until you feel like your brain can’t hold any more information, and when you reach that point, research some more still. You can NEVER gather too much information. Of course using all the information you’ve gathered would be a gross overload, but you’ll be able to pick and choose the right characteristics to create the child character that fits just right.

Now, here’s something else I’ve noticed about my using children in horror: I tend to favor boys. I don’t know why. It could be their seemingly constant willingness to prove themselves, or their mindset that they are a “big kid” and can do anything. Girls, I find a little harder to utilize in horror fiction, but that’s not to say I haven’t used a female child antagonist. The Property is a short story I wrote, about a young girl with a fat pet cat who doesn’t come home for his usual breakfast. Worried, the little girl heads out into the marshy swamp her parents own, across the road, in search of her beloved Snuggles. Little does she know, the cat stayed away for a reason. There is something evil lurking in the eighty acres across the road, its following Snuggles deeper and deeper into the swamp, with the little girl in tow. (I need to re-write it because I lost all but one copy of it when I had computer malfunctions back in August and had to do a system recovery.) I also broke my own rule with this one, turning the little girl into a thing of nightmares in the end, however, this is different because she began as the antagonist and fell victim to the evil. In the story, she is a terrifying “thing” for a matter of just a few paragraphs, and it ends on a “what if?” note.

There is no real right or wrong way to use children in horror fiction. Play around with your characters and try something new. Who knows, you may invent a genre of horror of your own.

Do you write about children, or use them in your stories? How does it work for you? Where do you stand on child antagonist vs. child protagonist? Do you have any favorite horror stories with children as the main characters?

Please, feel free to comment. If you don’t get a reply from me, it’s because I feel your comment warrants no reply. If you would like a reply, be sure to ask a question or something that would require an answer or response. I know little to nothing about the etiquette of blogging/comments, and I do have a life of my own and stories to write, so I don’t always take the time to respond. Sorry!

 

We all know how daunting the writing world can be. With stiff competition and a limited selection of publications, it sometimes seems like the world will end before I’ll get anything published (and at this rate, even if we make it past December 21st, I may still see the apocalypse before I see my work in a magazine).

I’m here to offer some encouragement today. It seems to me that too many of us, as writers, focus on what’s wrong with each other’s writing, rather than congratulating each other on a job well done. I’m guilty of it. I didn’t do it to be mean or spiteful, I only gave the open and completely honest opinion I would have wanted, were it my work. While it’s good to be forthcoming on mistakes and parts of stories that just don’t “feel right”, we need to focus a little more on the good, the things that did “feel right” and the things that captured our imaginations.

Here’s what I suggest. Today, while posting, reading others blogs, or whatever you all do on here, take a few extra minutes to find something you really enjoy on some one else’s blog. Leave them a comment, be specific, tell them exactly what you loved about the post (or story or poem or whatever). If each and every one of us were to do this every other time we logged on here, in a matter of a week, many would receive a serious ego boost.

Too long this field has been fiercely competitive, and sometimes down right mean and spiteful. If you would all take a moment to brighten someone’s day, you may be surprised who will do it for you as well.

I’m aiming to put a smile on everyone’s face. Let’s see if it works.

If you think you can’t write, know that you can. All it takes is a pen, paper, and a vocabulary. You think you need some schooling first? Think again, countless authors have foregone college and made amazing careers for themselves. I can’t say that schooling isn’t important, but if you find that you can’t afford it, know that there are ways for you to increase your vocabulary, learn writing skills, and edit like a pro.

