Posts Tagged ‘Writing Tools’

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!

 

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I wanted to write a post on something I’ve been thinking about more and more as I age. One thing I’m so very thankful for is my hands. Without them, it would be nearly impossible to write.

Don’t take this the wrong way, I’m not trying to rub it in for anyone with a disability.

My hands are very near and dear to my heart. They do everything for me (and sometimes I wonder if they have a mind of their own) and without them I would be lost. If you really think about it, hand are the most basic and useful writing tool EVER.

I do my best to take very good care of my hands, keeping them moisturized, ensuring any wounds heal well, and avoiding too much strenuous labor that may pull muscles or break bones (which is not to say I won’t haul wood or something, but I do watch out for injuries). I’m oftentimes meticulous about my nails, how they’re painted, the length, and the shape.

Despite my efforts, I can feel them starting to change. I get aches and pains in my wrists, and the joints of my fingers get sore. My hands occasionally swell too. I was diagnosed with a circulation disorder, where my hands and feet often can’t hold heat, due to poor blood flow. Half the fingers on my hands have gone numb and white due to lack of circulation and cold conditions, on multiple occasions. It’s times like those that I really start worrying. I know that if an extremity doesn’t get blood for too long, it can cause nerve damage and may need amputation. Generally I run for the closest bathroom and run warm to hot water over my hands, but there are times when that just doesn’t seem to work. So I pinch and squeeze my fingers, literally pushing the blood back into the tips and getting it flowing again. I don’t know how I’d get used to typing and writing without a couple fingers.

For me, losing my hands, or even some fingers, could be devastating, and there are those out there who live every day without hands or without other seemingly vital body parts. Each and every day that my hands and fingers work with the skill and precision I need, I give thanks. I give thanks for their hard work and dedication, and for all the things I put them through, and they still won’t leave me.

Dear Hands,

Thank you so much for being there for me.

Thanks for all the help. Thanks for sticking

by my sides, right and left. I love you both.

-Lakin

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope you all took some time to reflect on what you’re truly grateful for, be it body parts, loved ones, events, items, or whatever. If you love something and are thankful for it, let it know. =]

Or let me know with a comment. It’s up to you.

I look forward to hearing from you. Enjoy the rest of your holiday weekend.

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.