Monday, 29 October 2012

Schrodinger's Horror

Welcome to the experiment.

Some of you will be in no doubt of what Schrodinger's Cat is. That is not what I am here to discuss. I will briefly summarize it, but if you would like to know about his experiment please visit the wiki page on it here.

For the purpose of this post I wish to try to relay a very small part of the Schrodinger's Cat Thought Experiment and show you how perception of horror can be changed. How you can make your audience feel things in new ways.

It started when I was reading about the Schrodinger experiment. The premise (put extremely simply) is that a cat is placed and sealed in a box with a device which has a random chance of killing the cat. This means that the cat can be thought of as both dead and alive because it is unobserved. Then I started thinking about the box. The thought of opening it to find Mr. Tiddles bounding into your arms, wondering why you'd locked him in a box, or, a dead cat. The ex Mr. Tiddles.

That moment.

That moment right there, before you open the box, is where you feel horror.

So now, I ask that you step into that moment. I'm going to ask you to commit. To join with me in an experiment.

Below is a video. It is a video that contains footage of a real life accident. (Nothing illegal for me to show, I assure you.) But in order for me to relay the feelings that I wish to, I'm going to ask you now to either stop reading, or commit yourself to watching the video.

If you are not going to watch the video, the feelings are flawed and the experiment a failure.

If you are still here then you have decided to watch the video and I will continue.

The video below is an excerpt of footage filmed as part of a German Car Advertisement. During the filming (on the footage below) one member of the film crew is struck by the car, clearly on camera. He was hurt - quite badly - but not fatally.

You are going to watch that footage. You have already committed to doing this.

How do you feel? Are you nervous? Scared? Butterflies?

The choice now removed, you will feel some attraction towards the video. It's now falling into the 'forbidden fruit' territory. I have taken away your right to say no. You can say it was my fault. 

Tell me, are you a little excited? My stomach twists with excitement being in control like this.

The way you feel being the audience of horror is like this, but this is heightened. You are going to do something closer to real than being the audience of fiction.

You are now the audience of fact.

The feelings that you are experiencing now are part of the apprehension of horror. You are going to do something that you know you shouldn't. You feel aroused by the fact that your choice has been taken away. You have to do it. You have no choice.

Do it.

Play the video:


Now do you understand?

Do you know where you have to take your readers in order to show them the horror?

Do you feel different?

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Being an Author: Reflections...

So I'm in the middle of stuff. I mean, loadsastuff. I've got half written collections, new collections, collections waiting to be published. Shorts waiting editing, shorts out on tout. Novel in editing. Novel half written.


Most of the time I just plug at it. Chip away. Sob. Drink.

But I have reflected.

Not so long ago I was writing for anthologies. Solely. I would write for specific calls and then submit. I think I did well.

Wow. That was a buzz. Sending off two, three, five shorts a week - and the flash - and then waiting. The biting of nails. The wailing. The gnashing of teeth.

The rejections.
The acceptances.

I don't get that now. Not really. I've got some stuff out, but at the moment, and through most of this year I've been working on things that take time. When I started writing these things that take time, I was of the opinion that it was going to be easy, you know, three novels in the first year, couple of collections...

... well life's not like that. Sometimes it gets in the way. And then... oh yes... and then writing a novel isn't the end of it. 'Bout to start the next draft.

Day after day passes...
Week after week...
Month after month...

You know what? I miss the buzz.

Just sometimes. And I look at my collection of unfinished collections, novels and collaborations, and say, 'No. Finish what you have begun first. Take time to find the buzz later.'

Am I right?

Any writer that moves from shorts to novels must feel it. I can't be alone. Can I?

'Til next time...

PS: Wanna play a game?

The upcoming post 'Schrodinger's Horror' is a participation event. Monday coming. Be a part of the experiment. Here.  

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Dark Thoughts: A Review

I have to admit that I had never read any of Martin Reaves work before this. That is something that I wish now to remedy.

Dark Thoughts is a collection of shorts (I suppose you could say Dark Fantasy but I prefer Horror), that makes your skin crawl.

Like, really crawl.

The stories are not horrible. That much I must make clear and that I don't mean horrible to be icky.

This is not a collection of blood soaked monstrocities for the gore hound.

