25 Nov

How to Help Readers Scare Themselves – #SpookyAllYear

Spooky All Year banner 2

Spooky All Year is a blog hop I’m running over The Midnight Society! As you can probably guess, it’s where we post spooky stuff! Yeah!

I made all the banners for people to use. It’s good to have pictures in your posts, and people are always struggling with what to put in there, so I thought I’d make it easy. This one always makes me smile. I think that ghost is totally shocked at all the cats, like holy crap, why are you all different sizes like that, cats? That’s…. spooky!

ahs are you afraid

Okay, now time for my actual post, yes? Let’s talk about writing scary shit!

When I’m brainstorming scenes for a story, I’ll often make out a list of things that frighten me. When most people do this they’re going to list off things like snakes, heights, spiders, ghosts! But when I go to look up quotes from authors, I find many variations of:

“The unseen enemy is always the most fearsome.”
― George R.R. Martin

“Nothing is more frightening than a fear you cannot name.”
― Cornelia Funke, Inkheart

The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.
H. P. Lovecraft

Writers use this knowledge all the time. Most commonly, we talk about having an unknowable threat. Slasher stories are a great example. We know there is a killer out there, but who is it? The tension has us on the edge of our seats the whole story! You find out a little bit more, you think you know who it is, but until you know you don’t really know, and that is scary. They could pop up any second! You could be talking to them right now!

Spooky.

When we watch these movies, we try to fill in the gaps ourselves, guessing who the killer is the whole time. If you don’t tell your audience something, they will try to fill it in for themselves. If this is an accident on the writer’s part this can go badly, but when used intentionally, this can give the audience the perfect opportunity to fill it in with whatever is scariest for them.

When a writer first sets out to write something frightening, the instinct is often to show the most frightening thing they could think of. The thing right in the center of it all. They start off talking about the big scary spider, and then they describe its hairy legs and the size of it, and every single detail they can pull out of their minds. But for some reason, the description doesn’t feel… scary. It feels like it’s trying, very very hard.

When you rewrite that scene, try writing from further away. Instead of starting with the big scary spider, have Ron and Harry following a trail of little spiders (ah, Harry Potter!) or describe the size of the room this beast is taking up. Don’t look at the spider, look around it.

Let me reference some examples here to show what I mean.

One of my favorite tension setting monsters are the reavers in Firefly. In the beginning of the show, we don’t see the reavers. We don’t have to. What we see is how completely terrified the characters are of this threat. First we see that Mal, the captain who has handled other threats without showing any fear, is scared. He jumps to attention and takes the threat seriously. We learn more when Zoe, second in command and always in control, tells us very little about the actual reavers, but about what she believes the reavers would do them if they found them. Horrible monsters! Doing horrible things! But we don’t know anything about them, and we’re terrified of them.

And that’s because the writers, for a long time, simply let us fill in the picture ourselves. By the time we do finally see them, it almost doesn’t matter what they look like or do, because we have a built up fear about them. The viewer has painted their own picture in their minds about what scares them most, and that has become the reavers for them.

So how did the writers do that, exactly? How can you write something spooky without describing it in detail?

Start from further away.

If you’re writing something bloody and you want it to be really scary, describe the blood splatter on the walls, the reactions of the people seeing it, the smell in the room. If you’re visualizing the scene in front of you, ignore the central figure. Write about what is happening all around it. Readers will fill in the center of that image from there.

If you’re writing about a ghost, show things moving on the table, the lights flickering, cold spots in the room. (We’ve all seen this done, right? It’s still scary when done well.)

If you’re writing about a city full of vampires, don’t show the vampires straight away. Instead, show humans running around the city, thinking they see something in the shadows. Show blood drops on the sidewalk and have the humans run a little faster. Have them hear leaves rustling.

You get the idea.

This isn’t a fast and hard rule. I don’t want you to come back and tell me that you were trying to write about a big scary spider, wrote all around it, but then it turned out no one else knew it was a spider and your story was super confusing. Tell your readers things! Just, select what you want to tell them skillfully. Try to use your readers own imaginations against them! I promise, it’s fun.

18 Feb

Liebster Tag: 11 Questions and Random Facts About Your Favorite Topic: ME!

Hello there! The often intimidating (LOOK AT HER WEBSITE! JUST LOOK AT IT! The typewriter has bat wings!) Kira Butler, co-blogger over at The Midnight Society (she designed that header. LOOK AT IT!) tagged me in this Liebster thing. Kira loves, and writes, horror. And as I mentioned, can be intimidating in all of her awesomeness. So when she tells you to do something, you do it.

