All posts by drewchial

When Drew Chial was very young, he found an attic hidden in his bedroom closet. He discovered it investigating an indentation in the ceiling, nudging it with a broom, until it fell inward. There was no stepladder for him to climb, so he scaled the shelves. Shining his flashlight, he found a long triangular hall, twice the length of his bedroom. Every surface was coated in pink insulation that made his skin itch. Creeping into the basement, Drew stole a sleeping bag that he unrolled on the attic floor. He set a tiny aluminum lock box on top of it. This is where he hid the things he wrote. Now Drew hides them in plain sight.

He Has Many Names Poem Trailer

A creepy little poem that tells the story of my novel HE HAS MANY NAMES.

Pick up your copy of HE HAS MANY NAMES today.

Amazon

ClashBooks

Demon Logo by Matthew Revert
Poem, Editing and Music by Drew Chial

The Serial Archer

Born when Mars crashed into Venus, he’s left a path of destruction across the Earth. He’s an agent of conquest concealed beneath a baby face.

He’s antisocial, known to fly solo, too far removed from his victims to regard their suffering. He targets isolated individuals, striking from above because he knows even sitting ducks can be flighty. He cheats, doses his arrowheads with neurotoxins so that his quarry always make bad decisions.

You’ll never catch him. His attack pattern is random. He chooses his victims with a blindfold on.

He compartmentalizes, careful to hide his secret life from his wife. The one time he tasted his own medicine his Psyche went to hell and back again.

Some say they knew his work at first sight, but no one ever sees him coming. He will change you fundamentally. You will think of your life in terms of who you were before he stung you and who he allowed you to be.

Surviving Valentine’s Day

Another Valentine’s Day is upon us, which means it’s time to lower the storm shudders, draw up the staircase, and make sure the panic room is stocked with non-perishables. You know better than to get caught in the foyer when St. Valentine gets here.

Resist the temptation to try to spot him lumbering beneath the street lamps. Don’t go peeking through the keyhole looking for tattered robes. Don’t press your ear to the door to listen for howling on the wind, the clicking of his inverted kneecaps, or bones dragging along the picket fence. He’s out there, raising his own severed head to scan the buildings for life signs, a mangled manifestation just as Emperor Claudius had left him.

Do not attempt to pilot a drone from your roof in an attempt to capture a glimpse of the specter. Do not affix a GoPro to your mailbox or an infrared system to your lawn gnome. Just let the man serve out his punishment in peace, sacrifice your goat, and leave it out on the boulevard like you do every year.

You don’t want to end up like my friend Zeke.

The Cautionary Tale of Ezekiel Lawson

Ezekiel, or Zeke as we called him, was a trophy hunter. The man kept the town’s taxidermist in business until he took to doing it himself. He didn’t have a piece of furniture that hadn’t once been something living. His rumpus room had more fur than wallpaper, with so many antlers they practically an earthquake hazard.

Zeke was day trader, which afforded him the luxury of going on safari. He knew everything about hunting dangerous game. He told stories at the bar, gave us unsolicited lectures on concealment, wind flows, and paw prints. He claimed he took out an entire pack of wolves without reloading his rifle.

“And I did it on a level playing field. No deer stand, no bait, none of that bullshit.”

We never challenged him. After all he had the heads to prove it and he relished in the opportunity to count all six of them out. Still when Zeke said he was going after Valentine’s dire wolves we were all skeptical.

“Valentine is bound by the code of Lupercalia festival to walk those wolves. His punishment for trying to convert one of lord Februus’s followers. Those wolves are trained to sniff out evil spirits, which stands to reason they’re spirits themselves. Are you sure a bullet would do the trick?”

“They leave tracks don’t they?”

“Big as catcher’s mitts.”

“They shit on your lawn don’t they?

“Every damn time.”

“Then beneath them long mangy hides they’re still squishy on the  inside.”

“What about Februus?”

“Please. The underworld is teaming with enchanted beings. You think he’s really going to miss one?”

We conceded that notion into our beers. Every one of us had an encounter with one of Februus’s creature at one time or another.