For those of us working on our fist novels (and mine’s admittedly not really my first, but my first in this genre, second total), have patience. I know I’ve had a hard time with that. A novel will not write itself over night. It takes time, and even some of the most proficient writers will take a year and a half to two in order to finish a novel. Be patient with yourself, as well as your story. Think of it as a seedling. Just a tiny sprout, still half in its seed shell, bright green in stark contrast to the rich dark dirt. You must water it, fertilize it, give it enough light, and make sure the temperature is warm enough. Much as a tiny sprout will one day turn into a lush lilac tree, weighed down with gorgeous pink-purple blossoms, your novel idea will one day turn into a voluminous and endearing tale of greatness. There are so many different things to consider and keep track of when writing a novel, it’s no wonder it takes so long, and for the beginning writer, this can take twice as long. Don’t worry about the people nagging you, asking when your book will be done so you can sell it and make the big bucks already (my brother-in-law is extremely guilty of this). None of them truly understand how hard you’ve been working, and how much actually goes into a novel. Most people think writing is easy. They say, “I could write a book in a month, and it’d be good.” If they were to actually sit down and begin planning the novel out, they may begin to get the idea that it’s a lot more work than it looks, but it’s not till you’re about half way, that it feels (for me at least) you’re losing momentum. Tell those people that if they think they can write a book in a month, go right ahead. Don’t let the mountainous work ahead of you get you down. Take your time, break it down into smaller workable pieces, and one day it will be done. Regardless of what you initially planned to do with your novel (so far as publishing), know that it is perfectly fine to write for yourself. Just because you spent all that time and aren’t trying to publish doesn’t mean you’re a failure, or that it was a waste of time. When you finish your novel, look back at it and see how far you’ve come. I swear it’s impossible to write a novel without learning something, anything, about the craft. In fact it’s likely that you’ll learn a LOT.

Writing is a lonely task. We have no encouragement, no cheerleaders, no one there to hold our hand and tell us what has to be done to get where we want. Writers are often lost in the dark, with only a small pen-light (like my pun? :D) to illuminate the way. We must feel around for ourselves, find our path, and when it’s laying before us, beckoning us towards our future, our destiny, we cannot turn away. We must press on, in the face of adversity, in the face of negativity and impatience, we must stay on our trail. If we come to a dead-end, we must blaze the trail from there on out, and one day, we WILL make it. We WILL be everything we dreamed and more.

Keep your head up. Keep reading and writing and exploring both the known world and the uncharted depths of your own imagination.

Who knows, you could be the next great novelist (or poet or essayist or what ever you aim to be).

Comment, please. Or comment on someone else’s post, and put a smile on their face.

I’d like to advise a bit on what writing supplies work for me, and why I chose some of the things I use.

First off, notebooks are extremely important. They’re used for so many things, like free writing, jotting down ideas, writing out scenes, writing first drafts, as well as personal writings on your views and opinions of the world around you.

I ALWAYS use composition style notebooks. Why?

I have this nasty habit of throwing things away that don’t suit my standards. Usually it’s not junk either, just ideas only half-formed before writing, or something that needs a little more character or setting development. I do it with my art too (being that I paint, sculpt, draw, and wood burn). If it’s not up to par, it goes.

The way composition notebooks are made suits me well, because when you rip out one page, another comes out with it. Knowing this, I no longer tear out pages with “bad” ideas or writing.

The reason I do this is to prevent myself from tossing something that could one day be re-worked and turned into a masterpiece. (Do you all know the importance of keeping everything when it comes to writing?)

Another very helpful supply I keep in my desk would be note cards. They’re invaluable for writing down notes on previous events (when writing a novel) as well as character notes and descriptions, and I also use them for jotting down research info. So long as you keep them close, they will be of great help.

I’ve gone through working on a novel or long short story and forgot important details from earlier in the story. Rather than scroll back through searching for the info I’ve forgotten, I’ll write down anything I think I may forget on note cards.

Be sure to carefully label them and keep them separated from one story to the next, otherwise you may end up a bit mixed up.

Highlighters are useful as well. I use them for highlighting things I read in articles that inspire me, for highlighting sections of my printed draft that need work. I also use them in the books on writing I’ve purchased to highlight great advice and tips, since they are only mine.

Ever have an idea that you want to think a little more on, but you don’t want to forget about it? Try using sticky notes. I like to write down my partial ideas on them and stick them around my office, to my notebooks, or just around the house. That way when I look at them, I’m reminded of the idea and can sometimes come up with the once elusive other half to them.

When re-writing edited work (I print the stories out and go back through them with a pen. I find it helps me to see the problems better when my writing is not on a screen.) I use a red ink pen. Sure, black or blue work just fine, but I’ve found that I’ll sometimes miss mistakes I’ve corrected with a black pen because it does not catch my eye as well as the red ink will.

Since organization is key (though not my strong suit), try keeping printed previous drafts, as well as ideas, in file folders. I keep mine in a filing cabinet, but even if you don’t, the tabs are still helpful for finding the right folder. I like keeping various copies and drafts of the same story in the same file, but you can separate between drafts or whatever.

And those are just a few. Try out different things. You may find a certain style of something works better for you.

Got any special tools that help you with your writing? Share them! I’m always looking for ways to improve my writing process, skills, and my office.

