I finally watched the final episode of American Horror Story’s seventh season (one day I’ll be able to give a review right after the season premiere or finale on my own cable package), and I have to say, this has definitely been an interesting season. When people heard that the new season was going to be about the 2016 American Presidential Election, after months of speculation that it would be about either a cruise or something else ocean-related, we weren’t sure what to expect. Would it be preachy and lean towards one end of the political spectrum or the other? Would Trump, Clinton, or some other political figure be featured as a character? And would Sarah Paulson play Trump (if she did, she’d be great at it, no doubt)? And as further details came out, namely that it would be about a cult that arose in the wake of the election and focused on people who felt isolated and galvanized by the election, we got intrigued. Could this actually work as a season arc? Could this be good?

Well, before I get into that, let’s go a bit deeper into the plot. Returning to a normal mode of storytelling after the reality TV show format of Roanoke and being perhaps the most down-to-Earth season in the show’s history, Cult follows two very different people who become intertwined in ways neither would believe. The first is Allie Mayfair-Richards, a business owner and mother with liberal leanings and crippling anxiety who isn’t dealing well in the post-election climate. The other is Kai Anderson, a charismatic young man who begins to gather a group of devoted followers around him as he pursues power in local politics. As their lives start to intersect, they’ll not only make permanent impressions in each other’s lives, they’ll make impressions in the very surface of American politics.

I loved this season. Yes, the first two episodes were kind of slow and clunky, more devoted to commentary than to actually scaring the viewer, but after that the story and scares really picked up. The writers kept things very intimate, so that while this may have seemed like a big story about national politics and American political culture on the surface, it felt incredibly intimate, letting us into the lives and minds of these people. As per usual with American Horror Story, the story was twisty as heck, keeping you guessing where the story would go from one episode to the next and being unable to figure out most of the time where things would go. And after the second episode, they managed to keep the political commentary from getting too over the top. In fact, I think they managed to capture the spirit of American politics very well in this season: confused, divisive, changing from day to day and week to week. Things come up and down, change and merge and break, and become so muddled that you don’t know how it all started. All this was captured very well in this season.

And oh my God, that ending! That’s going to stay in my head for a while.

Beware this guy. He is a villain par excellence.

I also really enjoyed the characters. Obviously, the two main ones are exaggerated distillations of the stereotypes of the liberal and conservative voters, with Kai representing some of the darker views of what Donald Trump is to some Americans, but they also feel like real people whom you want to watch and see where they want to go from episode to episode. Each major character is given time to develop so that they feel real to the viewer, and you feel their struggles and/or death. I especially love Beverly Hope, played by Adina Porter (who played my favorite character last season), whose struggles within her workplace, followed by her struggles within a cult that changes drastically from the time she joins to the time she escapes. Kai is also just terrifying to watch. You know what his final goal is, but you never know what to expect from him from moment to moment. He’s like a pinball, causing something every time he touches something. He makes for a great villain. And watching Allie go from this weak, paranoid woman to this strong, somewhat devious fighter was just stunning.

Now, were there any parts I didn’t care for? Well, as I said, the first two episodes didn’t jibe with me, they were more devoted to commentary and set up than actual scares. Those could have been done better. Another issue I had was that I felt the final episode was kind of predictable. I mean, once I saw where it started, I kind of knew where it was going to go (except for maybe that last scene). I expect better from American Horror Story.

I also didn’t care for Lena Dunham playing Valerie Solanas in the seventh episode. Now, I have nothing against Lena Dunham. I think she’s a great crusader for a number of important issues, and I admire her for the success she’s had in the entertainment business. But sadly, I’ve only seen her in a couple of roles, not enough to get a gauge on whether or not I like her as an actress. And in the seventh episode, she just felt miscast. The episode was written brilliantly, the character she played was interesting, but she just didn’t fit well into the role, to the point that she was annoying (I don’t mean that in a sexist way, I just mean she didn’t fit the role and it had a negative impact. Don’t go after me in the comments).

And finally, I felt like the clown costumes could’ve used an explanation. Yes, the character Meadow designed the costumes, but why clowns? Why not a minority abused by the right, or ninjas, or just people dressed in dark clothing? It’s hinted that it has something to do with Twisty the Clown, who makes a surprise guest appearance in the first episode, but we never find out why the cult decides to commit crimes in custom-made clownsuits. I would’ve loved an explanation on that, especially since clowns figured so much in the advertising for the season (speaking of which, where are the bees? They show up a lot in the ads and the opening theme, but barely in the show proper).

