Category: About Writing

About Writing, One Should Never

About Writing, One Should Never

Tweet or Comment While Writing…

Because one just never knows who’s in the driver’s seat –

When I started writing this morning, this great quote by F. Scott Fitzgerald appeared on my desktop. Seconds before, I had vowed to stay off social media and get serious about finishing my novel in progress. When I saw this quote I realized the wisdom of my decision.

I mean with all these characters running around inside my head, I never know who’s tweeting or commenting. And to be honest, some of “them” are just plain scary…

A good example would be from my novel, MY FATHER’S MAGIC..
Would you really want this guy to respond to your post?

“Hmm, yes. Fear me, Esme. Good, be very afraid.” His voice seemed to vibrate.

What is he doing? He sounds like— What the—

Okay, Esme, calm down. This isn’t good. Panicking won’t help. Deep breath. Okay, what is the last thing you remember? I was at the penthouse, trying to find my father’s—

No. Not the Book of Spells. If Geoff has that book—

I’m not a praying person, but at that moment I prayed to whatever powers existed, please save me. In the background, I could hear heavy breathing and that squeaking noise Geoff makes when—

Or what about?

“Natasha.” The harsh, graveled voice confirmed my worst fears as I turned to face the drooling mass before me. “What have you been up to, Natasha? I could taste your emotions from down the hall.”

I will not be afraid. I will not be afraid. I will not—

Would you really want either of these two villains responding to your tweets or Facebook posts?

I mean, this guy (below) has responded for me in the past and I had some serious explaining to do afterward:

From my upcoming novel, working title REVENGE:

“With that I heard a chirp, much like I once heard a parakeet do in a pet shop. I glanced over at the large onyx eyes. “Was that you?” My eyes once more on the road, I switched lanes to pass a truck, another chirp and telepathically I heard, “Yes.”

“Wow, you are full of surprises. Aren’t you?” Another chirp made me smile. I was glad for the company.

Nothing like a little “chirping” to your friends…

 

 

 

Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

Originally posted January 17, 2010

One of the requirements of my horror-writing education is to read every story listed on pages 18 – 22 of ON WRITING HORROR by the Horror Writers Association

ROSEMARY’S BABY by Ira Levin is on this list.

As a child sitting on the sofa between my two older sisters and often through the cracks between my fingers, I watched the movie ROSEMARY’S BABY. To this day I still have a vivid recollection of semi-naked old people and the black bassinet that gave me nightmares for weeks to come. But, in spite of those memories, I was determined to fulfill my horror-education requirements. So, yes, not only did I read the book, but I loved it.

Ira Levin is truly one of the greatest writers I have ever read. He has the rare gift of horrifying you one minute and making you laugh hysterically the next. In truth, as I sit here, six years later, revising this blog post, Rosemary’s Baby is still on of my favorite books of any genre and one I am sure I will read again and again.

Mr. Levin’s main character, Rosemary Woodhouse, is a naive mid-western Catholic girl transplanted into the big city with her actor husband. As in all good suspense stories, there were subtle clues dropped here and there as the story unfolded. Rosemary was everything a woman in her situation should have been. The rape scene midway through the book was intense, the result of ultimate betrayal by her devious husband.

Ira Levin wrote his story at a time when everything was in question, including religion. Mr. Levin accurately portrayed society’s mindset during the 1960s with a conclusion grounded in the most basic of human relationships, the bond between a mother and her child.

On a personal note, I think reading Stephen King’s Introduction, though profoundly well-written, may have been too in-depth a read prior to the story itself.  Because the information given was so complete I do not believe I enjoyed the story as much as I may have if I had read the story first before the Introduction.

Other books on the list from ON WRITING HORROR:

FRANKENSTEIN by Mary Shelley

DRACULA by Bram Stoker

I AM LEGEND and HELL HOUSE by Richard Matheson

….and many others

Interviewing Your Characters

Interviewing Your Characters

Upon inspiration of the essay by Tina Jens in ON WRITING HORROR, I have created a character sketch I am using much like an interview sheet. In my mind’s eye I invite my fictional characters into my office for an interview. So far it has worked like a charm. My questions are pretty much standard but the difference is it is not me who is answering the questions. They are.  My approach is that this is their story and I want to know them as I would an old friend from high school (per suggestion by Tina Jens.)

I had created a list of characters using my previous method of simply coming up with them as I wrote my new novel but the process was tedious and boring. Following Tina’s suggestions, I created a new character sketch to get to know my characters for who they are, separate from me. My protagonist, who I had previously named Sandy, was a middle aged woman and I had given her blond hair with gray streaks and gray eyes much like my own, was all wrong.

The woman who walked in my office was entirely different, even her name. She was younger, tougher with dark hair and eyes. Her entire persona is one of a lonely but self-assured widow on her own and looking for a change. While Sandy was also looking for a change she was married and more dependent upon her husband.

My second “interview” was with my evil, sadistic antagonist. I was nervous about the interview because this character was to be the epitome of evil complete with horrific appearance and behavior. The “man” who entered my office was again, very different. I found him compelling and alluring with a definite darker side concealed beneath his attractive appearance. At the same time, he was forthright with a definite sense of humor about the story that is to come.

I have four more interviews to do with my previous version of this story still in the back of my mind. What will become of this story? I have no idea. It’s truly in the hands of these fascinating new characters. One thing for certain, I won’t be bored!

Thanks for visiting my site. I would love to hear your thoughts…

Getting to Know Your Characters

Getting to Know Your Characters

Another tidbit from a few years back that has changed my writing life forever….

In between the required reading in ON WRITING HORROR, I’ve been studying the various essays by the gifted writers enclosed within its pages. The latest nugget of wisdom came from Tina Jens titled “Such Horrible People.” Ms. Jens describes characterization in such a creative and entertaining way that not only have I soaked up her insightful words, but I do believe they have changed the way I write forever.

Within her essay, Tina Jens describes getting to know your characters as well as you would your high school buddies. Their ins, their outs, their quirks, fears, flaws and successes. What makes them tick? Getting to know your characters so well that they are sitting there beside you writing your story for you. Your job as a writer is merely a stenographer, they are in control. After all it’s their story, right?

Yes, I’ve read lots of articles on developing characters but never in such a clear, open manner where it is not only practical, but brings the knowledge down from my gray matter to application. Thank you, Tina Jens, for such an intelligent and entertaining essay.

So to put into practice this new-to-me character-creation process, I’ve interviewed one of my main characters for my current work-in-progress. As it turns out she is nothing like the puppet I created. I got her name, hair color, age and even personality totally wrong. The character that arose from this interview is stronger, more dynamic and a complete improvement over what the puppet-master (me) had created.

Rather than feeling the pressure of creating this novel purely out of my own tedious, task-oriented agenda, I am excited to see what she and the other main characters will show me as their story unfolds. I have more interviews today. One I am particularly nervous about, my villain. He’s a dark, angry creature whose fiery home was recently disturbed. Wish me luck….I’ll keep you posted.

Thank you, Tina Jens and the Horror Writers Association…and to you, thanks for reading!

When Writing…. A Good Rule of Thumb

When Writing…. A Good Rule of Thumb

When writing a story, you are your own best immediate gauge of how good it is. Does it excite you, hold your interest and keep you on edge? Are you emotionally invested in your story to the point of potential embarrassment?

If not, then you need to either change it or start over. If you don’t have an emotional reaction to your story, your readers won’t either.

Here is one of my favorite quotes, one I keep on the wall of my office, and what I try to live by when writing my stories…

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