Posts Tagged ‘fiction’

I just finished the second short story I’ll be submitting to my creative writing class. This one is titled “Frauwolf”, and it’s about a woman who turns into a werewolf–or as she prefers, frauwolf, meaning “woman wolf”. Werewolf mean “man wolf”, so my character thought she’d coin a term for the ladies out there. Anyway, she turns into a werewolf, but at a certain point she can’t tell whether she’s actually changing into a wolf creature or if she’s nuts, and I write it so I make it hard for even the reader to figure it out either.

This story’s also significant because the main character and her partner are both women, and it’s been a long while since I’ve written any characters that were LGBT (I originally intended to make 011 from Reborn City gay, but I didn’t think it fit with the story I was trying to create, so I mase him just creepy and sadistic and possibly asexual). I’m wondering if having two women in love will influence how anyone sees or likes this story. As far as I’m aware, non-hetero couples are still not very prominent in horror fiction, and it’s common for those that are to die pretty early on or be shunted to the side where they won’t make that much impact in the story. Perhaps having them at the forefront will make a difference.

This particular short story was probably one of the hardest I’ve ever had to work with ever. I had to go back three times to the beginning and start over because I didn’t like the way the story was going. Thus, about two or three weeks that could have been devoted to my thesis were devoted to this particular short story. Finally on the fourth try I came out with a version I happened to like.

Still, considering how I’m more suited for writing novels, I doubt “Frauwolf” will come away from critique day without a lot of comments and plenty of edits to make. I say, bring it on. I’m pretty sure there’s plenty of stuff I could do to improve the story, and if I decide to try to publish it in a magazine or something, plenty of the story I could cut out and rewrite to be shorter. And considering how much I love this story’s concept, I’m really hoping to find ways to improve it.

In any case, I’m putting this story away until it’s actually time to deal with it. I’ve still got a thesis to work on and I’ve taken too long of a break from it to get this thing done. If I finish my homework early (and that happens a lot on Tuesdays, for some reason), I’ll get right on the next chapter. Wish me luck, because I’ve got a meeting with my advisor on Wednesday and I don’t want to tell him I have nothing new to send him!

Well, I’m exhausted, so I’m going to rest and relax till bed. You have a good night, my Followers of Fear. Sweet nightmares to you all.

My brain at work.

It’s been not even one full week into the new semester and there have been some interesting developments in the classes I’m taking. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’m taking a creative writing course this semester. The course requires us to turn in two short stories and a revision of one of them at different points throughout the semester, though not necessarily in that order (I wanted to turn in a revision and two original short stories, but I don’t have anything to revise at the moment, so forget that). And as I’ve also mentioned in previous posts, Ohio State’s English and Creative Writing departments tend to focus on classic and literary fiction. Genre fiction doesn’t often get as much discussion in Denney Hall.

I came into class with the idea that we were going to be writing several literary short stories during the semester, and even had a list of ideas for stories I could write. Imagine my surprise when my teacher announced that we could turn in genre fiction, so long as it was interesting. Yes, she said that. As long as it’s interesting and doesn’t hold to time-honored (0r time-worn) conventions, I could turn in something from genre fiction. The following conversation then ensued:

Me: So I could write a terrifying horror story, and as long as it is interesting and doesn’t hold to conventions, I can turn it in?

My Professor: Of course.

Me: Party time.

You can probably tell I’m excited. I love writing horror stories, and with the focus on finishing the first draft of Laura Horn and editing Video Rage taking up most of my time this summer, there hasn’t been all that much time to seriously focus on writing a decent scary story or two. However, there’s been plenty of time to accumulate ideas for short stories, so at the next available opportunity, I plugged in my flash drive and started looking over the Word document that contains all my ideas for short stories.

So much to work with, so little time.

What a list that was, with 294 entries at last count. Yeah, I know. And no time to seriously work on them. One of these days I’m going to have to set aside a period of time where I won’t work on any novels and I’ll just work on reducing the amount of ideas on that list, maybe put out a couple more collections of short stories.

