Tag Archives: Featured

Why Every Horror Writer Needs A Nightmare Journal

Writers are always told our fiction should be informed by our experiences, because the best stories have a kernel of truth to them. With this in mind we smuggle our quote books into our characters’ mouths. We cast colleagues as our leads, and we misappropriate our memoirs into our material. We find and replace our own names and over-share under aliases. We launder tell off speeches through nom de plumes and reveal our truth through jest.

We write what we know until we write the fantastic elements of our story. Then we drop that mantra completely. Without the experiences to draw from we use other methods to ground our stories. We impose rules on the impossible.

A ghost can pester the living from the further, but will be weaker than a person who dares to go there. A magician can project a torch flame across the room, but the heat will diminish 60%. A Jedi can project his consciousness across the galaxy, but the journey will kill him.

We rely on western storytelling conventions to suspend our readers’ disbelief. We hope an internal logic will do the trick. For the most part it works, but what if there was a way to make our fantasies resonate with the same sense of authenticity as stories in our diaries? What if we had fantastic life experiences and we didn’t even know it?

Dreams are Experiences

Dreams are the only place (outside of drug fueled journeys, psychotic episodes, and virtual reality) where we experience true fantasy. Unlike daydreams, dreams push us out of the driver’s seat. When we ride through dream country we’re not creators, we’re experiencers. Our feelings aren’t manufactured, they’re reactive, and due to this delusion of perception, our observations are authentic.

I have friends who check out whenever I pitch them a story, but they lean in whenever I start talking about nightmares.

This is why I advocate the keeping of a nightmare journal, a Compendium of phantasms, an Atlas of the abyss, a Bestiary of bogeymen. You get the idea. Continue reading Why Every Horror Writer Needs A Nightmare Journal

Book Announcement: He Has Many Names

I’m super excited to announce my novel HE HAS MANY NAMES is coming out through CLASH Books this fall (just in time for Halloween). Here’s the press release from yesclash.com:

HE HAS MANY NAMES by Drew Chial is tongue in cheek meta-horror about a ghostwriter named Noelle, sequestered in a strange hotel, under the patronage of a famous & elusive bestselling horror author, where things go from strange to stranger.

This story is a fascinating exploration into the artmaking (or crazymaking) process & the bullshit politics writers face every day in the publishing industry. It’s a fresh spin on the Faustian bargain, a deal with the devil story in the age of artistic desperation.

Cover art by Matthew Revert

matthewrevert.com

Noelle is a Hollywood transplant who’s been subsisting on instant ramen and false hope. She’s on the verge of moving into her mother’s trailer when her agent convinces her to take a meeting at the Oralia Hotel. Enchanted by the art deco atmosphere Noelle signs a contract without reading the fine print. Now she has one month to pen a novel sequestered in a fantasy suite where a hack writer claims he had an unholy encounter. With whom you ask? Well, he has many names: Louis Cypher, Bill Z. Bub, Kel Diablo, Dee Ville.

Nevertheless Noelle is skeptical, until she’s awoken by horned shadow with a taste for souls. Desperate Noelle stays on, shifting the focus of her story to these encounters. Her investigations take her through the forth wall and back again in until she’s uncertain of the difference between reality and what’s written.

Is there a Satanic conspiracy, is it all a desperate author’s insanity, or is it something else entirely?

Photo by Bryan Politte

 

Drew Chial is a writer who haunts the coffee shops of Minneapolis Minnesota where he lives with his cat Nemo. He’s been a board member of the Minneapolis Screenwriter’s Workshop and a script reader for the production company Werc Werk Works. He’s won the Short Story and Flash Fiction Society’s Flash Fiction Contest. His articles have been featured on Word Press’s Freshly Pressed page and RogerEbert.com. The Fancy Pants Gangsters produced an audio drama from his short story The Narration for the Red Shift podcast. His short story ‘Grieving in Reverse’ was published in the collection Walking Hand and Hand into Extinction: Stories Inspired By True Detective. And he does not use ghostwriters…yet. His latest novel He Has Many Names is forthcoming from CLASH Books. He blogs about writing at drewchialauthor.com. Follow him on Twitter & Instagram @DrewChial where he shares disgustingly cute pics of his cat Nemo.

My Reoccurring Nightmare

I’ve been having this weird reoccurring nightmare. The thing is I’m not up on all that dream interpretation jargon. My brain keeps trying to tell me something, but I keep missing the point. Maybe you could help me figure it out.

The dream takes place in a vast palatial estate in the middle of the forest. I have no idea who owns the property or why they built so far from civilization. All I know is that the beds are always filled and that the guests have no clue how they got in them.

While this can be a jarring experience, the guests always seem to settle in. No one ever makes a break for the exit. Besides, where would they go? Every window looks out onto bark surfaces. The pantries are surrounded by towering evergreens. The dining hall is built upon a swamp and the bedchambers sit in a field of reeds.

The forest is well on its way to reclaiming the building. Maple seeds swirl through the skylights, vines droop from the rafters, and pollen is built up on everything like snow. Muskrats swim beneath the floorboards, frogs congregate on the windowsills, and raccoons and crows fight for perches on the shingles. There are cobwebs in every corner, nests in every crossbeam, and cocoons in every gutter.

