Tag Archives: fiction

Backseat Driver

My chauffeur has trouble concentrating on the road ahead. He checks the gas gauge more than anything beyond the hood. He’s more concerned with keeping his vehicle in working order than getting anywhere. He drives down an empty highway well below the speed limit.

His eyes wonder to the mirror, not to check for cars, but to examine his irises. They’re swimming in so much red they look like they’re glowing blue. He’s so entranced by the effect he doesn’t notice me, guzzling motor oil from a paper bag, in the back seat.

We’ve logged so many miles together he’s forgotten that I’m even here. He flicks the high beams on, thinking it’s fog he’s seeing, and not the secondhand puffs from a smoker who refuses to crack a window open. He adjusts his seat, blaming the sharp stabbing pain on his posture, and not the boot heel I’m pushing into his rear.

I slip a plug into the cigarette lighter and rest an exposed wire on my tongue. My saliva sizzles. Each static jolt is sugary sweet. I want to see how much energy I can syphon before he turns around. When my chauffeur notices the dimming of the headlights, he pulls over certain that it’s a problem with his eyesight. Continue reading Backseat Driver

How to Speed Write for National Novel Writing Month

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short).

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Nearly 500,000 people participate in NaNoWriMo every year. Many are first time novelists who have decided to take the plunge, which means a lot of people are about to realize just how many hours there are in a day.

Here are some ideas to help you churn out a story as fast as possible.

Fortify Your Writing Space

The first thing you’ll to want to do is make sure that your bunker is stocked with nonperishable food items, water purification pellets, and enough Neosporin to cover a month’s worth of paper cuts. This way you can avoid the marauders that will be plundering your home in the wake of the election. Oh and once you’re several stories underground make sure your short wave radio is nowhere near the room where you’ll be writing. All those panic wrought police officers will break your concentration.

Now if you’re one of the poor souls stuck aboveground you’ll need a playlist to drown out all the screams.

I work to dark atmospheric soundtracks. This year I’ve been writing to the scores for Stranger Things, Mr. Robot, and Before the Flood (pretty much anything by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross will get you in the right mood to write horror).

Scores for TV shows are perfect for writing because the composer has left space for dialogue, there’s room to hear yourself think, they’re usually slower than film scores, and there’s no lyrics to steal your attention. Continue reading How to Speed Write for National Novel Writing Month

The Smilers: A Horror Story About Happy People

The first incident happened at the liquor store.

I had a bottle of pinot noir in one hand and tub of Peppermint Bon Bon in the other. I had taken my time settling on the wine. The ice cream had melted down my palm and puddled on the floor. It seeped through my slipper and pooled between my toes. By the time I felt it I’d already slipped.

The bottle rolled down my hand and up my fingers in an arch. I dove to catch it. It clinked on the linoleum, but it didn’t crack. It would’ve been a great save had it not been for the shelf I’d knocked over in the process. Cans popped out of six packs, rolled down the aisle, and spouted leaks.

I crawled around in my pajama pants collecting craft beers into my hooded sweatshirt. I wobbled up to the front counter with arms overloaded with aluminum and pockets oozing with ice cream and beer foam. Continue reading The Smilers: A Horror Story About Happy People

The Inspiration Killers: A Story about Monsters that Prey on Creativity

Most of the symbols on the crime map were self explanatory. The blue men’s room signs with guns represented armed robberies, green cars were thefts of motor vehicles, baby blue houses were residential burglaries, red fists were aggravated assaults, purple R’s were sexual assaults, and green dollar bags represented thefts of businesses.

The symbol for what happened to me was black. The image was a floating phantom with a pointed head, winglike robes, and a curved trail for legs.

This phantom symbol covered the map around the liberal arts schools, the downtown design firms, and the bohemian blocks in Uptown.

Zoom into the map and you’d see phantom symbols across the street from the bookstore that hosted poetry readings, on the bus stop outside of the improv comedy club, and the lot behind First Avenue, the concert venue.