But the other night when I went over the list, remembering ideas I hadn’t thought of in a while (good thing I keep a list!) and trying to remember what I was thinking of when I wrote down the idea I had for certain stories, I was looking for particular stories. They had to be the right length (under 10,000 words), they had to be one of the more interesting ideas I’ve had (I like to think they’re all interesting, but I tried seeing it from the POV of someone who’s not me) and I had to look for a story that wouldn’t be tied down to the conventions of horror.

And as many of the horror fans know, that last one can be tough. As the Scream movies, Cabin in the Woods, and Behind the Mask so wonderfully point out, horror stories often work within a certain narrative framework. This gives the writers who create these stories more freedom than you’d think as we struggle to please our fans who are looking for a certain product in their story, but there has been criticism (some of it well-founded) that horror stories can get a little too predictable, to the point where you get useful advice videos like this:


He does bring up some good points. Actually, a slightly paranoid fear of a horror movie death is why I’ve never smoke weed, drink sparingly, and I’m not violent outside of the books I write (I’m not commenting on the sex and abstinence part). I don’t want to die like that. That would suck! Especially if somehow my soul gets trapped in the place where I was murdered or is digested by whatever killed me or something. That would suck even more!

So in the end, I managed to pick out about eight or ten short stories that I thought fit the bill for what I was looking for, and I selected two out of them. Neither of these stories have any particular reason as to why I chose them. I just thought they were very unique and that they would be choices my teacher and classmates wouldn’t find boring or stereotypical. In fact, I’m hoping to keep them on the edge of their seats with suspense.

And as for what those short stories are, I’ll give you some hints. This is the hint for the short story I’ll probably start work on sometime next week:

And here’s the hint for the one I’ll probably start in late September, early October:

Anyone want to hazard a guess at subject matter and plot line? There are wrong answers, but no consequences if you guess wrong.

Well, that’s all for now. I have some homework to do if I want to get any form of creative writing done, so I’m off to do that. Wish me luck, and have a good weekend, my Followers of Fear. I’ll let you know the progress of each of these short stories as there is news to report and maybe even let you know what my classmates think. Hopefully they will be terribly scared.

Well, its a week before classes start, and I turned in the first round of tuition fees when I go off to work today. So it’s time for me to do what I do before the start of every semester: let everyone know, whether they care or not, what my semester is shaping up to be like and what I’ll be doing this term. And this is a special update, because it’s my last year at Ohio State. Meaning this is my last autumn semester. And one of the last times I’ll be able to look forward to a new term and new classes and new experiences…

Please excuse me while I go pretend to cry.

…….

Okay, I’m back. Still here? Excellent! Well, as usual I’m going into the semester with hopes that I can get A’s in all my classes (though my past track records suggest that I’ll probably get at least one or two B’s). I’m taking a total of seventeen credit hours this semester, far more than I’ve ever. Fifteen of those are divided among five three-hour classes, while the other two are for my thesis work (more on that down below). This semester, I’m taking two classes for my English major, two for my History major, and one course to fill out all my general requirements. For English, I’m taking an advanced creating writing workshop and a special course on Shakespeare. Regarding the workshop, I wanted to take one more before I graduated, having taken two during my sophomore year. I’m not too keen on the fact that we’ll be focusing mostly on literary fiction, but hey, I’m adaptable, I’m sure I can write something that’ll pass as literary and get me good grades. As for the Shakespeare class, it looks like we’ll be focusing more on the comedies, such as Taming of the Shrew and The Merchant of Venice. I’ve got a complete collected works of William Shakespeare’s, so I hope that’ll be allowed for class. If not, I won’t mind having to buy copies of the plays, though I do wish we could explore some of the tragedies, like Titus Andronicus. When I saw that in London, I absolutely loved it (though that shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows me and knows the play’s subject matter).

For History, I’m taking a class that goes over the history of war, from early Mesopotamia to today’s wars and a class that looks at the early history of East Asia. Both should provide an interesting look into both subjects, and the former class should be interesting for me as a guy who’s done plenty of study on WWII.

Movie time.

And as for the one general requirements course, it’s an interesting one. It’s a Biology class, the last class I have to take for my science requirements and my general requirements. However, this one seeks to explore the subject of biology and anatomy through film. Yeah, I have no idea what that means either. But I’m just going to go with it. Besides, it sounds very, very interesting and it means watching films two nights a week, so who’s to complain?