For its part the estate refuses to go quietly. The support beams are always groaning, the foundations are always settling, and the shutters are always slapping against the side of the building.

The estate has a footprint the size of a castle, yet there are no grounds, no carriage houses, and no paths leading to the front steps.

There’s only one way to find this place.

I come here on nights when I’ve spent too much time pacing the apartment, too much time in the kitchen drinking, and too much time on the pillow thinking. I lie down in the city and rise up from my bunk in the woods.

Despite the size of the estate I can’t help but think of it as a cabin. Perhaps it’s the pine strips stacked floor to ceiling, the hardwood screeching under foot, or the log furnishing. Perhaps it’s the quilts hanging from the banisters, the moose antlers, or the smell of maple in the air.

I breath it all in. Continue reading My Reoccurring Nightmare

On Writer’s Block and Maladaptive Daydreaming

Like most writers, I have a fantasy prone personality. This proves useful when I’m visualizing the layout of a haunted hotel, filling the art deco décor with pipe organ chandeliers, gargoyles, and mirrored elevators. It proves troublesome when I feel an urge to sit in total silence for several hours imagining what it would’ve been like had I become the rock star my high school self was certain I would, contemplating how I would’ve downplayed public breakups, circumvented beefs with other artists in the press, and teased out topical new material.

Some fantasies boost our imaginative powers while others just eat our hours. That brings us to one of the most insidious forms of writer’s block an aspiring author can face:Maladaptive Daydreaming. Continue reading On Writer’s Block and Maladaptive Daydreaming

5 Lessons I Learned Writing The Pigeon King

When an aspiring podcaster finds his balcony overrun with pigeons he learns that madness doesn’t migrate, some sounds cannot be suppressed,and that isolation can serve as an invocation entity known as The Pigeon King. Read the short story now on Amazon.

Everything The Writer Sets Up Must Payoff

I wanted to write a story about a man who had such an intense aversion to noise pollution that he goes totally insane. I chose pigeons as the source of his torment because they couldn’t be reasoned with and I made the hero a podcaster to make his dilemma all the more maddening.

I figured the hero’s podcast would be something like This American Life, human-interest audio essays, that sort of thing. It just needed to be something that he could record alone, because madness, as you know, is an intimate experience.

I decided to make the subject of his recordings the Japanese shut-ins known as the hikikomori. This would setup the theme of isolation and foreshadow the madness to come.

It wasn’t until much later that it occurred to me that my hero’s critical perception of the hikikomori would factor into the ending.

A few chapters in I’d decided a monster known as the Pigeon King monster would show up in the third act, but I had no clue what it would do when it got there. In a lesser story it would’ve pecked our hero’s eyes out and that would’ve been that, but I decided to go for a twist and have the Pigeon King challenge the premise of our hero’s podcast, bringing everything full circle.

There Are Legal Limits Your Pop Culture References

So it turns out you can say your hero is an obsessive fan of Harry Potter. It’s okay to name drop famous characters so long as you’re not giving them staring roles, but the more you reference Wizarding World lore the closer you get to that blurry line. Once you quote dialogue from another source you’re over the line completely.

This may not be an issue when you’re posting on fan fiction forums, but it is when you’re selling things on Amazon. Having read the site’s terms and conditions I decided to gut the bulk of my hero’s references.

Hint at the Supernatural Before the 3rdAct

IfThe Pigeon Kingwas a movie I imagine a lot viewers in the audience going, “Wait, what?” during the 3rdact. I mentioned that there’s a monster, one that manifests in a way that defies all physical, and medical, logic. It’s pretty clear in the first chapter that something bizarre is afoot in our hero’s condo, just not thatbizarre.

The most rewarding twists give the audience just enough evidence to sense the possibility of a twist on the horizon while leaving them smacking their forearms saying, “Why didn’t I see that coming?”

Ultimately I think I kept too much of the mystery to myself.

A Clear Genre is More Important than Originality

When you’re pitching to a film producer the last thing you want to hear is, “That sounds complicated.”

That’s producer-speak for this story would be too tough to sell audiences.

I could tell you that The Pigeon Kingis a story about one man’s strugglers with a pigeon infestation, but that sounds more like a Looney Tunes cartoon than a short story.

When I shot a Twilight Zone-esque book trailer for The Pigeon King I made it a point to mention “something supernatural summons these squawking squatters” but I couldn’t commit to calling it a horror story. Sure, there’s a sense of looming dread that leads to a great big supernatural reveal, but most of it is played for laughs.

I like genre blurring stories but they are a tough sell, especially for a relative unknown like myself. If I really wanted to put my best foot forward on Amazon I should’ve lead with my next short Retail Hell, a story about a subterranean superstore that leans a lot harder on horror.