Still, I wish I’d reminded Zeke where those wolf droppings usually came from.

Zeke raised his mug. “Come on boys. My rumpus room needs a new rug.”

We clinked glasses.

On the morning of February 15thI awoke to my wife’s screams. Melissa had gone out front with the old pooper-scooper, hoping to get a start on those dire wolf droppings, when she spotted a blood trail in the snow. She found poor Zeke’s head in the birdbath, mouth wide open, one eye milky white, the other torn out of the socket with a few out stretched ribbons of muscle trying to cling for it. Half of Zeke’s face was rust colored with dried blood. The other half had been gnawed down to the bone.

That wasn’t what I found most disturbing. Zeke had seen something that night that had turned his raven hair white.

A Word of Caution This Valentine’s Day

You probably already know this, but some of you dumbass thrill seekers need a reminder. February is Februus’s month and Februus is the God of purification. In ancient Etruscan the word februare literally means “a purging.” I know you millennials like to play fast and loose with the old ways, but this is not a date night, not a time for young lovers to go skipping around downtown. Lest you want be ground down to dire wolf droppings.

Lupercalia or “Valentine’s Day,” is a time for Februus to drive dark spirits back to underworld where they belong. It’s not our place to spectate. Our role is to cower in quiet solitude of our fortified vaults, thankful that we’ve been spared for another year.

Now y’all stay safe and have a happy Valentine’s Day.

Continue reading Surviving Valentine’s Day

Intruder

I can put a dozen locks
Between the threshold and me
But my intrusive thought
Has a skeleton key
She comes and goes
Whenever she pleases
On long winter nights
On frost bitten breezes

She’s rides a Trojan horse
On a path of daydreams
And pumps nightmare fuel
Straight into my bloodstream
“Speedy delivery”
She comes bearing memories
She travels by gas light
And leaves things foggy

The definition of insanity
Ain’t like they say on TV
“Different results for samesies”
Not in my dictionary
So let’s stop trying
To break the chain
And just lie back
And do the time warp again

She clogs my feeds
With motivational memes
That blame me for not
Outwitting her schemes
“Depression is a choice”
She says upon my shoulder
“It’s your fault
For lending me your ear”

She blames the victim
For opening the gate
When we both know
That her key works great
My intrusive thought
Has an open invitation
That I can’t recall
Ever writing

The definition of insanity
Ain’t like they say on TV
“Different results for samesies”
Not in my dictionary
So let’s stop trying
To break the chain
And just lie back
And do the time warp again

Armchair psychics
Prescribing crystals
Please help me fill
This hereditary hole
If only my demons
Believed in astrology
I wish you had something
In your bag of tricks for me

UNDER THE SHADOW: A POEM ABOUT MY NOVEL

Under the shadow
Of the Hollywood sign
Is an old hotel
In a state of decline
Where Noelle
A writer living on ramen
Sits before an agent
With a fine silver pen

The agent represents
A bestselling author
Who had an encounter
On the nineteenth floor
The author swears something
In the fantasy suite
Crawled from the dark
And gnawed at his feet

The agent presents
A big cash payment
And an agreement
That’s nothing but fine print
She wants Noelle
To spend a month up there
Ghost writing a novel
Soaking in the atmosphere

With stars in her eyes
Or perhaps dollar signs
Noelle skips the details
And signs on the line
Happy to separate
Fools from their money
She takes the elevator
Nineteen stories

The fantasy suite
Has a woodland décor
A sex swing made of vines
And tree trunks in the foyer
Noelle falls asleep beneath
A moon-shaped lantern
And wakes up to find
She’s staring at the real one

The suite has transformed
Into a redwood forest
Where a shadow figure
Has made up his nest
Who is this creature
With a long black mane
Horns and hooves?
Well…
HE
HAS
MANY
NAMES

Continue reading UNDER THE SHADOW: A POEM ABOUT MY NOVEL

He Has Many Names Monologue Trailer

The devil’s sales pitch from the book HE HAS MANY NAMES.

