Write Until You Die

We are born as writers.

We will die as writers.

We are wholly dedicated to the life of writing.

(Warning: this video contains blood. Should I mention the people munching too?)

(Now that’s a life dedicated to writing…)

Writers write until the day they die. Nothing can contain or stop the wild words in their hearts. Writing makes up the core of a writer’s existence — its in their blood, in the very breath of their life.

We have ink in our veins and pens for fingers. Words flow effortlessly through our brains and onto paper. A habit that is uncontrollable, unbreakable, untamable.

Imaginations illuminate our worlds, a never ending cinema in our minds. Stories eternally unfurl from a reel and we must share the script with the Universe. Through the written form, we bring new realities to life.

Yes, there are days when we are in a slump. There are days when the words are in a traffic jam and we can’t even spell them out. There are even days when we think that the words have completely disappeared, but in reality, they never abandoned us.  They are always there, just sometimes hiding in the dark recesses of our minds… watching, waiting, building up for the pivotal moment of release.

When blocked, we must find that spark and light the fuse to burst the dam. Force the flood of words back into our lives. Read poetry, take a hike, sing a tune, drink a coffee, do cartwheels, or go bungee jumping. Do something exhilarating to invite the muse and turn on the flow of words.

Writers always persevere. Keep positive and keep productive because writers can’t ever stop writing. Our brains won’t allow us. The words won’t allow us.

When the day comes that we finally do stop writing, that’s the day we die.

Write until you die… or are eaten by Titans.

 

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Elements of Writing Horror: Something Must Die

(c) hotblack

(c) hotblack

The goal of horror is to elicit an intense fear, and there nothing that humans fear more than death. Death is the last curtain call, the ending to the show. Everyone, whether they admit it or not, has some level of terror about the final end. Fear of death is universal. Horror stories feed off this trepidation. Every single tale of the macabre contains a death, which is essential to amp up the panic in a character.

The purpose of a story is show the growth of a central character. In order to grow, there needs to be a triggering event that transports the character in a positive or negative direction. Yes, characters can grow negatively and fall from where they originated. Typically in the genre of horror, the main character does descend. Eternal loss is a plot tactic for this catalyst. The build up to death is what generates the character’s (and essentially the reader’s) fear — the intrinsic element of horror.  The key to utilizing the tactic of death is to create the eternal loss of the one thing that the main character holds most dear. The event of the death will be the crux of growth for the character: the moment of his / her turning point.

Fear is an aid to the warrior. It is a small fire burning. It heats the muscles, making us stronger. Panic comes when the fire is out of control, consuming all courage and pride.

— David Gemmell, Lord of the Silver Bow

The principal death in a story may not always happen to a human. Death can be existential, relating to non-human, inanimate, or intangible things.  The death may be of a beloved pet, favorite notebook, or prized vehicle. Think about how Louis reacted to the hit-and-run of Church in Pet Semetary, and the horror that developed out of that death… and disturbing “funeral”.  Then look at what happened with the death of Gauge. Stephen King really upped the fear factor by viciously killing off Louis’ cat and kid! A death can also be the demise of hope, happiness, or dreams. There is nothing more horrific in the world than watching the hope in someone wither away and die (think Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights).

Sometimes the best death to play up is the “death of oneself”. Fear of one’s own mortality is experience by every human. We are all afraid of when we will die. Add to that, there is also the fear of how we will experience that final moment. I think everyone hopes that they will go peacefully in their sleep. Yet, in most cases, that can’t be further from truth. In brutal honesty, most of us will go with some amount of pain from this world. Detaching from a body that has carried us through the years is not something that I can believe to be easy (or painless). Sending your main character on the downward, negative spiral through the stages of their own death, and fighting to come to terms that they are about to be snuffed out, will hold the reader in suspense and fear until the inevitable end.

If you are looking to include horror in your story, death must be a component. Your character, within the realm of this genre, cannot evolve (or depending on your plot, “de-evolve”) without it. Deduce what type of loss your main character dreads the most. Lead up to the final moments with accelerated heart beats, sweaty palms, and rapid breathing. Make them question or go through the seven stages of grief. Continue to evoke apprehension in the protagonist that they may one day lose this “thing” that they treasure, and then make them suffer in agony as you brutally tear it away. Your character’s anxiety and despair will transfer to your reader, pulling him / her deeper into your story and rouse their empathy. You will make them resonate with the loss and tremble in fear. And that is the ultimate goal of horror: to make your readers scared.

If you want to be successful in writing horror, something must die in your story.


If you are interested in enhancing horror in your writing, check out these other Elements of Horror posts by The Sarcastic Muse

The Literature of Love… Scary Love

(c) Prawny

(c) Prawny

Muses, I want to share with you my love inspired reading list. There is no better day to share this list than on Valentine’s Day. Ah, when romance is in the air, I get this dizzy-tingly sensation in my head and a flutter in my stomach… a response also known as nausea.

What, did you think I was actually going to share a list of my favorite Romance stories? You did!? Oh, sweet muffins… NO! (*elbows Chris in the ribs* “Stop laughing!”) The list that I am sharing today is of love inspired horror stories. Nothing says “I Love You” more than a sharp object through the heart.

In all seriousness, authors who are able to combine these two distinct and contrasting genres within one story are able to weave a tale that leaves readers completely out of touch with their emotions. The ratio of fear and love must be balanced to elicit a sense of uncertainty on whether one is to feel a sense of romance or terror.

Love camouflages itself with a sparkly, warm exterior. However, underneath its disguise, love is a dark, murky beast that lures in those naive and unaware. When you let your guard down and invite love in, the one you open yourself up to holds your beating heart in his or her hands. The organ, which is sparking your life, is to be treated with a tender touch. Yet, humans are not gentle creatures by nature. Uncaring emotions always surface and your delicate heart is easily crushed by the fingers of the one you trusted with every ounce of your being.