This needed more of an explanation.

But other than that, American Horror Story: Cult was a great entry into the series. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give this season a 4.2, as well as the designation of my second favorite season so far (Hotel‘s still the best). It’s engaging, thrilling, and different from any other season so far. Plus it does a better job of talking about oppression and women’s empowerment than Coven ever did, so good on the writers for fixing that mistake. Check it out, and see it for yourself.

Now as for Season 8, details are scarce beyond that it will come out sometime next year, and that Sarah Paulson will return for her eighth consecutive season (yay!). I’m still hoping that I’ll eventually get an Orphanage or Academy/School-themed season. I’m curious as to how, if the theory about each season being a circle of Hell is true, how those themes might apply to those circles that are left. And I’m wondering who will be coming and going for the next season (Lady Gaga! Kathy Bates! Please come back!).

Well, that’s American Horror Story for you. It leaves you wondering up until the moment something happen, and then it blows us all away.

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Voice. Sometimes, I feel this can be the hardest thing to create in a story, especially when you’re writing in first person. You, as the writer, have to create this unique person, someone with a personality, desires, fears, likes, and pet peeves. And then you have to give them a unique speaking voice, including vocabulary and word choice, syntax, grammar, accent, and all that can be really difficult. A lot of us have that distinct writer’s voice* in our heads that is always arranging our sentences on the page (or on the blog post) in a way that reads like what we consider good literature.

And it’s even more hindered when you consider where our writer voices come from. You see, I have this hypothesis that every writer’s storytelling voice is born when they read a great story and the narration resonates with them on a deeper level. This could be their own voice reading their first chapter book as a child, a parent reading to them a fantasy novel by their bedside and making the story come alive, or an audio book narrator with a great speaking voice behind the words. No matter how many other stories we may read or listen to later in life with their own amazing narrative styles–the childlike humor and observations of Alice in Wonderland, Stephen King’s odd characters and descriptions, or the three women from The Help and how they each view their situation from vastly different backgrounds and dispositions–it will always be this original narrator who contributed the base DNA for your writer’s voice, and whom a part of you will always spend a good amount of time both trying to emulate in power and break away from so you don’t sound like a copycat.

For me, I always go to Jim Dale’s narration of the Harry Potter audio books. Harry Potter was a big part of my childhood, and caused me to start writing in the first place. My first attempt at writing was something like a Harry Potter gender-bend fanfiction. And Jim Dale made the text come alive, in ways the movies and the books alone couldn’t. Whenever I wrote, in the back of my mind, I was comparing and contrasting to Jim Dale’s work. And while I’ve managed to develop my own voice, it’s still a fight that goes on in the back of my head up to this day.

So basically, I’m fighting Jim Dale in my head while trying to create an original narrator’s voice on the page.It’s an image perfect for a Family Guy cutaway gag.

Struggling against this guy in my head every time I write.

So what can you do when you’re trying to create a distinct voice for your narrator or narrators? What do you do when you want to make Skeeter sound different from Abilene and Abilene from Minnie, or Cormoran Strike from Harry Potter, or Lestat from Louis? And can I come up with any other characters for comparison? The answer to the latter question is yes I can, but I’ll stick to the former if you don’t mind too much.

As many of you know, I’ve been working on a new story while I wait to hear back from my beta readers. And as I mentioned in a previous post, I’m taking a more organic approach by writing this story without much planning and seeing what evolves from that. And weirdly, that approach has allowed me to tap more fully into my narrator’s head. I’m not exactly sure why, but I think it might have something to do with the plotting vs. pantsing thing I talked about in that previous post. When I’m plotting, I think out every detail of the story, not leaving much room for change or experimentation. Thus, the narrator’s voice becomes secondary to telling the story I want to tell, in the way I want it to be told, and the narrator’s voice ends up as something close to default writer’s voice.

