This is the fifth collection of my best Tweets under the hashtag #YouKnowYoureAWriterWhen. Click here to catch up on the first part. These were inspired by @KMWeiland. Her blog is an excellent resource for writers looking to become authors.
“My favorite jump scares toy with your expectations.”
Cue the Psycho Strings
In horror movies, jump scares make teenagers lose their popcorn, while veteran viewers hold onto their Milk Duds. Veterans know the rhythms of the genre. They know what it means when the score fades beneath a howling wind. They watch the victim tiptoe through a long uninterrupted shot. They know when to expect a cat to jump out, and when to expect a killer. While teens wince at the simple sight of blood, vets yawn at all the spiritless slaughter. If they’ve seen one hook pop out of someone’s throat, they’ve seen them all.
They’ve been exposed to far too many cheap chills, generic gotchas, and bargain BOO’s. Without good storytelling, panic feels passé, alert seems antiquated, and carnage seems commonplace.
Veteran viewers have been inoculated against these dated daunts. They lean back in their seats, with comfortable dry pants, secure in their immunity. What if there was a new strain of jump scare, one that resembled those creep show clichés, but broke through their resistance? Continue reading Cue the Psycho Strings
This is the fourth collection of my best Tweets under the hashtag #YouKnowYoureAWriterWhen. Click here to catch up on the first part. These were inspired by @KMWeiland. Her blog is an excellent resource for writers looking to become authors.
There’s a reason why vampires still rise out of crypts. It’s the same reason why packs of werewolves roam the countrysides, ghosts linger in abandon lighthouses, and demons wait in attics beside Ouija boards and Twister mats. There’s a reason why every flash of bright blue light hides an alien vessel, why squadrons of witches streak across the moon, and why zombies clog the interstate. It’s the same reason why Bloody Marry is on call behind every reflective surface, why trolls make living rooms of covered overpasses, and why every tomb, no matter how far from Egypt, is stacked full of mummies.
These monsters have stood the test of time. They’ve been vetted by generations of storytellers. Each creature has deep cultural roots and instant brand recognition. We see elongated canines, dripping with blood, and we know what to expect. We hear doors slam, see furniture stack, and we anticipate a chill in the air. We see a sickly girl chained to a bed, shouting obscenities, and we expect her head to spin like a sprinkler firing pea soup across the walls.
These creatures have the staying power to crawl up from the pits of the public domain. Their mythos are classics. New works based on them are never dismissed as fan-fiction. Good writers borrow, great writers steal, and if you’re going to be a thief you might as well steal from the best.
Writing a story about vampires or werewolves is like filling out a mad-lib in reverse. The character attributes are already there, all you have to do is come up with the situation. Writers who take on these monsters are like DJs remixing mythologies. The tune never changes, all they have to do is drop a fresh beat. Like grade school students passing a story around, writers using these monsters contribute to an ongoing plot. They expand a vast universe that’s populated with characters with strikingly similar names.
What do you do when you want to tell your own story? Continue reading Build Your Own Monsters
This is the third collection of my best Tweets under the hashtag #YouKnowYoureAWriterWhen. Click here to catch up on the first part. These were inspired by @KMWeiland. Her blog is an excellent resource for writers looking to become authors.
This is the second collection of my best Tweets under the hashtag #YouKnowYoureAWriterWhen. Click here to catch up on the first part. These were inspired by @KMWeiland. Her blog is an excellent resource for writers looking to become authors.
You know you’re a writer when you realize that you have some form of psychic ability. Your words are telepathic messages. You can communicate with people you will never meet, in places you will never go, in eras you will never live. You can get inside their heads, make them see what you want. You can evoke emotions and plant ideas. You can change minds.
You know you’re a writer when you realize that daydreaming is the purest form of lucid dreaming. That reality is subjective, that it’s within your means to change it, to doctor the record after the fact.
You know you’re a writer when you go from dabbling with an outline, to compulsively refining a novel. You know you’re a writer when you steal away like a drug lord with a second cellphone, like a spouse concealing graphic sexts, or a politician trying to dodge a blackmail scandal.
Inspiration strikes and you have to answer the call. If you’re on the clock, duck into the bathroom, hide behind the coat racks, or crawl beneath your desk. You’ve got to jot something down before it evaporates. That clever phrase won’t last long on ice. You’ve got reach for your notepad, type on your phone, or scrawl the words across your arm.
HR might call that time theft but that’s their corporate culture. You’re the counterculture.
You’ve got a secret life to attend to.
You know you’re writer when you realize that your thoughts have value. That there ought to be a record of them. That immortality is an attainable goal to a scant few that are bold enough to go for it.