Some of these will make you not want to finish them for fear of what might happen. I don't honestly know how Martin emotes his characters in the way that he does.

In shorts, some no more wordy than flash fiction, Martin is piling on the raw emotion of the characters in sad, horrible and blood curling situations.

Some of the tales leave you shuddering in the dark saying 'Thank God, this isn't happening to me', and others leave a lump in your throat saying, 'Thank God, this isn't happening to me'.

Whichever type you're reading, it's a roller coaster.

You can get Dark Thoughts on Amazon US Paper Back and on Kindle Amazon US and Amazon UK.

Go and buy it. You'll thank me.


Sunday, 21 October 2012

Earth's End: A Review

Earth's End is an apocalyptic collection of shorts edited by Rebecca Besser, published by our friends at Wicked East Press.

So after my last review where I skewed off into a whole different genre, what was it like slipping back to the comfort of a bit of dark fantasy, a bit of sci fi, a bit of horror?

Interesting.

Firstly, it would be remiss of me not to mention the editing of the book. Whilst I would not normally mention the editor personally in a review, it has to be said that Rebecca Besser has done a stand out job. With small press publications, I have seen many people bashing the editor for not doing a good job - for making mistakes - but never do I see anyone congratulating the editor on a fine job. And this is a fine job. But enough back-slapping of editors. Onto the content.

The anthology contains work by authors: Kris Triana, Suzanne Robb, Mark M. Johnson, Nicky Peacock, Pedro Cerda & Daniel Stiles, Rebecca Besser, Darren Gallagher and Kim Curley (novella).

The stories are good. They are well told and convey largely what they are supposed to. The only issue I had was that two of the stories just needed... more story. As my complaint is that I wanted more, is that really a complaint? It is also not that the two stories were rushed, or incomplete. I just wanted to play in the worlds created for me, more.  This is my only note-worthy gripe and it is extremely personal. Most people I'm sure would disagree.

Ranging from (and being vague because I don't do spoilers) religious overtones (as one expects in apocalyptic tales) to monsters crawling around the wasteland, the collection has something for everyone who is a fan of the genres. It is also worth saying that the collection works extremely well together. Jumps from character hard pieces to science fiction and then action horror can be jarring and a tough sell. This collection works. 

As I said, it is well edited, so it flows fault free, the authors clearly know their aims in story-telling and how to work their genre and the requirements of making a world that you cannot see believable, particularly in such short word counts.

For me the stand out story was 'Hell on Earth' by Darren Gallagher. It is action heavy, reliant on Darren's ability to draw a scene quickly with a great deal of movement. Certainly a hard sell in a short story. It is done extremely competently. Not only does Darren move from locale to locale taking just enough time to paint the picture - but not too much - he also sells the characters and slips in a twist. It is a shock, as well.

If you are a fan of dark fiction, fantasy, sci fi or horror, or just well told stories, go and buy it. Buy it now. It is available on Amazon US and Amazon UK.  

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Being an Author: Writing Your First Novel: Part 8

Third draft done.

Antagonist? Weird. Sinister. Complicated. Evil. A whole character. Or two.

Annoyance?

I promised myself at the end of this draft I would shelve it for a week or two and now I don't want to. I want to start four. (How many drafts should there be?)

Maybe it's time to read it? Just do a dry run like I did when I'd finished writing it.

How many problems are there?

Does it still make sense?

Will it stink now? More than before? (I'm unwilling to go through that again. Well, that much alchohol, anyway.)

It's not long enough. I've cut out more than I've put in... Can I put pictures in, you know, like in essays for school. Something pretty? (No, you can't have pictures of my girlfriend!)

...and when the head of the struggling author explodes, the best thing that the reader can do is buy more of his books...

I'm going away to think.

I want to say something inspirational for those of you that actually want something inspirational:

...um...

Draft it 'til you like it. Then draft it again.

'Til next time...

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Being an Author: Ganking the Cast...

So there are two questions here. The first is do you murder the cast of players in the story (long or short) and the second, if you do, in what unspeakable way should you kill them off?

To kill or not to kill, that is the question...

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to make them suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune,
or to remove their arms against a sea of zombies and by opposing end them: to die, to sleep.

I paraphrase, of course.