Love is patient. Love is observant. Love waits for the perfect time to strike. Love turns into the most horrific of monsters. Love will break you…

On this day that celebrates romance, read something that will make your heart race from both tenderness and terror. Read a story that exploits the unmerciful nature of love:

1. Lovely, Dark, Deep by Joyce Carol Oates
2. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
4. Dracula by Bram Stoker
5. Frankenstein by Mary Shelly
6. Demon Lover by Elizabeth Bowen
7. Northanger Abby by Jane Austen
8. The Oval Portrait by Edgar Allen Poe
9. The Mask by Robert Chambers

Happy Valentine’s Day!


Do you have a favorite story that combines the romance and horror genre? Comment below.

 

The Sport of People Watching

(c) hotblack

(c) hotblack

Characters abound in everyday reality outside of the realm of fiction. One just has to know how to find them.  Human interaction floods everyday senses, and for most people, the experience passes without a thought. But not writers. Not writers. We feed off the essence of other humans, absorbing personalities, quirks, facial reactions, likes / dislikes, features, looks, clothing. Every day human beings taking shape and form in a writer’s mind to influence characters that reside in poems, stories, novels.

All authors should partake in the event of “people watching”. It’s a rather addicting sport once you start, and one that can be done at any time, anywhere in public.

There is very little equipment needed to partake in people watching. All one needs is their favorite writing tools:  Pen & notebook, tablet, laptop, smart phone, blood on your t-shirt… well maybe not that last one. Best to remain inconspicuous whilst people watching. The goal is NOT to draw attention.

How to people watch:

Essentially you have to become a wee bit “stalker-ish”.

  • Find a nice comfy place to sit,
  • Arrange yourself with your favorite writing tool,
  • Don’t draw attention to yourself,
  • Hone in on a subject,

And then take it all in:

  • Observe interactions with one another.
    • How are two people communicating? Are they laughing, arguing, staring romantically into each other’s eyes?
    • How does a large crowd of people act? Are they boisterous, jovial, fighting, or singing their hearts out?
    • How does a person on their own act? Is she tucked away in the corner, is he confidently out in the open, is she reading a book, is he staring at his smartphone?
  • Watch facial expressions.
    • What kind of look is the subject making?
    • What is causing them to react in such a way?
  • Pay attention to little movements, like brushing hair behind an ear or fiddling with a ring.
    • What is motivating those actions?
    • What kind of emotion does the person emit when they make these motions?
  • Listen to conversations.
    • What kind of conversation is it? Friendly chatter, romantic sayings, heated arguments?
    • How is each person handling their side?
    • What kind of reactions or little movements are the subjects making during the conversation?
  • Inhale and take in the scent of the atmosphere around you.
    • Is the smell of the location influencing your subjects, like in a coffee shop or bakery?
  • Feel the temperature of the location.
    • Is it too hot because there are too many people around?
    • Is it too cold because there are only a few?

What are the benefits?

There are too many benefits from people watching than I could possibly list, however, for the context of today, the main benefit is that people watching helps to develop characters and build scenes. It provides a catalyst of inspiration to those who may be struggling to get a character formed, or it provides enhancement for others who are trying to write a wider of characters. Scenery can also be fleshed out whilst observing people. Since an environment has an impact on how one is acting, pull some of that influence from the scene in reality to enhance a scene in your fiction, connecting that with how your character exists within that scene.

How often should this be done?

As often as need be. The thing is, once you become obsessed with the sport of people watching, you sometimes struggle to turn off the channel. You will soon catch yourself observing everything and anything around you. And it will all become embedded in your brain. Not only is people watching going to help you grow as an author, it is also going to help you grow as a person. You will learn to better analyze those around you.

So go forth and take in all that people watching has to offer.


Where are some of your favorite places to people watch? What are some of the most bizarre things that you have observed that influenced a character in your fiction?

 

David Bowie’s Legacy… and most treasured books

(c) pedrojperez

(c) pedrojperez

It is amazing how one spark of life can impact the lives millions. And when that spark disappears, humanity reacts in the most beautiful way–by honoring and remembering its existance.  This week the world lost one of the most brilliant and magical artists of all time. This week we said “until next time” to the Goblin King, to Ziggy Stardust, to the dream weaving David Bowie.

I think everybody who picks up a guitar or puts pen to paper has something in his system, in his self that he wants to express to others and have them understand… – David Bowie, Interview with Today, 1993

Most only know Bowie as a talented musician and actor. The pioneer of glam rock with his abstract style and non-conventional influences. What many don’t realize is that he was also an enigmatic writer and avid reader. He’s long contemplated writing for theater and was said to read up to a book a day.

One of the most facinating things I feel that Bowie left for us is his list of 100 “must read” books. The list spans a vast array of literary influences and genres, fictions and non-fictions, biographies and memiors. From Anthony Burgess to John Cage to Jack Kerouac, the vast list is as unique and diverse as Bowie himself.

David Bowie’s 100 recommended books: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/music-news/10347410/David-Bowie-reveals-his-favourite-100-books.html

A tale of a man who loved books: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/books/what-to-read/david-bowie-the-man-who-loved-books/

David Bowie lit up imaginations in once cold, dark minds. He brought us to worlds and dreams that many wish we could have conceived ourselves. Magic flowed around the world, sparked by his creative genius. They say that when you die, your soul joins the stars and shines brightly upon the Earth. David Bowie’s star is one that shines the brightest as his creativity and influence breathed a new life into the realm of art, music, and writing.

Shine on, you brilliant star. The world is forever changed because of your spark.