Which is how I come to be breaking my blog silence.

I’m about to answer 11 questions about myself/my writing. They’re fascinating. And then I’m going to list 11 random facts about me, BECAUSE YOU HUNGRY BLOG READERS JUST CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF ME, RIGHT? And then I’m going to tag some blogs you should check out, and those people are going to answer 11 of MY questions. You clear on how this is going down? Good.

rules-for-liebster-award-1024x819

What is your favourite thing about writing horror?

Making people uncomfortable.

I’m a scaredy cat who jumps at little sounds. I enjoy how putting that to a purpose (writing horror) makes me feel like there’s a cosmic reason for embarrassing myself when I scream at the pet store.

Tell us about your writing process.

I get an idea. And then I write all of that out on paper. Sometimes there are scenes, eventually there’s an outline. A lot of the time I cut the first paper up and then reorganize my notes into an order that makes some sense.

Then I open up a document and type all of that in. One file is the one I’m writing in. Another one is my outline. Another is my editing file–this is so that when I finish drafting a chapter and think of some things that would have made it better, I can write myself a note for editing later and continue drafting without getting distracted. I also make another folder, where I collect quotes and pictures for inspiration when I get stuck later.

I also make a playlist for the story, which is a great way to distract myself when I’m stuck and wasting my time.

And then I write. And I write. And I write some more.

Where does your inspiration come from?

All I want to do is raise an eyebrow and say, “My brain,” but since I’m so bad at raising just one eyebrow, I feel like I have to take the question more seriously.

My inspiration comes from my life. Little moments that eat away at my brain. Moments that won’t let go. You’d think it would always be a big moment, or an important theme in my life, but sometimes it’s that I’m in bed and wish I could turn off the light without getting up, or the way the rain is hitting the window and sounds like they’re finally coming for me. (the mice, obviously.)

Do you ever scare yourself? How do you break past the wall and dig deeper?

That’s a double question Kira, but okay.

Yes, I have scared myself.

I am terrified of mice. TERRIFIED. And after having cause to tell people about this quite a bit, and realizing few people understood, I joked that I was going to write some stories that would make the people who thought I was weird scared of mice. Except, as often happens with me, my jokes became serious. I recently wrote a scene in my story Brody Undead and while I’m not yet sure that anyone else will find it frightening, I had a hard time finishing the scene because it freaked me out. Afterwards, I walked around in circles shaking out my arms and watching out for undead mice. *shivers* I’m not looking forward to reading it in editing. Except I kinda am. Writing is confusing like that.

How do I push deeper? I think it’s different every time. When I get it in the first draft, I just keep pushing and pushing until I’ve freaked myself out and then I know I’m in the right area. If I notice it didn’t really work out in the second draft, then I have to spend a little more time visualizing, painting myself a picture, and further freaking myself out. I’m actually a big scaredy cat, so it doesn’t take too much to get me to that freaked out place, and I’m also pretty used to being there and having to still push through.

What’s your biggest fear?

Well, as I mentioned above, I’m pretty afraid of mice. It’s part of a bigger fear, though. I’m afraid of little things getting inside me. For instance, in the movie The Mummy there is a scene where an ancient beetle wakes up, gets under his skin, travels inside him up to his brain and he dies.

This fear expands so that I’m afraid of little things, especially lots of little things that I can’t see. Examples? Being in a dark room, and hearing little sounds that could be mice or who knows what. Swimming in a lake and feeling fish brush my leg. Bugs. Spiders. Snakes. GETTING INSIDE MY SKIN. *freaks out*

What’s your recent most favourite sentence from a book?

I read Fangirl a few times over the past couple of days. (I do this sometimes.)

“Real life was something happening in her peripheral vision.”

What was the first horror novel you read and loved?

It kills me, and I just spent half an hour hunting for it again, but I don’t know the name. It wasn’t actually a novel though. It was a book of short stories. I loved reading it to people and eventually the book was missing too many pages.

If you want to get technical about the word novel, I’d have to say Goosebumps. The ones I remember most are Welcome to Camp Nightmare and Go Eat Worms (they showed up in his food! I only read it once. Creepy gross scared me to death. I loaned it to a bunch of people.)

Eventually I read Flowers in the Attic, which I did find in the horror section at the book store. Not one you might think of as horror until it’s mentioned to you, but if you’ve read the book, I expect you to nod right now. The terrifying family members who are supposed to take care of you? The drinking the blood? Everything else? That book spread so well because people were so traumatized after reading it. I knew I wanted to write something that made people as uncomfortable as that book did someday.