Noelle is a Hollywood transplant that’s been subsisting on instant ramen and false hope. A dubious agent offers her a gig ghostwriting for an author in a hotel where he claims to have had an unholy encounter. With whom you ask? Well… HE HAS MANY NAMES

Buy now:
Amazon
Clashbooks

Cinematography by Steve Tiongson
Hell Painting by Bryan Politte
Demon Logo by Matthew Revert
Editing and Music by Drew Chial

Meet Nólatha, a Monster Mingle Video Reading

Illustrator Bryan Politte gave life to a monster. I dared to write a dating profile for it. This video reveals Bryan’s process over a reading of that fabled Monster Mingle profile by yours truly.
Read the original profile here.

Continue reading Meet Nólatha, a Monster Mingle Video Reading

Why the Future of Hollywood is Stuck in The Past

By the year 2020 there will 101,228 feature films released throughout human history (according to IMDB). Assuming the average run time is 110 minutes, it would take 11,135,080 minutes to watch them all, that’s 185,585 hours, 7,733 days, 22 years if you don’t sleep or go to the bathroom, and 30 years if you do. If you tried to watch a new movie every night for the rest of your life you’d have to live to the ripe old age of 284 (assuming you watch nothing beyond 2019).

Cinephiles have a cornucopia of calls to adventure to answer, a diversity of dramatic turns to take, and a never-ending supply of new worlds to explore. So why do we get déjà vu whenever we go to the theater? Look up on the marquee. There’s that name we’ve seen a dozen times before, no roman numerals behind it, no subtitle. New year. Same old titles.

The answer is in the question. We have 284 years of options. People want to know what to expect before investing their time. That’s why franchise films continue to reign like eternal dynasties.

Rotten Reviews Don’t Matter Anymore

It used to be if an entry in a series was panned it damaged the franchise’s reputation. Back when there was a scarcity of long running continuities an Exorcist 2or Jaws 4 would derail a series. These days, in the era of shared cinematic universes, franchises are too big to fail.

SoThe Conjuring spinoff Annabelle was poorly received? The studio just made another prequel with a different creative team. So The Conjuring 2 spinoff The Nun was scored low too? Now they’re spinning off The Crocked Manfrom The Conjuring 2to see if he’s got what it takes. The convoy may swerve here and there, but it just keeps on trucking.

Universal has been trying to launch a monster mashup franchise forever. Dracula Untoldwasn’t the series launcher they were hoping for so they tried again with The Mummyas a Tom Cruise auctioneer. Now they’re remodeling their Dark Universe after The Conjuring universe, with a lower budget horror-centric version of The Invisible Man.

Warner Brothers are continuing with the DCEU where Ben Affleck and Jared Leto play Batman and the Joker respectively. Meanwhile they’re producing a backdoor DC universe where director Matt Reeves is recasting Batman and Joaquin Phoenix is playing the Joker. Oblivious to possibility oversaturating the superhero market Warner Brothers is hedging their bets.

Everybody is Eating the Member Berries

Hollywood is learning that extended cinematic universes are hard to build, much harder than resurrecting a dead brand. YouTube is full of Gen Xers who can’t stop talking about the movies they grew up with. Hollywood tried to reboot those classics action adventure flicks for millennials, but none of them took. So producers came up with a new strategy.

Let’s listen in on one of their conversations.

“Can we do anything with the Alienfranchise or did Ridley Scott kill it for good?”

Prometheusand Alien Covenant didn’t resonate with audiences. The Alien VS. Predator movies are best forgotten. Joss Whedon wiped his hands of Alien Resurrection. Alien 3almost killed David Fincher’s career before it started… But Alienwas a cult classic and Aliensmade James Cameron a household name. If only we could jettison the franchise’s baggage we might be in business.”

“What are you proposing?”

“We make a sequel to Aliens. Bring back all the characters who died off screen in Alien 3, like Hicks and Newt, and pretend none of those other movies even happened.”

“But what about the fans of the sequels, prequels, and spinoffs?”

“They’ll be first in line. Didn’t you see what happened with 2018’s Halloween?”

(Authors note: this actually pitch by Neill Blomkamp is stuck in development hell at the time of this writing, but the Alienfranchise will live on as a mobile game).