The first time I saw the #YouKnowYoureAWriterWhen hashtag was in a post by @KMWeiland. She writes advice for writers working to becoming authors on her website. She deserves the credit for introducing it to me.
On Twitter #YouKnowYoureAWriterWhen has been my goto hashtag. It’s a quick way to spark my creativity on a fifteen minute break. It’s a springboard for conversation. It gets me thinking about my process. Sure it’s riff on Jeff Foxworthy, but it’s come to mean something important to me. I’d like to see more writers using it.
Giving credit where credit is due, this post is the brain child of Jessica West (@Wes1Jess on Twitter). I’d been posting these for over a year. She suggested that I post a collection. This is the first part. Continue reading #YouKnowYoureAWriterWhen
Why Writers shouldn’t Succumb to Peer Pressure from Social Media
“All I want is the truth. Just gimme some truth”
As a writer, I know that no publishing house will have me until I have an established presence online. It’s up to my peers to vet me. Agents just look at the metrics. So I’ve reached out and found some like minded folks. They’re all in the same boat, but have different ideas on how to get to their destination. While some participate in the discussion, others shout into a vacuum. While some share their ideas, others push a product. While some explore the current environment, others make themselves a destination. Some seek friends, others seek fame.
Writers who seek meaningful interactions band together. They guest blog, host challenges, call for beta readers, and write reviews. They collaborate, happy to spread the credit around. They unite under the banner of the same hashtag. They make us noobs, feel like we belong.
Sadly, if there’s one rule on the internet, it’s that the moment you have a thriving community, it becomes a marketplace.
Here come the self promoters, the over sharers, the brand builders, and the platform growers. Here come the life coaches, the inspirational entrepreneurs, the goal setters, and the list makers. Here come the social media gurus, the analytic mystics, the reach readers, and the clout crunchers. Here come the quote bots, the platitude programs, the advice automatons, and the stock phrase generators.
They’ve found the last refuge of genuine sentiment on the Internet. They’ve come to put a dollar sign on it. Continue reading Gimme Some Truth
Why Choose a Genre?
Into every life an avalanche of books fall. Readers have more choices now than they’ve ever had. Endcaps filled with hardcovers, have been replaced by screens filled with thumbnails. What once took up valuable bookshelf real estate, now takes a few measly megabytes. Readers are overwhelmed with options.
Its up to authors to whittle the selection down, to label our own work, to categorize our magnum opuses for the sake of brand recognition. We have to take our ninety-thousand word story and sum it up in one word; the genre.
This isn’t that easy.
Your story traverses the vast expanse of emotional landscape. It’s equal parts horrifying and touching, bitter and sweet. It’s painted in the full spectrum of human experience. Your characters suffer, they lust, and they laugh.
Your story is escapist fantasy, but doesn’t require the mind to travel too far. It explores the heights of the imagination, but its rooted in reality. It takes place on its own world, yet it’s an allegory for the one we live in. It’s universal, but it’s intensely personal. It’s a product of its era, but timeless in its simplicity. It’s not just your story; it’s your legacy.
Now how do you sum all that up in just one word? Can you brand it, pigeon hole it, lump it in with all the others? Can you catalogue it for easy browsing? Can you give us examples of ones just like it? Is it this meets this? Is it pink or blue, a skirt or a cape, a heart or an explosion? Is it a retelling of a reimagined reinvention of a remake, or is it a fresh take on an old-fashioned formula? Is it a beloved cult classic, revived for the twerking generation? Which great myth have you added cellphones too? Continue reading Contrast is Cool
I am not one of those writers who writes only what I know. I do not chalk up my research to life experience. I do not believe that method writing makes one story more genuine than another. Nor do I believe that every fiction author is secretly penning their own memoir. Though I often write to wrench the weight off of my chest, it is not my sole reason for doing it.
I write about what I am passionate about, but I don’t always have a manifesto in my back pocket. I have something to say, but I don’t always smuggle my closing arguments into a narrative. Sometimes my subtext is just a plot thread that’s been left there to dangle.
My imagination can take me far away from my obligations, but I don’t always write to escape.
Sometimes I write just to see what will happen. To tinker for the sake of tinkering. To experiment and see if the results surprise me. To feel like I’m outside of myself, just because it feels funky.
I believe that life experience can make a story feel authentic. It helps describe the lay of the land. It gives you a quote for specific scenarios. It puts ready made thoughts into your characters’ heads.
That said, I do not believe you have to live through something to write about. You may have to research it. You may have to interview others who have, but if you dwell on it enough to bring tears to your eyes, you can write about it. Just respect your readers enough to handle difficult subjects with care and nuance. Continue reading Fake It Until You Make It