But while I’m pantsing it (or plantsing it, as my friend Kat Impossible informs me), that particular mental clamp isn’t in place. Thus, without having to worry about getting my story from Point A to Points B, C, D, E and F (I’m not even sure if I have a Point F at this point), I can focus more on my narrator and develop her voice. I’ve actually discovered through, just by letting my character be herself and make her observations about the world, she’s a pretty frank and kind of funny. At one point, after saying “her heart fluttered,” she says she sounds like a romance novel, which she hates reading, and her friends consider that a horror “on par with the bombing of Pearl Harbor.” I wrote that in, and I ended up laughing!

I might have to pants/plants my stories more often in the future.

But what if you already write by pantsing or plantsing, or plotting is the only style that works for you? Well, I might have a few suggestions:

  1. Write out the traits of your narrator. If your narrator is a character in the story,  then obviously they have a personality (unless this is an 80’s movie, in which case they’re bland and white). Think about them and what their role is a story. What do they want? What do they stand to lose if they fail? What’s in their past? Who do they hang out with? Figuring this out can give an insight into the character and therefore to the voice that they give.
  2. Have a conversation with the narrator. I forget where I got this, but it’s a good one to use. Grab some paper and a pen, and have a conversation with your character. Ask them questions, and then write down what you’d imagine their responses to be. It seems a little mental, but it’s pretty effective, and can be used for other issues in a story (motivation, plot holes, etc).
  3. Spend time narrating scenes in your head. I’m the kind of guy who spends a lot of time planning the story in my head before I write it (the consequence of having a full-time job and only one me to write). Consequently, there are scenes I’ve written and rewritten several times over in my head. During that time, a character’s personality, worries, beliefs, and of course their voice will emerge through several mental revisions. By the time you get the actual writing, you already have the narrator’s voice down pat.

Voice is always difficult to get right for any narrator, but there are a variety of ways to help you get that voice. Whether it’s writing something differently than usual, or having an imaginary conversation, you can discover your narrator and their voice. And from there, you can make your story that much better.

What do you think of finding a narrator’s voice? Do you have any tips for doing so?

*The writer’s voice, by the way, is very different from our speaking voices. I’m never this eloquent in real life. I actually stammer a bit, my mind racing to get the best sentence out while my mouth is already saying the words. It’s quite annoying, and sadly the only time I’m not plagued with it is probably when I’m telling a joke (usually a stupid one). Oh, wouldn’t it be nice if we could speak like we write blog posts or stories? It might make a few things easier.

My boy, HP Lovecraft

So today as I was heating up dinner, a thought passed through my head that sometimes passes through there (along with, “Oh, that would make a great story,” “I’m hungry,” and “These miserable mortals must be destroyed! Rise up and cleanse the Earth of them!”). The thought was, “I wish there were more HP Lovecraft adaptations. He’s got a lot of material to work from.” This thought was followed, rather unexpectedly, by “Why wasn’t there an HP Lovecraft cinematic universe? You’d think it’d be perfect for film studios. The stories literally take place a multiverse, possibly the very first multiverse!”

Now, if you’re wondering who HP Lovecraft is, you’re not alone. He’s criminally under-known (a word I just made, so copyright). What’s important to know is that he was a writer from the early half of the 20th century who wrote horror stories based around powerful cosmic entities and truths from beyond the stars whose exposure to humans can cause insanity, destruction and death. This is called cosmic horror, and Lovecraft practically invented it. And while you might’ve never heard of HP Lovecraft or cosmic horror (though I talk about him often enough on this blog), you’ve probably seen the wide results of his influence. Ever wonder where the ideas for the Demogorgon or the Shadow Monster and the Upside-Down from Stranger Things come from? Those all are at least partly inspired by Lovecraft’s creations. The weirder, more interdimensional aspects of the works of Stephen King, such as the last two-hundred pages of It or the Dark Tower series? Lovecraft helped inspire them, especially his Dream Cycle stories in relation to the Dark Tower books. And that thing with a mouth full of teeth coming out of my hotel room toilet? That’s actually a demon crocodile, where the hell did that come from?

Point is, Lovecraft has influenced a lot of horror fiction, and even some things not normally considered horror, such as Marvel comics villains. Now excuse me, I’ve got to take care of that demon crocodile.