And as for my thesis, it’s going to be a tough but fun project. As I’ve said before, I’m working on a novel called Rose, about a woman who dies on the night of her engagement party and is resurrected by her stalker. However the magic that brings her back changes her biology and makes her totally dependent on her stalker for survival, even as she tries to escape from him, and from whatever evil the magic let into the house. I’m hoping it’ll shape up to be an awesome horror novel with plenty of room for introspection and character development.

Well, that’s all for now. I’m tired and heading to bed. You all have a good night, my Followers of Fear. Pleasant nightmares, one and all!

Or at least the first draft is. There’s always a chance that my adviser will make me rewrite certain parts of it, but I hope to keep it like it is.

Anyway, late last night I went about finishing the outline, and somehow I managed to do it before it was too far past midnight. This outline gave me more problems than outlines usually do, because up until I started writing the outline I had only a few scenes planned out, so I had to come up with the rest as I was writing. Once or twice I had to actually go back and erase what I’d written before because I didn’t like which direction the story was going. Around the third attempt though I managed to get this story going in the right direction and from there it was just a matter of figuring out where I wanted to go, what would be the logical step to get there, and what sort of events could happen without stretching the limit of credulity.

In the end, I think this story will turn out very well. It’s about twenty-eight chapters, and will probably be around the normal length for one of my books, between eighty-five thousand and one-hundred thousand words. I often wrote the outline looking for plot holes and trying to find good ways to plug them up (I hope I succeeded). And I hope I create an interesting and somewhat scary story about a woman who dies but is resurrected by her stalker through magic and finds herself trapped in his house with not only him, but very malevolent supernatural forces. Thank goodness I have an adviser who will be helping me out with that part. He’s a published writer himself, so odds are he’ll have a few lessons to help me.

And while I’m waiting for my research books to arrive in the mail and for the new semester to start (three weeks from today, by the way), I think I’ll edit Video Rage. God knows it’s about time, and I have time to do it now before things get really crazy! In fact, I’ll start it today! But first I need to run an errand, then I need to vacuum the apartment, then I need to run the dishwasher, then I need to have lunch before I go to work, then I have work, and later tonight I’m supposed to be at a friend’s birthday party…life’s crazy sometimes.

Anyway, that’s all for now. I’ll keep you updated on Rose, Video Rage, and other projects as time goes on and I have news to give. Have a great day, my Followers of Fear.

Every now and then I look to do a post musing on the mechanics or subtleties of writing fiction, and today is one of those days. And as you can tell from the title of this post, I want to talk about unreliable narrators, those strange voices in the books we read (and occasionally in the films and TV shows we watch) whom we can’t always trust.

According to that awesome source of usually-factual info that is Wikipedia, an unreliable narrator is a narrator, usually in some medium of fiction or another, whose veracity has been called into question. Usually this happens very early in the story, where the narrator may make a plainly false or delusional claim, or it may happen elsewhere in the story, perhaps near the end where a twist in the story turns everything we thought we knew upside down or slowly through hints that are given to us in the narration. Stories with unreliable narrators can feature a single narrator, or multiple narrators giving their own versions of events, or even a supporting or side character who tells a story in such a way that we question whether or not they’]re being entirely truthful about what happened.

A great example of an unreliable narrator is Patrick Bateman from the novel American Psycho. As a man suffering from psychoses and the occasional hallucinations, Bateman makes a great unreliable narrator. Other examples include Nell from Wuthering Heights, most of the characters from the Japanese movie Rashomon, and Ted Mosby from How I Met Your Mother (according to show creator Craig Thomas, anyway). Oh, and any story that has children narrating it could possibly have unreliable narrators, because kids sometimes remember things incorrectly.