Before deciding on the answer, firstly consider: Will you ever want to return to this universe that you are creating?

Now you can of course return to the universe without using the same characters, but anyone will tell you that having at least some familiar faces is required. But I'm talking about the main cast. The Han and Luke, the Kirk and McCoy. And what about the antagonist?

So many questions...

Killing off your antagonist is easy, sometimes required, and unlikely to make the reader feel bad. Also, continuing anew in the same universe usually gives the expectation of new villains. Sure, if you're writing a collection of books, an arcing storyline is inevitable - usually with the same villain - but if you are writing something thillery or mystery-y then the reader will expect a new threat with each one. Sorted.

Killing off the protagonists? That's a whole different bag.

I think it's easiest to look at it like this: How negative is it going to be on the tale?

Without sounding like I think you should pander to the reader - read it yourself, the same applies - look at the impact on the story. I have always maintained that writing a player out as opposed killing them off is a decision to be made at the time. Not something that can be plotted.(Yes, an argument for when pantsing is the right way to go)

It depends on the moment. Don't kill them off because you want to. Don't kill them off because you 'should'. Don't kill them off because they are thoroughly evil and need to die. Kill them off because it is right for them to be killed off. Vader died right. He could have just been cut in half. Ending? The same. Meaning? Well, it would have been a different story, right?

So then, how should you kill off the killers, the heros and the innocents?

This one is easy to answer. Well, it's easy to say.

Kill them with heart. Kill them like you mean it. Like you want them to die.

But.

Make their death mean something.

Kill a hero with sacrifice, kill a villain with renewed honor, and sometimes...

... just sometimes...

... kill them 'cause you wanna.

'Til next time... 

PS: Go here. Read it.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Facebook Flash Fiction: The Last Minion




Todays Facebook Flash Fiction (Free and from Friday) comes with prompts courtesy of Dale Eldon and Rebecca Besser. Dale prompted the line: 'The man sat alone in a chair, hiding his face from a marshmallow Easter Chick that peeked at him from across the coffee table, when...' and Rebeeca followed in with: 'Disaster, depression, and insanity'. What has been created is a post apocolyptic tale of bizarro. I cannot think of it any other way.

FilingWords are proud to bring you:

The Last Minion

Aaron sat in one of the two chairs adorning what could be called the living space of his log cabin. The other chair had long been vacated. And the cabin was only his because he said it was his. No one had ever argued.

No one argued because Aaron was alone. He had been now for many years.

He’d had that dream again last night. It was now officially recurring. Five times made it recurring. At least in Aaron’s mind it did. The dream was about small birds. Hundreds and hundreds of yellow chicks – like the ones you used to get on Easter cards. The first time he had it, after he awoke and rose, sitting at his table he’d toyed with his homemade marshmallow squares and small wooden cocktail sticks. As his mind wandered, his hands found themselves fashioning a baby chick out mallow and stick. It was quite cute really.

He decided to keep it.

At least mallow hardens and doesn’t go moldy. Well, it doesn’t in two weeks anyway.

He stared at his five marshmallow effigies; one morbid, misshapen reminder of his bizarre dream after another. An army standing upon the mantle. One for each recurrence of the dream. Staring at him.

He looked away as if they might judge him for staring. He even went as far as to cover his face. Maybe if he did that, they’d stop staring back.

Sitting alone, hiding his face, there was a knock at the door. A slow, somber, knock.

He must have imagined it, of course. No one had knocked on the door of the cabin since… well, not long after The Event. Not since Caden had left. Caden left to get supplies from the city – or what was left of it – three – maybe four? – years ago now. Aaron was beginning to think he might not be coming back.

But if that was a knock at the door?

Maybe Caden was back. Aaron stood, turning in excitement towards the door, and then stopping himself. But what if it wasn’t Caden? Is this how he was to die?

Aaron stood. Silent. His mind torn between opening the door, and leaving it – pretending he wasn’t home. Surely they’d just leave if there was no one home?

Knock. Knock. Knock.

Each thump against the wood reverberated around the cabin. Definitely knocking. Someone really is there. Aaron shook himself out of this waking paralysis he seemed to have drifted into. Hm. He should do something. He walked over to the door, sucked air deep into his lungs and swung the door open.