Thanks for reading. Take care of yourselves and have a great day.

For those of you who don’t know, as of the 15th of November, white tail rifle season started in Northeastern Michigan. It’s a wonderful time of year, when you’re more likely than ever to be run off the road by a bunch of idiots drinking beer. However, it is good for the economy (because we get lots of out-of-towners and out-of-staters), and I just love spending a few day out at camp, drinking, playing cards, and just having a good time. Besides that, I love hunting.

Rather than join my husband at camp for the first few days of season, I’d opted to stay home in order to get some work done on my writing. But, I didn’t. I spent two days farting around on the internet, watching TV, running errands in town, and drinking wine. I wonder why I do this to myself, all the freakin time.

Any way, needless to say, it’s been a rather unproductive few days, and I’m feeling it, mentally that is. If you write, you may know what I’m getting at here.

I find that my thought process works much differently for writing, than it does for almost any other task, such as speaking, problem solving, personal interactions, general pondering, etc. When I get myself into that thought process, I could write for hours, days, weeks even, on end. I could write until my hands fell off, and still be bursting with ideas and new things to say. Lately, that very thought process has been a bit harder to achieve. I think it’s because I too easily allow distractions to break my attention to my work.

It’s taking me a while, but I’m slowly learning the conditions I need in order to write productively. Here are those I can think of:

  • No cell phones
  • No TV
  • No conversation (even in the slightest)
  • Generally silence helps, but occasionally I’ll listen to a certain style of music to inspire myself
  • No leaving the room (Basically I stay in my office, if I’m using my desk, or the bedroom or living room if I’m using my lap desk. Accept for bathroom breaks!)
  • No people (they too easily distract)
  • No pets (they generally crave attention that I can’t give them while writing, and they also distract)
  • No internet (Unless it’s for research purposes, and generally I’ll only stop writing if I absolutely cannot go on without certain information. Otherwise it must wait.)
  • Alcohol (I know what you’re probably thinking, that it’s all in my head that I write better drunk, and that could very well be the case. However, I feel that drinking loosens my grip on society’s norms, allowing eccentric ideas to flow easier. Which, as a horror author, IS what I want. And, I don’t drink every time I write, only occasionally, since it’s not very awesome to start at ten in the morning.)
  • Cigarettes (Only because I’m addicted.)
  • Comfy clothes
  • Moderate/comfortable room temperature

I may not have listed all, but that’s all I could come up with for now. Everyone has different condition requirements for productive writing, so what works for me may not work for you. I can only suggest, and of course not all my suggestions are the best.

It’s my belief, that the part of your brain used for writing is like a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets. So after half a week of slacking, I’m having a hard time using my writing muscle. This issue should be remedied, come Tuesday, as Monday I’ll be back on schedule, and writing regularly again, in my optimal environment.

I’m sure most of you writers out there have heard of this, but I feel it should be mentioned as I’ve been discussing conducive writing conditions. When you’re not feeling well (emotionally or physically) and you write, the reader will be able to tell, and your condition/feelings will be reflected in your writing. Basically a good day makes for good writing, and a bad day makes for bad writing. Now this is just a rule of thumb. Say you’re home sick, eating your chicken noodle soup and lounging about the house, and you’ve just come up with this marvelous idea for a short story or novel. By all means, have at it. Write your story, or at least get your ideas on paper. If I had to guess, the rule is more for emotional distress, but for me, sometimes being sick can bring feelings of helplessness, and that upsets me.

As always, these are mere suggestions (and not very good ones at that), and I’d like to mention they may not work for everyone, and everyone may not agree with them. These are only what works for me. How do you find what works for you? Experiment, try things, just do it, and you’ll learn as you go.

I hope all my readers are having a great weekend so far. =]

Questions? Comments? Feel free! I love to hear back from you all. If you have any thing to add, or suggestions, or want to share your own conducive writing conditions, please do.

After three hours of cleaning Wednesday, and two hours of frustrated screaming at my printer, I’ve finally got my new-used desk put in place, my new(ish) printer set up, and my office clean and ready for maximum efficiency.

It’s freeing to clear out all the clutter and make room for my creativity to flow and grow. There’s still a bunch of stuff that needs to be sorted through and probably thrown out, in my office, but at least my desk and the area around it is organized and clean.

The used desk I bought (for only $26 at the local re-store) is oddly comfortable, already, and I think besides it being probably the best deal I will ever see on such a nice desk, it’s where I will hopefully spend hours and hours typing away and finishing my novel.