Still here? Good. Well, you’d think that with such a bibliography and legacy, you’d think Lovecraft would have several adaptations, right? Maybe even a cinematic universe, considering he has one of the earliest multiverses in fiction? Wrong, actually. There are actually only a handful of direct HP Lovecraft adaptations, the most well-known being Re-Animator, and the story that’s based on is kind of in its own separate mini-universe (kind of like Deadpool in the X-Men movies). But wait. If his ideas and the works they influence are so ubiquitous that we’re getting major Netflix shows and box-office record-breaking movies based on them, why aren’t his works being made into more movies? And why isn’t there a cinematic universe, when there’s a gold mine right there for it?

Thank Lovecraft for this guy.

Well, there are a few reasons for that. One of the reasons is that movie adaptations, and especially cinematic universes, are made from properties that filmmakers feel will make them money (now there kind of’s an evil god to rival Cthulhu, am I right?). In the past, movies based off of HP Lovecraft stories have only done moderately well at the box office, mostly as cheesy B-movies, and that’s on a good day. Even Re-Animator only earned around two-million, and its budget was just about half that. So if a major film studio were to make a major adaptation of a Lovecraft story, they’d have to believe that a Lovecraft story could bring in a major profit. And if past adaptations are any indication, it’s not a risk studios are willing to make (let alone a cinematic universe*).

Another issue is that, to be frank, Lovecraft stories don’t always translate very well to cinema. They’re often centered around one person’s experience, and the events surrounding that person aren’t always told in a structure that lends well to movie storytelling. Hell, some of them don’t even work with literature storytelling (*cough* Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath *cough*).  If you were to adapt some of these stories, you’d have to do a lot of work just to make some of them look good as a screenplay. And even when doing comic book adaptations sometimes involves tweaking entire story arcs just because of copyrights and other aspects, not everyone is willing to do that.

And finally, HP Lovecraft is under-known. Well-known properties, even if there’s no reason to think they’ll be money-makers, are more likely to be adapted than something that few people have heard of. William Shakespeare movies usually don’t make tons of money unless major stars are attached to it, but some of his plays are so well-known and loved that they have multiple adaptations and there’s a good chance more will come in the future (I’d like a Titus Andronicus adaptation, please). But if a work is lesser known, or its appeal is too esoteric, it’s likelihood to get adapted is pretty low.

And all these factors are in the way of more Lovecraft adaptations.

Great adaptation of Lovecraft’s best-known story, The Call of Cthulhu.

Still, that doesn’t mean there haven’t been Lovecraft adaptations in recent years. And not all of them have been cheesy B-films. The HP Lovecraft Historical Society (yes, that’s a thing) has previously made great adaptations of The Call of Cthulhu (which I own and reviewed HERE) and The Whisperer in Darkness that were made to look like they were filmed in Lovecraft’s time. Guillermo del Toro nearly made a big-budget adaptation of At the Mountain of Madness, one of Lovecraft’s better-known works, and there’s a chance he may try to make it again someday. And with Lovecraft’s appeal staying steady and possibly even growing, there’s a chance other studios, including independent ones, will make their own adaptations. One article I read even said that a lot of international indie studios are not only making Lovecraft films, but showing them at film studios.

And even if Lovecraft films aren’t being directly adapted, as I’ve said, his ideas are appearing all over the place. I’ve already mentioned the works of Stephen King and Stranger Things, and those are only the tip of a large iceberg. The Hellboy films all feature Lovecraftian monsters, as do a number of major video games like Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Bloodborne. And I recently saw a film heavily influenced by Lovecraft called The Void, and while I had some issues with it, it definitely had its points, including great atmosphere and practical effects. Stuff like this will only keep Lovecraft in the public consciousness and maybe someday lead to further adaptations of his work.

So maybe HP Lovecraft won’t have a cinematic universe anytime soon. But he’s clearly got staying power, and that means there’s always a chance we could see more films by him as time goes by. Some of them may even come from major studios and perhaps even be great successes. As nearly everyone says, you never know what the future holds. Maybe even an adaptation of Shunned House? Please?

What do you think of HP Lovecraft adaptations? What would you like to see adapted? Let’s discuss.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. The demon crocodile (whom I’ve named Alathla) and I are off to cause terror in a major metropolis area. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

*Though from what I hear, cinematic universes are on the way out the door, thanks to the massive mistakes studios like WB and Universal have made with the DCEU and Dark Universes. So…never mind?

Reborn City, Book 1 of the Reborn City series.