(If you want to think about it though, every one is an unreliable narrator, because no matter how they see events, they are biased, they may mis-remember details, and they may cover things up in order to make themselves look good or to hide their own guilt. But let’s not get too philosophical about this. Otherwise we’ll be here all evening)

One of the characters in my thesis project, the antagonist, is an unreliable narrator. Because of his mental problems and his infatuation with protagonist Rose, he sees things through a very certain light, so when he tells a story it is often through that lens, which probably won’t reflect reality too well. As I’ve never written a story from the point of view of an unreliable narrator, so exploring the device through this character should be interesting. (Or have I used unreliable narrators before? Technically, any time I tell a story from the protagonist’s first-person point of view, it could be construed as unreliable, but i’m not sure if it counts. Oh darn it! Now I’m an unreliable narrator of my own writing career!)

But why are unreliable narrators used so much? And why do they appeal to readers and writers alike? It’s a very difficult question, and I’m not sure I have an answer. Perhaps for writers, it’s the chance to tell a warped version of events. When we tell a story, especially through the lens of an omniscient or almost-omniscient third-person narrator, it’s almost expected that the story being told is what actually happens, one-hundred-and-ten percent factual. Even when the story is limited to the viewpoint of a single character, that third-person narrator’s portrayal of events is assumed to be accurate. Heck, even when we read a novel told in the first-person, we tend to see the depiction of what happens as true. Especially if we like the character.

An unreliable narrator allows the writer to break from that, to tell a story that might not be accurate, and that the reader and maybe even the writer will have to guess how true the story is or how much we can trust the narrator to tell the truth. In fact, maybe that’s what the reader gets from these sort of storytellers: they have to figure out how trustworthy the storyteller is, or where the line between truth and the storyteller’s own delusions or beliefs is laid down. It’s like solving a mystery or a puzzle, in a way, and the only way to really solve it is to read on until you finish the story. And even then, you might not be able to tell how reliable the narrator is (which is why there are e-forums to discuss these issues).

In any case, I’m going to enjoy exploring the antagonist’s own unreliable stories and seeing how much we can or should believe him. It’ll make for an interesting discussion point when talking about my thesis with my adviser during the next semester.

What do you think of unreliable narrators?

Have you ever used them in your own writing? How did it go?

I’ve been meaning to do this post for a while, but with Laura Horn still needing to be finished and everything…

Anyway, last year I did a countdown of my favorite villains from fiction (to read that contest, click here for #10-6 and here for #5-1). I’m doing it again this year to show case the awesome villains that have impressed and terrified me since that list last year. And a lot has happened over the last year: we’ve got only one person is returning to the list from last year, which just goes to show that Hollywood/New York/everyone else can come up with some really amazing villains sometimes. In fact, I’d like to announce our honorable mention now: Peter Pan from Once Upon a Time. The revisionist fairy tale show came up with a unique take on the classic character as a manipulative sociopath living in a magical Lord of the Flies kingdom who will go to any lengths to stay young, free, and powerful forever. Creepy!

Now let’s get this show started with the first half of the list!

10. The Daleks (from Doctor Who)

Despite their at-first rather ridiculous appearance, the Daleks are terrifying to behold. A genetically-engineered creature living inside a cyborg transport machine, the Daleks are a powerful metaphor for racism, particularly Nazi racism. That, their pure destructive force, their popularity with fans, and many other reasons is why they’ve continued to terrify children and adults since their debut in 1963, and are still part of DW lore and pop culture today. Honestly, even though I love Daleks, if one of them shouted “EXTERMINATE” near me, I might freak out myself.

9. Bughuul (from Sinister)

Sinister is probably one of the best horror films in the past ten years, and Bughuul, also known as Mr. Boogie, is one of the main reasons for that. Portrayed by Nick King, Bughuul is a reimagined boogeyman, a Babylonian god that causes children to murder their families and then feeds on their souls for centuries in his spirit world. Throughout the movie, Bughuul weaves a web of psychological terror around the main character and around the viewer, even up until the final moment of the film. It’s no wonder a sequel is in the works, and no wonder Bughuul deserves a place on this list.

8. The Headless Horseman (from the Sleepy Hollow TV series)

In this reimagining of the classic short story by Washington Irving, the Headless Horseman is one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, specifically Death, and he’s looking to find his head so he can continue with his mission to start the end of the world. Not only that, he is looking to gain his revenge on Ichabod Crane, whom he has a strange history with, and the revelation of that history just makes things that much more exciting in this awesome show. Also, it’s so cool to see the Headless Horseman riding down the street with an axe and automatic weapons. Total badassery right there.