Half expecting Caden, half expecting some sort of horrid death to befall him, Aaron looked somewhat bewildered at the young girl on the other side of the door. She looked about fourteen. She had dusty blond hair tied in pigtails, deep penetrating blue eyes and was wearing a Girl Scout uniform. She looked Aaron straight in the eyes and nodded passed him saying, “Is it alright if I, um, come in?”
            With a sudden sting of natural politeness – a flashback to days long passed – Aaron stepped aside, allowing the girl to enter, and watched her walk over to the two chairs and sit in Caden’s.
            “Please,” the girl gestured into the opposing chair.
            Aaron looked out of the still open door onto the grasses overlooking the lake, glanced around, and then closed the door, satisfied that the girl certainly appeared alone. He looked at her and smiled. His smile was crooked. “Would you like coffee?” he asked, “I can boil a drum of water.”
            The girl shook her head. “Please Aaron,” she said, “sit.”
            Aaron did as she asked, sat opposite her, and asked how she knew his name.
            “I know many things. Just as I knew that this was Caden’s chair did I know your name.” She spoke beyond her years. “Tell me, why have you been so sad recently?”
            Aaron was unsure of how to react and so fell once again on natural instinct. He sat back and crossed his legs in front of himself, resting his hands in his lap: Like he was at a job interview. “I have been struggling to stay… myself these days,” he explained, “I have become disillusioned spending all this time alone. It has depressed me. I’ve also started acting…” he stopped short.
            “Yes?” the girl’s tone was insistent.
            “Strangely.” Aaron concluded. “I don’t think I’m quite myself anymore.”
            “That is not a surprise though,” she said, “is it? You have been here alone with no one to talk to, touch, or share your feelings with for so long. Do you blame yourself?”
            Aaron shook his head and spoke calmly but with conviction. “No. I blame…” he thought for a second, “the government for not telling us what was happening when the things fell from the sky. I blame the military for not protecting us from what came with those things, the monsters inside. I blame God for letting it happen.”
            The girl nodded. “Good. None of this is your fault Aaron. It was all God’s fault. Those things,” she continued, “they still live in the cities, the monsters from the sky.”
            Aaron glanced over to the window as if he expected to see one of them there, ready to break through the glass and reach inside: A nightmare that Aaron had had four times. It didn’t bother him. It wasn’t recurring.
            “Don’t worry,” the girl continued, “you are quite safe here. You see, they don’t leave the city. They are more than at home there, where they are.”
            Aaron was visually relieved. “So, what can I do for you…?” He trailed off. He didn’t know her name.
            “Lucy,” she said, “my name is Lucy.”
            “So what can I do for you, Lucy?” Aaron smiled. It was a pretty name. It suited her.
            “I need…” she stopped and thought, looking continuously into Aarons eyes. “I need someone to take charge for me. You see, I’m not the person I used to be.”
            Aaron shook his head. “I don’t understand.”
            Lucy frowned. “I need someone to lead an army.”
            Aaron chuckled. “Oh. I see. An army of dolls? Are you sure you wouldn’t like to have a coffee? I can heat up a drum.”
            Lucy’s frown deepened. “You do not understand. The war must be fought. You must be the leader. You must take back what once was ours.”
            Aaron shook his head. “But little girl, what would you have me do? I am but one man. Possibly not an entirely… together one, at that.”
            Lucy stood. “You must take a mighty army and lead them into the city. You are the last. The only hope.”
            Aaron continued with the head shaking. “I’m sorry,” he said, “you have the wrong man.”
            “Aaron Littlebottom.” Lucy became agitated, she stood and raised her voice – still squeaky as it was. “You are the only one left. You are the last man. You must lead the army.”
            “What army?” Aaron countered in a shout. He withdrew quickly. He knew that shouting at little girls was wrong… although he couldn’t quite remember why.
            “The army is of your choice.”
            “What!?” Aaron became flustered. His first human contact in what felt like a lifetime had led him to be shouting at a little girl that he did didn’t know about an inconceivable war with soldiers of his choosing. He slumped back in the chair. His eyes wandered over to his marshmallow chick army and he smiled.
            Lucy rubbed her eyes. “You really are mad aren’t you?” she said, rhetorically. “No,” she said, “not those.”
            Aaron’s eyes darted back to the girl, then to the mallow army, then back to her. “Why?”
            “Shut up,” she said. “What about Caden?”
            “Caden? Caden isn’t coming back.” Aaron had reverted to looking at the mallow chicks.
            “I can make Caden come back, Aaron, him… and everyone else.”
            “How?” Aaron didn’t understand. How could she? None of this made any sense. He was the last? The last man? But Caden could come back?
            Lucy shook her head. “Tell you what. You open the door. You see the army before you.”
            Aaron stood and walked over to the door. He gripped the handle and looked back to Lucy. “I’d like to see you pull this one out of the hat…”