I almost totally forgot this was happening today. I’ve been attending a training this week for work, so that’s been occupying most of my thoughts, and on top of that, yesterday was Halloween, so I totally forgot that anything else was happening this week. Lo and behold though, one look at my Facebook memories today showed me otherwise, and reminded me that today is the four-year anniversary of the publication of my first novel, Reborn City.

Now if you don’t know what Reborn City is, it’s a science fiction novel I wrote back in high school, and which I published back in my third year of college. The novel follows the Hydras, a street gang in a dystopian future whose leaders have incredible powers, and the shadowy government corporation that shows a great interest in the gang. A sequel, Video Rage, came out last year, and the third and final book in the series, Full Circle, is in the works.

Of the stories I’ve published, Reborn City is probably the one that’s gotten the best response from readers, even if it doesn’t have as many reviews as The Quiet Game. A lot of people have gravitated to the world of the story, and to the struggles of the characters, as well as to the intrigue and action that takes place within. But don’t take my word for it. Here are some of the top reviews:

This is an extremely commendable effort by a new young writer, whom I believe we will see much more of in the years ahead. Rami Ungar’s vision of a frightening dystopian future is peppered with those elements that make us all human. There are quite a few surprises in the book, and I am anxious for the next volume in the series to be released.

–Marc M. Neiwirth

This is not a genre I typically delve into, but I took this book on vacation and couldn’t put it down. The plot had me turning pages at quite the clip. The characters were unique and interesting and the imagery had me creating my own visual of what Rami’s interpretation of the future looked like. For first time novelist, Rami Ungar, this was an outstanding showing of talent and commitment to his passion of writing. Looking forward to seeing what he comes up with next!

–Michele

As a reader who does not read books in this genre, I must admit that I could not put down the book. I attribute this to the talent of the author. I am looking forward to reading the next books published by Ungar. I recommend this book to readers who enjoy action with features of supernatural powers and sci-fi.
–ENJ
These and other reviews are the reason why RC has a 4.6 out of 5 rating on Amazon (Video Rage has also gotten some good reviews, but I won’t post them here).

Video Rage, Book 2 of the Reborn City series.

If that short description of Reborn City and the reviews made you want to read the book, I’ll include the links to check it out down below, as well as links to Video Rage. You can also click this month’s featured novel, which happens to be Reborn City, to get taken directly to its Amazon page. And if you end up getting a copy and reading it, please let me know what you think in a review. Positive or negative, I love feedback and I would love to hear (as well as probably post) yours.
Feedback also makes me a better writer in the long run, so you’d be doing me a couple of solids as well.
And if you’re wondering how Full Circle is coming along, please know that I haven’t forgotten about it. I’m just taking a break to work on some horror stories, as well as to make sure Rose eventually gets published. As more news materializes, I will let you know.
Until next time, my Followers of Fear. Pleasant nightmares, and HYDRAS!!! (That makes so much more sense if you read the book).

I’ve just released my latest article on Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors. This time around, it’s What is a Mary Sue, and When Can You Actually Apply the Term to a Character (damn, that’s a mouthful). It’s an essay on the Mary Sue character trope, which is honestly one you want to avoid at all costs if you can help it. And in discussing the character, I hope I teach people to do just that. If you’re an author and you get a chance, take a look and see if you’ve ever written a Mary Sue character. Even if you haven’t or don’t write fiction at all, you may find the article illuminating.

And if you like what you see, consider reading the rest of the blog. Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors is a great site for all authors, no matter their background or experience, to learn tips on writing, editing, publishing, and marketing on their own. Written by myself and other dedicated contributors, you’ll surely find it helpful for all sorts of projects. Believe me, I know from personal experience.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I hope to have another article or two out this week, so keep an eye out for them. Until next time, pleasant nightmares.

Those of you who’ve followed me for a while know that I am on the autism spectrum, and that I’ve had opportunities to speak about it a couple of times, including a widely-circulated video which I posted back in March. I was able to get my job partially because of my autism, and a lot of the work I do involves working with, accommodating, and advocating for people with disabilities in the workplace, including but certainly not limited to autism. I don’t go around everywhere broadcasting my diagnosis, but it does come up on occasion.

One of those recent occasions was for my organization’s newsletter. I was asked to write a short essay, about a page long, about having a disability, about the program that helped me get a job in my organization, and what that’s been like. That article was published recently, along with a couple of other testimonials, and it’s been getting around. A lot of people have been coming up to me and thanking me for being so open with my story.