Describe your writing ritual.

Headphones. Internet off. Tapping of keys. Consulting handwritten notes.

When this isn’t going well, I have a folder inside every project where I collect quotes and pictures that inspire the project, like a pinboard. I’ve also started putting together similar boards on pinterest. It helps my head get in the right space.

If you could hang out with your favourite character for an evening, who would it be and what would you do?

OMG HERMIONE. Can I touch your wand? Can you leviosa me? WHAT HAVE YOU READ LATELY? Where’s your favorite library? I know we just met, and this is personal, but please, CAN I SEE YOUR BOOK COLLECTION?

What’s your big dream as an author?

It’s always to finish whatever story I’m writing right now.

ELEVEN RANDOM FACTS ABOUT ME

  1. I skipped 7th grade.
  2. I worked (and lived) at an independent retirement community for two years.
  3. I’m currently petless (sad face!) but my pets from the past regularly show up in my dreams.
  4. My favorite song is Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da (by The Beatles, of course!).
  5. I had braces for 5 years. They said 6-18 months when they put them on. Never trust an orthodontist.
  6. I LOVE BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER.
  7. Root beer is my favorite drink. I hate tea. And Coffee.
  8. I used to make zines.
  9. I’m afraid of birds. They’re fine as long as they don’t touch me. It’s the beaks.
  10. I always ask cashiers how work is. Most of them burst out laughing and give me a look that says it all.
  11. Beauty and the Beast is my favorite fairy tale, and my husband recently wrote a scifi retelling for me (Beauty and the Fleet), because I couldn’t find one I liked. The main character likes horror novels. :)

 

THE NOMINATED

ELEVEN QUESTIONS FOR THE TAGGED

  1. What was the first story you ever wrote?
  2. What was your favorite book as a child?
  3. You get to have dinner with your favorite fictional family. Who’s at the table?
  4. What’s your favorite season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer? (If you’ve never seen it, I’m giving you the look.)
  5. Do you prefer drafting or revising? Why?
  6. Do you have a process for naming your characters?
  7. How do you handle telling people you’re a writer? Do you tell them what you write?
  8. What do you listen to while you write?
  9. Do you prefer to write in the morning, or at night?
  10. Do you pick favorites with your own characters?
  11. What would your dream writing office look like?
09 Jun

Pop Stars in the Apocalypse

Watched Spice World and made one off hand comment about an all girl pop band in the apocalypse, and now I’m spending my time dissecting the personalities that make up good pop band images. And relating this to zombie fighting methods, obviously. 

spice yeahHave I mentioned that writers are weird?

My girl pop gif collection is getting pretty damned amazing, bee tee dubs. Research.

tumblr_n48vb5oUnJ1ttz05yo4_250

josie 3rawr

 

 

05 Apr

My Writing Process Blog Hop

I was tagged by Tori Centanni for this blog hop. Hi Tori!

1) What am I working on?
Mostly I’m working on Merryn’s story, which is best described right now by the pinterest board I put together. It’s a pretty story full of curses and magic and sea serpents and lots and lots of birds.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre? Other people have been better at telling me how I’m different than I have. On multiple occasions, I’ve been told that my stories tend to have a unique blending of contemporary issues into my paranormal stories, and that there’s a touch of the quirky. After hearing the word quirky repeatedly, I decided to start owning that, even though it’s not something I usually notice until it’s pointed out to me.

3) Why do I write what I do? Because it’s fun and cathartic.

4) How does my writing process work?

I usually start off with strings of random scenes and I write them all down as fast as I can. These random scenes keep coming to me all the way through revisions. During my outlining process, I take the ones I have and lay them out like puzzle pieces. Then I’ll write up ideas for scenes as other pieces of the puzzle, and lay them all out on a table until I have them in order. Then I type those up and print them out, and end up making notes on the printed pages as I draft, rearranging the pieces. Those pieces of paper end up pretty ragged by the end of the drafting process.

When I read through my first draft, I write a new outline by making notes on what happens in what I have written. I’ll then reference that outline during revisions, rearranging until everything makes sense. I print off a fresh outline once the story is officially done and keep that for easy reference when writing sequels.

My outlines are messy and made as I go and only the final outline would make sense to anyone but me, but they’re the backbone of the whole venture.

 

And I’m tagging

Jenny Perinovic
L.S. Mooney
Jolene Haley