Halloween was A Harbinger of Things To Come

TheHalloweenfranchise has gone through many revisions, retcons, and reimaginings since John Carpenter directed the original, but 2018’s Halloweenmarks a trend in franchise film making. It isn’t quite a sequel nor is it a reboot. It’s a do-over sequel, one the wipes all but the 1978 film from the continuity. Technically it’s the third version of Halloween 2.

It sounds like a bold experiment until you realize it was made on a modest 10 million dollar budget. Since Halloweencame out in October it’s earned nearly 160 million, making it the franchise’s biggest opening, the biggest horror opening with a female lead, the biggest opening with a female lead over 55, and the second biggest October opening ever.

Halloween’s success set the stage for every tarnished brand to come back with a fresh coat of paint on, but will it teach Hollywood the right lesson?

1980s Franchises Now and Forever

TheGhostbustersreboot was a hit with critics, it made a profit, but it wasn’t a billion dollar success, so that continuity is dead and director Jason Reitman is going forward with Ghostbusters 3.

TheRoboCopreboot followed a similar trend, which is why Neill Blomkamp is bringing Alex Murphy back to his old continuity in Robocop Returns.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is set return to the role of Conan the Barbarian after the reboot failed to take root.

Linda Hamilton is returning to the role of Sarah Connor in the next Terminatormovie, even after two Game of Thronesactresses have played the character.

Closing Thoughts

My generation’s nostalgic streak is costing mellenials new experiences. Bankrupt brands are taking up too much real estate on the big screen because we’re letting them. If a franchise has had one too many brushes with failure it should go into a state of hibernation for a five year minimum.

The wounds inflicted by Terminator Genisysare still fresh in my mind. It’s too soon for another one.

2018’sHalloweenworked because it was the exception that proved the rule. It was a 10 million dollar low risk experiment that payed off. The estimated budget for Terminator 6 is 255 million dollars (making it the most expensive entry in the series). If it makes anything short of a billion dollars the studio will likely consider it a failure… But they’ll probably make another one anyway. Think about all the sci fi movies the studio could make if they divided up that budget and took some risks on some fresh intellectual properties. That’s why my generation needs to stop giving franchise films infinite retries. Let’s give the next generation something of their own to be nostalgic for when they grow older.

Continue reading Why the Future of Hollywood is Stuck in The Past

He Has Many Names Book Blurb Trailer

A trailer for the book HE HAS MANY NAMES with blurbs from everyone from Keith Lansdale, writer for The X-Files: Cold Cases comic to Daniel Knauf, creator of HBO’s Carnivàle.

Noelle is a Hollywood transplant that’s been subsisting on instant ramen and false hope. A dubious agent offers her a gig ghostwriting for an author in a hotel where he claims to have had an unholy encounter. With whom you ask? Well… HE HAS MANY NAMES

Buy now:
Amazon
Clashbooks

Cinematography by Steve Tiongson
Hell Painting by Bryan Politte
Demon Logo by Matthew Revert
Editing and Music by Drew Chial

The Life-Changing Magic of Editing the Shit Out of Your Story

You’ve just finished the first draft of your story and you can’t wait to revisit it, but when you do it feels like a blotted mess. It’s cluttered with character descriptions, meandering subplots, and quirky observations. You know you need to make some deep cuts, but you don’t know where exactly.

Here are some of the things that can bog down your story and what you can do to tidy them up.

Unnecessary Setups

Chekhov’s gun is a principle in storytelling based on Anton Chekhov’s quote, “If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there.”

Every setup should pay off.

An author with a strictly structured story won’t have problems with this. They’ll check their math and know where everything fits before they start.

I like to write with a loose blueprint so I can discover things as I go. The problem is I’m more likely to jam my stories with impulse setups, like little mysteries I think are cool in the moment, but are often forgotten.

Solution:

If you write by the seat of your pants color-code the paragraphs that contain setups within your document. This will make editing easier later on. Once you’ve finished your first draft go to these setups and ask yourself, “Did I pay this off?” If not give it the ax.