Today, I got an email from someone in my organization who had read the article, and had contacted me asking for advice. His adult nephew had been diagnosed with autism a couple of years ago, well past the point where intervention can be at its most effective. And in the  years since his diagnosis, his life has not gotten easier. I won’t go into details, but it was heartbreaking to read the man’s email and to hear about his nephew’s suffering.

At the end of the email, he asked what could be done for his nephew, and if maybe the program that helped me get my job could help his nephew.

What do you say to something like that? What sort of comfort can you give when there’s already so much pain?

I don’t know if I ever meant to be an advocate for people with disabilities. But over time, that role has kind of been molded around me. A good part of this has been because of my job. As I said, I have to advocate for people with disabilities in the workplace. To that end, I’ve learned how to market to people who are able-bodied why they should hire more people with disabilities. I can tell them that people with disabilities have a much lower turnover rate than the general population, 8% compared to 45%, that getting them accommodations rarely gets anywhere near the $500 mark, and then back all that up by talking about my own satisfaction with my position, and how the only accommodation I’ve needed for my ASD was permission to listen to my iPod or audiobooks while doing certain tasks. I’ve also been asked to do essays, like I did for the newsletter, and the video I recorded back in March. And sometimes it just comes up, like when explaining how I got my internship in Germany (yeah, my ASD played a part in that), or using it to illustrate a point in conversation, or a hundred different scenarios.

One way or another, it seems like I was meant to be an advocate, especially at this point in my life, when I’m doing so well at work, living on my own, and even as a writer.

But as a giver of advice? I’m not sure I expected that. And I get why it’s happening. Autism is a scary diagnosis for anyone to get, as well as for the loved ones of those diagnosed. It’s a disorder that varies widely from person to person, it can never be cured, the cause is still unknown,* the number of people being diagnosed with it has grown exponentially with improved diagnostic tools. Depending on what traits are present or what other disorders are present with autism can also affect everything from therapy to school choices to possibilities in adulthood. And when the diagnosis is made in adulthood, as happened with the young man whose uncle emailed me, it can be a sort of terrifying that no horror story can tap into. With all that in mind, hearing from someone who not only has the same diagnosis, but is successful in the real world, can be a soothing balm for the mind and soul.

I just wish I had all the answers. Or that I was more confident in the answers I have to give.

But if I’m going to give any sort of advice, it’s that we shouldn’t deny or try to hide our diagnoses. We shouldn’t try to be “normal,” because normal doesn’t exist, especially not for us. We process the world so differently than everyone else, but that doesn’t mean we have to be ashamed or afraid. I’m able to succeed and do the things I do every day because I process differently. So embrace your different. It may be called a disability, but it can be an asset too. Some of the greatest innovators and creators the world has ever known have been on the spectrum. And once we learn to work with the issues we have, we can learn to become those great innovators and creators.

And don’t be afraid to look for or ask for help. Even if you’re diagnosed later in life, there’s still plenty of resources for you. Many states, including my beloved Ohio, have programs that offer help and direction for people with disabilities and families, whether they be children or well into adulthood. Many schools have or are adding programs to ensure the disabled can take full advantage of their educations. More and more employers are recognizing the importance of hiring people with disabilities, and what they can contribute. We’re not being left alone like a ship in a storm. There is help.

Living my life strong, no matter what my diagnosis is.

And it’s important to be open about your diagnosis, especially with your friends, family, coworkers and teachers. Keeping it a secret has never helped anyone get by. It’s better to be open, so that those around us are better equipped to work with us, and join us on our journey as we work our way through life. I know it’s scary, and you don’t want to be any different than anyone else. But remember, there’s no normal. We’re all different, and many of us wear it on our sleeves. Might as well display this different too, if only to make life a little easier.

I hope you find this helpful. I hope the man who emailed me today found my advice helpful. And if you or someone you know has autism, I hope that no matter what, you or your loved one is able to hold their head up high and know this: you are great the way you are.