If you scanned a crime map of Texas you’d find the greatest concentration of phantoms were in Austin. In Oregon they were in Portland, and in Minnesota they were in Minneapolis. That’s where one got me.  Continue reading The Inspiration Killers: A Story about Monsters that Prey on Creativity

#Unblessed: A Scary Story Told 140 Characters At a Time

The following Tweets were posted between 3:05 and 3:20 AM on Friday April 29, 2016. They were geotagged along the bank of the Mississippi in Minneapolis Minnesota, between Central Avenue and the Stone Arch Bridge. Signs of arson were detected in the Pillsbury A-Mill, downed trees were found throughout the Father Hennepin Bluff Park, and strange prints were spotted along the north bank of the river. No bodies were discovered and the legitimacy of the following Tweets is still in question. Continue reading #Unblessed: A Scary Story Told 140 Characters At a Time

How Writers Can Remix the Past

I was a script reader in a past life. My job was to read all the screenplays an independent production house received, summarize them, estimate their budgets, and gave them grade. My “pass” or “consider” rating system determined if the producers gave more than a passing glance at the material that was sent to them.

When I got to work their were two piles: priority screenplays, solicited scripts with talent and directors already attached, and then there was the other pile, the pile I had to dig into when I ran out of the stuff my bosses wanted me to read. These were the mystery scripts with hieroglyphic fonts, foreign formatting, and dialogue blurbs that stretched on over several pages. These were the unvetted works from screenwriters who’d yet to find agency representation. This pile was a dangerous game of reading roulette. Continue reading How Writers Can Remix the Past

The Phantom of Truth

The Phantom of Truth appeared at the foot of my bed. His black robe draped over the mattress. His boney knees made the springs squeal. He pinned me to the pillows with a crocked finger as thick as a broom handle.

The Phantom did not fade in and out like a waking dream. He was a real tangible thing, buckling the floorboards, scrapping his hunchback against the ceiling, getting dust all over everything. He was a giant whose every movement shook the room. If he jumped he’d take the whole floor down with him.

It occurred to me that his long black robe was made from scales. I thought the robe might’ve been stitched together from snakeskins, until I saw it puff out on its own like the sack beneath a frog’s neck. The cloak had no seams. I couldn’t tell where it ended and the creature’s long arms began. Continue reading The Phantom of Truth

How to Reroute your Story For A New Twist

When I started my novel We the Damned my outline was no longer than a paragraph. All I wanted to know was the premise, the players, and the conflict.

In the story the demon Court of Skulls puts Eugene Black’s life on trial. They sabotage his defense by assigning him Murphy O’Dell, a day drinking public defender in the process of being disbarred. The courts rigs the evidence, alters procedure, and calls a series of couched witnesses to convince Eugene his life has no meaning. The court’s victory seems like a foregone conclusion until Murphy comes to care about his client.

I knew the surface conflict, but wanted to wait until I was in the thick of writing to understand the characters’ underlying motivations. All I knew was the Court of Skulls wanted to damn a soul while concealing its importance, and Murphy wanted to win, because it gave him a chance to stick it to the demons who he learned have been sabotaging his life all along. Continue reading How to Reroute your Story For A New Twist

Is It Safe: When to Tell People About What You’re Writing

Right now many of you are cranking out stories for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). You’ve got two more weeks to hit your 50,000 word goal. If the words are flowing you might feel an urge to share your idea with everyone and their mom, but now isn’t the time.

It’s hard to stay on the right path when your friends say, “What if, instead, you took your story in this direction?”

It’s hard to concentrate on where your story is going if someone questions where it’s been. It’s hard to power through to a deadline when criticism derails your train of thought. Continue reading Is It Safe: When to Tell People About What You’re Writing

Use Your Darkness: How Writers’ Shortcomings Benefit Their Characters

Know Thy Self

Most of us avoid doing anything out of character. We don’t want our routines to get broken. If our lives have to change we want it to be so gradual that we don’t even notice. If we’re stuck in a rut we try to make ourselves comfortable with it. It doesn’t matter if every day feels the same, we choose to live in Groundhog Day scenarios because it’s what we know.

We predict how we’ll manage in tough spots, overlooking the difference between our ideal selves and our applied selves, between our routine self and our chaotic self.We gossip about other losers who fell apart under pressure, patting ourselves on the back for how we assume we’d react differently. We’d like to believe we wouldn’t panic from the comfort of our love seats. Continue reading Use Your Darkness: How Writers’ Shortcomings Benefit Their Characters