Setups that Suck as Scenes

Have you ever seen a film where everything slows down to draw attention to specific detail? Perhaps the hero’s mother mentions that her daughter used to love diving before her father died. Everyone in the audience nods their heads knowing the hero’s diving background will come up again. Now that heroic plunge might be a heart wrenching moment later on, but why did the setup have to feel so inorganic and superfluous?

Solution:

If you’re setting something up to payoff later make sure the scene is entertaining in the here and now. Those scenes are where you’re most likely to lose your audience. Put something intriguing on the surface before you challenge people to read between the lines.

Try using micro setups and micro payoffs. Use the first few scenes to setup your overarching mysteries, but also setup something that will pay off in that scene. Show readers that you’ll reward them for paying attention.

Pacing Padding

Early writers feel a need to convey a passage of time by padding out their story. They show characters entering and exiting scenes. They come into conversations as they begin and exit with the goodbyes. They write transitions between locations, as if travel details are obligatory for believability.

They forget that time jumps are part of storytelling, that they don’t need to show the process that led a character from point A to B to C, so long as A connects to C in some way.

Solution:

Rather than padding out the passage of time you should find clever ways to convey it.

  • Set a murder out on a frozen lake. Set the next scene in the springtime when fishermen find a bloated body.
  • Give a character a flesh wound in one scene show it scabbed over in the next.
  • Put your hero behind the wheel at sunset. Have an ominous moon hanging overhead when they arrive at their destination.

Arbitrary Emotional Cool Down

As a horror writer I try to consider how much emotional torture readers can take before they fling my book into the fireplace. If I just put the reader through a sequence of high tension and mounting dread, I want to ease off the throttle and give them a moment to breathe, to let them grieve the loss of a character, to allow the scales of hope and dread to balance back out.

My natural instinct will be to write a soft uneventful scene with some comic relief and a few minutes of character musings.

The thing is every scene should meet certain qualifications to justify their inclusion. There should be a conflict, something that advances the plot and reveals character details.

My first attempts at breather scenes eased back too much. They were boring. Not every conflict should be a matter of life and death, but there should always be something at stake.

Solution:

It’s important to give readers an emotional cool down, an eye in the storm of blood, but you need to make these breaks eventful in their own way.

These seemingly innocuous scenes should plant things that will factor in later. Every story should see its hero go through a profound personal change. Now is a good time to check in on what their situation is teaching them. Might they learn a lesson here that could be essential to their survival? Fill these low tension scenes with meaningful developments.

Impulse Items

When I wrote He Has Many Names I spent a lot of time researching hell and the devil. It colored the way I saw the world and tuned my ear to devilish things. Whenever I heard an idiom related to Satan I thought, “Now I’ve got to shoehorn that in.” I felt a compulsion to add Satanic puns in places the story didn’t need them. Fortunately my editors caught what I was doing and put a stop to it.

Solution: If you’re writing a vampire story you didn’t need to wedge every Twilight quip you can think of in. Just because youe subject is a well-trodden topic doesn’t mean you need to reference every incarnation of it. Over-referencing is a rookie mistake.

Darlings

William Faulkner said, “In writing, you must kill your darlings.”

My first drafts have a lot of darlings, little wordplay witticisms that break up the action. I like to write in the first person, but my narrators can be overtly clever, snarky, and mean spirited.

I find most of my clever one-liners wear on me after a few edits. By the final draft my narrators are a lot more likeable.

Solution:

I put my darlings into storage. It makes it easier to cut them. When a quirky line breaks up the flow of a scene I copy and paste it into its own document. Maybe I’ll re-gift it to a character who can wear it better later.

Closing Thoughts

When editing ask yourself if that extra character detail sparks joy, if your settings are cluttered with too many descriptions, and if all your plot points are load-bearing.

Sometimes when a story feels like it’s missing something it’s because it has too many things it doesn’t need and the parts that matter are underdeveloped.

Stop hording unnecessary details. Every aspect of your story should serve the central theme. If they don’t then you’re going to need to tidy that shit up.

Continue reading The Life-Changing Magic of Editing the Shit Out of Your Story