7. William Lewis (from Law & Order: Special Victims Unit)

Portrayed by Pablo Schreiber, Lewis appeared in the finale of Season 14 and throughout Season 15 and is probably one of the worst villains ever to be on the show in its 16-year run. A monster who gets his kicks from terrorizing his victims and putting them in pain and agony, Lewis kidnapped Detective Benson and tortured her even as he was running from the cops who were looking for him. Even after he was caught, Lewis continued to find ways to harass Benson both in person and in her nightmares, and even escaped to cause more terror. Even after committing suicide, he nearly destroyed Benson and a few other people too. A man like that is the worst, and deserves his place on this list.

6. The Nogitsune (from Teen Wolf)

Season 3 of the hit MTV series was unique in several ways, particularly because it was literally two seasons in one, each half comprising of 12 episodes. The latter half of the season featured the Nogitsune, a fox spirit of chaos who causes murder and mayhem wherever he goes. And all for the sake of a few laughs. When he possesses one of the main characters, you know you have reason to be afraid. Especially when he starts out his day by telling his potential victims riddles.

 

That’s all for now. Tune in later this week when I list #5-1 of my top villain list. And let me know what you think of these villains. Like them? Hate them? Who do you think should have gone on the list? Let me know in the comments below.

After a year, a week, and two days, with twenty-six minutes before midnight, I am finally finished with the first draft of my fourth novel Laura Horn. I wish I hadn’t had to take so many breaks to focus on schoolwork (not to mention writing was nearly impossible during my study abroad trip), but I’m glad I was able to get it done. And even though it’s a first draft and obviously will need a lot of editing when the time comes for that so it can look something resembling publishable quality, I’m quite happy with the result.

For those of you who are not very familiar with LH, it follows the story of a girl with a very traumatic past who, through an odd series of accidents, stumbles upon a conspiracy that could destroy the United States of America. With a few good friends to help her, she sets out to save her nation from the threat that looms over it, and confronts her demons as well.

So it’s kind of like White House Down or Olympus Has Fallen, only it’s got less explosions and a little more character development. Actually, a lot more character development. Our titular character goes through a lot of changes throughout the book, and it’s astounding even to me, the guy who created her, how much she changes in the course of the story.

It’s also a lot more thriller than I tend to write, but my next big project will be some pure psychological/supernatural horror, so it all pans out in the end.

Anyway, I’m happy to announce that I’m finally done with LH, and that in a few months (schedule permitting) I can start editing the book and getting it ready for eventual publication. I’ll be setting up a page for the book on this blog with the notice “Coming Soon”. With any luck, I can have this book out sooner rather than later, and maybe work on a sequel or two (I have a couple planned out, I just need to commit to them).

So now for the page and word counts. I wasn’t actually too far off. I did say the three chapters that would make up the epilogue would be around five-thousand words and it turned out to be more like nine-thousand, but hey, it could’ve ended up much longer. Anyway, the Epilogue in total was 32 pages and the word count ended up as just under eighty-nine hundred. That brings the total page count to 356 pages and 94,774 words. About average for a Rami Ungar novel. Of course, these counts might change drastically by the second draft, but this is a good placeholder until then.

In the meantime, let me tell you guys what projects I plan to take up next (though they may or may not be in this order):

  • Work on the outline for the novel that’ll be my senior thesis (more on that at another time)
  • Edit Video Rage
  • Write several articles on writing for Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors
  • Write a few blog posts I’ve been putting off so I could finish LH.
  • Write several short stories, and hope I can get a few of them published in magazines
  • Start assembling a new collection of short stories
  • Experiment with writing erotic fiction (yes, I plan on doing that. I meant to do it earlier this summer, but things got in the way).
  • Try and get through the many books I still have to read for pleasure.
  • And just have a good time as usual.

Not too hard to do, right? At least, I hope so.

Anyway, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. It’s late, so I’m going to read a little and then sleep. It’s my day off tomorrow, so I’m going to find plenty of time to celebrate before I get back to writing (it’s a work hazard, I just can’t stay away from it). Anyway, that’s all for now. Have pleasant nightmares tonight. I know I will be!