Keeping Score: March 13, 2020

Got 1,224 words written so far this week.

Those are spread out over different projects. I added a little to the novel, started drafting several new essays, and decided to go back and edit a short story from last year.

The story was easy for me to write, but it’s been hard to edit. It’s quite personal, pulling something from my childhood and turning it into a horror story. It’s the first story I’ve written about where I grew up, and as such is hard for me to see any other way than how I’ve written it.

So it’s taken me counts on fingers about six months to digest some beta reader feedback I got on it, and figure out what the story needs.

And I think I do, now. I can see a hole in the story, a gap in the POV character’s motivations that I tried to paper over with his personal flaws.

That might work for me, or for someone who also grew up in the kind of town I did, but it doesn’t work for communicating that character’s perspective to everyone else. That’s a failure on my part, a failure of craft, and — hopefully — it’s one I can fix.

What about you? Have you ever had a story — or a novel — that you simply couldn’t edit into shape until after a lot of time (and maybe some leveling up in your writing skills) had passed?

Ghost Road Blues by Jonathan Maberry

Simply put, a fantastic ghost story. Like a horror film from the 80s updated and put in novel form.

Three things I learned about writing:

  • 3rd person omniscient works only if you stay out of characters’ individual perspectives. Say what happens, and report what they think, but as an outsider
  • Tragedy for a minor character has more impact if we spend some time with them first, however little, to see how they act normally
  • Remember that characters only know what they see, and that can mislead them sometimes. That’s okay. Let them be wrong when they should be wrong, so that when they’re right it’ll feel like triumph.

I Am Providence by Nick Mamatas

Disturbing. Most of the characters are completely unlikable, especially the men: the worst are outright misogynists and racists, even the best act like superior assholes to everyone else.

Mamatas doesn’t pull any punches in exposing the sexism and harassment that happens at fan conventions. It makes for tough reading, both because the female protagonist is constantly experiencing it and because the male narrator, whose death she’s investigating, is one of the superior assholes it’s hard to sympathize with.

Worth reading, though, if nothing else than as a “Do I act like this?” check.

Three things it taught me about writing:

  • – Can get away with very skimpy descriptions — or none at all — if you choose the proper perspective to tell the story from (in this case, a corpse’s).
  • Protagonist’s motivation for pursuing the mystery can be thin, if the reader’s interest is piqued enough for them┬áto want to see it solved
  • Characters will always rationalize their behavior. Even when dead.

11/22/63 by Stephen King

Compelling. Read the last half of this 900+ page monster in a single day.

Still amazes me how King’s writing style is so slight as to be non-existent, but with it he creates these incredibly long, involved, gripping stories.┬áTruly a master of the craft.

Three things I learned about writing:

  • Horror stories lean on senses other than sight: smell and taste, in particular. These senses are more intimately connected with our bodies, making the texture of the story more physical.
  • A simple task can have tension if the reader is kept guessing as to what might happen, and if the character thinks things could go horribly wrong; if the character has a goal-threatening freak-out, that’s even better.
  • Horror needs a temptation: an invitation to follow a compulsion the character normally wouldn’t, with promises (usually false) given that make it seem ok.

Flash Fiction Friday: Oct 31, 2014

In honor of Halloween, three personal ads with a horror twist:

Missed connection: Saw you making dinner last night, that blouse really brought out your eyes. I’m a secret Billy Joel fan, too. If you can tell me which album you were listening to, drop me a line, let me watch you have coffee?

DWF seeks M for night of debauchery followed by dinner. Must have nicely-shaped head. No beards.

Where are you, my sweet Rose? We danced while Nero played fiddle, we smuggled rats to Constantinople, we kissed by the light of Giodarno Bruno’s torch. We had a date for five years later, November 5th, but you never showed. Have you forgotten me? Hope to see you in Chicago next year.

Flash Fiction Friday: Oct 3 2014

Inspired by one of Chuck Wendig‘s Flash Fiction Challenges, I’m posting three flash fiction stories today, each three sentences long, and each in a different genre.

Horror

The Infection was spreading up her leg, converting flesh and clothes into an amorphous green tentacle. Anne pulled her belt loose for a tourniquet, tying it off a few inches above her knee. Then she lifted the hacksaw, set it just below the tourniquet, and sawed through.

Fantasy

With the dragon dead, the town didn’t need a hero anymore. Bjorn spent his days bragging and his nights drinking, his armor hung up at home, rusting. When he died, they couldn’t fit him into it.

Science-Fiction

He could see into my memories, read the very core of my soul. We met in a chat room, in those heady days before the Regulation. Since he was Deleted, all I have left of him now is his Worm inside me, spreading random bytes of his code wherever I go.