Closing Thoughts

I love The Pigeon Kingas it’s written. It’s just is one of those stories that’s tough to sell to people without spoiling the ending. The next batch of stories I’m putting on Amazon are more premise driven and their genre and tone are more evident by their titles. Continue reading 5 Lessons I Learned Writing The Pigeon King

How to Build Your Own Inferno

Hell is an ever-changing landscape, a neighborhood every would-be master of the macabre wants to build real estate on. The bible says Hell is a lake of burning sulfur, a blazing furnace filled with much weeping and gnashing of teeth yada-yada-yada. It’s actually a bit fuzzy on the details. There was a lot left for the likes of Dante and Milton to fill in. It’s from their foundations the blueprint got passed down for generations.

The Hell Loop

While hell has enjoyed many renovations since its inception several storytellers have settled on the one design. Let’s call it the hell loop. In a hell loop a sinner is forced to relive their worst memory for all eternity. It’s like Groundhog Day if Bill Murray’s character couldn’t change the events he relived, learned nothing from them, and had less time before the loop came back around.

You’ll see examples of this in movies like Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey andConstantineand in TV shows like The Twilight Zone,American Horror Story, Preacher, and Lucifer.

I think the hell loop cheats the audience. Hell is one of those colorful settings where writers have license to go big, get weird, and revel in the absurd. Looping a real world event feels like a copout. It’s an easy scenario to film on a budget and it doesn’t require much imagination. The scenario provides a safe default when hell’s architect doesn’t feel like drawing up a plan.

While a hell loop would be a horrible thing to experience it isn’t all that poetic. Continue reading How to Build Your Own Inferno

Supernatural Solutions for getting Your Writing Done

As a working professional you know how hard it is to make time for your writing. You clock into your 9 to 5 and 9 takes its sweet time getting to 5. Then you clock out and 5 runs right back to 9, and frankly 9 isn’t all that interested in 5. It’s a one-sided relationship.

It’s hard for those of you trapped in this numerical cycle to meet your word count goals, let alone your career aspirations. You need supernatural solutions to get the job done. You need a tower full of lightning rods, a kaleidoscope of beakers, and a chemical bath in the cellar. You need a meadow filled with pillars, conjuring circles, and gathering of shadows worth talking to. You need ideas way outside the box.

Well you’ve stumbled into the right high-altitude secret crystalline observatory. Leave your coat on the pillar of antlers and take a seat upon the altar. The wizard of forbidden knowledge will see you now.

If you want to keep at this writing game whilst balancing a day job then you’ll need… Continue reading Supernatural Solutions for getting Your Writing Done

How to Breathe New Life Into Old Scares

A few years back I wrote an article called Horror Clichés in Need of an Exorcism . My premise was that superstitions erode over time. Horror authors can’t just conjure up the same old scares as their forbearers and expect them to work. The things that haunted older generations turn into clichés in the light of reason. Fears like razor blades in Halloween candy, the Satanic panic, and alien abductions all came with expirations.

Among the clichés my article targeted were Ouija boards. I thought it was common knowledge that Ouija boards depended on the subconscious movements of their participants, something known as the ideomotor effect, a phenomenon that’s been proven in lab conditions. I thought I spoke for the horror community when I asserted that spirit boards had no more scares left in them (of course I was wrong).

At the time I went to great lengths to design covers for my articles. That one featured me made up like the demon Pazuzu from The Exorcist. I couldn’t think of a great backdrop so I settled on a giant Ouija board.

Not long after I published the piece I got a DM from a Twitter user warning me to steer clear of those fabled Ouija boards. I told him to read the article to find out why he needn’t worry about me.

He DMed me back, “That’s funny and all, but seriously, don’t fuck around with those things.”

I didn’t know how to break it to him that I wasn’t playing the same role-playing game he was. The one he was playing required him to treat an alphabet on cardboard as a tool of the devil. Mine didn’t.

Here was a full-grown man who considered Ouija boards contraband. Part of me pitied him. Another more insidious part of me envied the hell out of him. Why? This man had retained a kind of childlike wonder that I’d never get back again. Maybe it wasn’t wonder but more of fear of some esoteric unknown. I wasn’t afraid of Ouija boards because I knew how the ideomotor effect worked. I’d seen it demonstrated and I’ve never been possessed. Continue reading How to Breathe New Life Into Old Scares

So You’ve Burned Yourself Out. Now What?

So you published something brilliant, filmed a book trailer, did the podcast circuit, the blog tour, local readings, and a slew of conventions. You’ve hand sold at outlet stores at a table fit for a three-card Monte hustler. You ran out onto a football field wearing nothing but a book banner. You did everything to promote your writing.

Now you’re out on parole, slouched on the couch, utterly spent. You never want to go through that process again.

Yet the shadow of Stephen King looms over you, a modern day Moses commanding, “Thou shalt write every day.”

So you dab your worn arthritic fingers upon the keyboard until autocorrect spits out some sentences and you find yourself questioning your own literacy. The spark of inspiration has fizzled to ash. What you once did for relief now feels like a chore. What should you do? Continue reading So You’ve Burned Yourself Out. Now What?

A reading from The Pigeon King

The following is a spooky excerpt from my short story The Pigeon King.

CLICK HERE to find out what happens next. Continue reading A reading from The Pigeon King