*And if you’re about to comment saying some bull about vaccines, let me tell you a story, since anti-vaxxers seem to value testimony more rather than scientific consensus: my mother has told me a few times that I was different from the day I was born, well before I received my first vaccine. I was nothing like the baby books predicted I’d be, and it wasn’t until my younger sister was born that she saw any of that stuff. I trust her word, so that means vaccines had nothing to do with the way I am. And if you still insist that vaccines had something to do with the way I am, you may be calling my mother a liar, and them’s fighting words.

Someone is going to read this title and be very confused as to its meaning. Most likely, my parents. Or any juvenile who thinks pulling down a classmate’s pants is the height of comedy.

So, if you are wondering what the hell that title is about, it refers to two different styles of writing stories. Plotting is when writers plan out every part of the story. Everything, from beginning to middle to end, is planned and…well, plotted. Obviously, not everything is done according to a plan. A lot of stuff, like the wording in the story, is decided upon while writing. But the major elements–plot, characters, grisly character deaths involving giant monsters ripping deceitful high schoolers in half (no wait, that’s just me)–are decided upon before the story is even begun.

Pantsing is the exact opposite of that. Writers write by the seat of their pants and just make it up as they go along. There is some planning involved (for more on that, read this article by my friend/colleague Ruth Ann Nordin), mainly what sort of story arc you want to go through, what sort of characters there are, and perhaps some scenes you hope to include in the story, but for the moment it’s pretty much whatever comes out of your fingers at the moment you’re writing. The dialogue, action, and the descriptions are created spontaneously.

Plenty of writers have their own preferences. Stephen King is definitely more of a pantser: in his memoir On Writing, he compares writing stories to unearthing an artifact from some ancient civilization, revealing a little more with every dig of the shovel and brush, never knowing what you’ll uncover. JK Rowling, on the other hand, is probably a plotter. After all, she spent years putting together the seven books of the Harry Potter series, laying groundwork and hints of what is to come.  And you don’t just come up with stuff like Hallows and Horcruxes like that on the spot. No, she had those planned for ages and ages.

Personally, I’m a plotter. I usually have every scene planned out, especially with novels, where I tend to outline the story, and then do several drafts of the outline, before I get to the actual story. I’m not sure why. It might be I’m a bit of a control freak who takes being the “God of his fictional universe” a little too seriously. Or I just learned to write like that, and it’s done me well so far. Either way, it’s what I’ve done since I was a child, and it’s worked for me.

Writing by the seat of these, LOL

So why the hell am I talking about this? Because for the first time in I don’t know how long, I’m actually writing a story and pantsing it!

I mentioned in the post I wrote after I finished editing Rose that I was going to work on a couple of shorter works for a while. The first of these stories involves a bunch of people being trapped within a relatively small space, and this is going to be the meat of the story. In a confined space, tensions can get high, and the scenario of the story will probably raise those tensions a lot higher. So, I decided that it might be better to write this story by the seat of my pants, rather than plot the whole darn thing.

I figure that, rather than planning out that entire part of the story, I might instead plan only a few scenes and some plot points that I hope will come up in the story, and see what happens. I feel that will be more organic than just planning out who will lash out at whom when and what that leads to. The conflict will feel more real that way, not just to readers, but to the characters themselves, and to me too. If the conflict in a story feels fake, no one will buy it, and the story will suffer because the reader will disengage. Hopefully I can avoid it by changing things up.

I’m also kind of hoping I can experiment a little with humor in my stories. As I said in a previous post, I don’t include humor in most of my stories, and one of the reasons I think that might be is because I’m a plotter, so I keep in mind how dark my stories are from beginning to end and don’t insert humor because of how dark they are. I’m wondering if writing by the seat of my pants will give me more room to insert my style of humor, which is very situational, and make it not as forced as it might be under other circumstances.

It’s not a big reason why I’m trying pantsing with this story, but it’d be a perk if it happened.

So I’m trying to pants my way through this story, with only a few scenes planned, only eight characters fleshed out, and just a general idea of what I want to happen with this story. I have no idea what will happen, if this will be something I’ll do more often, or if the work I produce by pantsing will be any good. However, like every good writer, I have to be brave enough to keep pushing boundaries and to try new things. At least some of those new things have to work. Am I right?

 

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ve got a few more blog posts I want to put out this week before I start on this story I’ve mentioned and fall into a proverbial rabbit hole, so I’m going to be putting those out one after the other this week (and maybe next). Hopefully by the time those are done, you won’t be sick of me.

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!