            Aaron opened the door. Caden was standing at the front of a large group of shambling, mindless looking grotesques. More of them were shuffling towards the cabin to join the group.
            Aaron closed the door. “Army of the undead, huh?”
            Lucy smiled. “Well,” she said, “God would have done angels, I’m sure, but I am left with the dregs. All to clean up his mess…”
            Aaron looked at his marshmallow chick army. She was right. They were no good. He needed zombies. Zombies were, after all, the solution to everything.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Being an Author: Writing Your First Novel, Part 7

The first novel that an author writes is likely the longest time said author would have spent on a single piece. This is true for me. Also, I pretty much shelved it half way through first draft for a few months.

So I'm nearly a year on from when I started writing this one piece.

One year. One whole year.

As a writer I've been on a journey. I've grown. Changed. Matured. My writing journey, along with my life journey has skewed off in directions I didn't see coming. I have barely subbed at all to the markets that made me the writer I am now, for months. For that I am sad. But that is not a 'novel' post. This is:

My journey in this year as a person and a writer have changed me. Now in edits, it's changing my novel. What once was 'finished' is now undergoing major surgery.

Thug, or stylized killer?
I didn't like the way my antagonist spoke. His dialogue had to change. That changed his demeanour. Now, his actions. Next it will be his motivation. Then, his state of mind.

I'm changing.

He's changing.

It has to be done. Where once I would have been happy with his thug behaviour, he is now becoming a nuanced killer. More damaged. Less predictable.



These re-writes are faster though. I understand the killer on the page. I understand myself. I understand my writing.

What am I trying to say?

Don't be afraid.

In part 6 I said I wasn't afraid anymore. I was striding. Conquering. Kicking ass. I didn't really think a week later it would lead me to this. The blood and tears shed when I read the completed first draft. Have led me here.

Somewhere around part 3 I hated my novel.

Soon, I expect to be proud of it.

Hack out the bad parts. Don't be afraid to kill it. It will be reborn from the ashes. Faster and stronger than before.

'Til next time.

Monday, 1 October 2012

Being an Author: Perspective.

It's not until I found myself on the editing side of a novel that this has actually come up.

Perspective.

When I write a short it is generally from the perspective of a specific character. The novel, not so much. So I have now come across it. It has given me headaches, sure, but for the first time I'm looking at it, and I can already see applications.

So first off, what should perspective be?

Perspective (narrative point of view) is the position of the narrator of a story. Put simply it is the person whose shoulder you sit upon when hearing the story. Usually this is the hero.

In my example of shorts, I find (and it is only my opinion) that shorts generally have one POV. In a novel - unless one person is to be seen in each scene - perspective will change.

Think: Protagonist and Antagonist.

So what can we do with perspective?

Perspective can be used to bend a story. Think real-life for a moment. I am here. I am doing this. From another's point of view they may think me to be doing something else now. #Confusion.


Now if we POV the story:

"Mark will have left work by now. He'll be in Bar 46, down the High Street, on the corner. It's a seedy joint. Lot of old timers use it to pick up skirt. Young skirt. Too young, sometimes. That and the dealers. There are always dealers there."

Scum, aren't I? I'm in a bar, smoking weed and picking up jail bait.

But that's POV. That was all supposition. Look at the way it's worded. No 'has', only 'will have' 

Now use it to toy with the reader. Change perceptions using perspective. Wend your trap. Spring it. Make the reader say, "No way."

Out loud.

Dare you.

'Til next time...

P.S. I think I'm getting the hang of this you know. But that's the next 'Writing Your First Novel'. Everything changes.