What novel? You may ask.

I’ve mentioned it before, in my post about creating monsters. Titled Lashine, I have around a hundred and thirty pages done, and am nearing the end. Yet I find it almost impossible to bring myself to finish it. I started the novel probably close to two years ago. Six to eight months of that time it has been just sitting in the memory on my computer (and a flash drive, remember the importance of backing up?), collecting dust, feeling lonely, and wondering if it will ever be whole.

Recently I’ve been under more pressure to finish Lashine. My Mom asked if I’d written the ending yet, and when I told her I hadn’t, she asked why not. I thought about it, and replied that I don’t know how I want it to end (not that I have a whole lot of control over it because at this point my characters are so strong they are doing things I hadn’t expected, which should make it easier to finish, but for some reason it’s just making it harder for me). Besides that, my brother-in-law, has been asking me every time he comes over if my novel is done yet and when am I going to sell it and get rich and share my wealth with everyone. While I know his expectations are beyond unrealistic (only because he is ignorant to the ways of publication and how hard it is to get a damn manuscript accepted), his (and my Mom’s) point is always clear and the same. “Why haven’t you finished your novel already?”

It’s become something of a nightmare phrase to me. “Why haven’t you finished your novel already?” I hear it all the time now. In my head, mostly, and when I pass a stranger on the street, it seems their eyes scream the same question. I know, it sounds like madness, but rather it’s my sub-conscious mind telling me that I can’t put it off much longer. Everywhere I look, I am reminded of it, of my own constantly preoccupied nature, and my willingness to procrastinate. It’s really starting to get to me, eat at me, and I do stop occasionally to wonder why I am doing this to myself.

I fear I’ve already lost the flow and ambition I once had to write that particular story. But does that mean I cannot finish it? Of course not.

This is largely what my getting organized is rooted in. I feel that now, with less clutter, and more ambition, I can and absolutely will bring myself to finish all my half-done stories, novels, etc. (Well, maybe not all, because looking back, some of them really are crap and should be left in the deep, dark, dusty files of my laptop.)

The funny thing is, I’ve done this before. I may have mentioned a teen novel about a young woman who fights to take control of her own life, and seek revenge, that I’ve written. I’m not particularly happy with. It was my first attempt at writing a novel, and the first large project I started on. I had most of the story written, and as I neared the end, I found myself losing momentum. I didnt’ stop to think why, or how it happened, but looking back, I think I became disheartened to see that soon my work would be over, and I would have the laborious task of beginning a new project (which as some of you know is A LOT of work when it comes to a novel, with research and building characters and chosing settings etc.). There was a period of time when I didn’t write at all. My novel sat, collecting dust, and life went on. Then, during a family crisis, I found I needed an outlet. I chose writing because it just felt so expressive. I wrote one short story and put my whole heart and soul into it (it was just a writing exercise in the beginning, but turned into so much more). Looking back at that short story, I can see through the story line to the root of the feelings that kept me writing it. The hardship I was going through at the time has so many correlations to the story, and the underlying issues in my psyche. Writing that story helped me to voice the feelings I couldn’t comprehend or speak aloud. This would  probablymake a lot more sense if I told you what happened, but I respect privacy too much for that. Suffice to say, it was difficult for everyone involved and everyone close to everyone involved, and I am so grateful we made it through. Any way, back to the point of the novel. The short story got me going on writing again. I wrote more and more short stories, and edited and re-edited them. Finally I went back to my teen novel, and found that I’d developed my writing skills to a point where it would be not only easy but enjoyable to finish the story. And that’s just what I did.

In the time since, I’ve decided not to try selling my first completed novel. While the storyline is decent-ish, I suppose, it took me so long to finish it, that when I read through the whole thing, I can recognize the different tones and voices I’d used trying to get it to feel just right. Therefore, it is all over the place. I’ve gone through and spell checked and done some editing, but none of it seems to help the fact that it’s just all over the place. Maybe one day I’ll pull it out and try re-writing it, but for now, it’s staying as it is, where it is.

Basically, my first attempt at a novel turned out somewhat embarrassing. However, I am re-energized and ready to finish my second novel. For the time being, I have decided I will send out the few short stories that I feel are ready for publication, and work on Lashine.

I’ll let you all know when I finish it. Hopefully this time it will be something I can be proud of, and send out to publishers.