Posts Tagged ‘Humor’

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!

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I’ve mentioned it before, but being a fan of horror (let alone a writer of horror) can be very difficult sometimes. We’re not even in the Top 10 Most Popular Genres. We might be in the Top 20…I think. Such is the fate of a group that likes to be scared, when most people would rather avoid the feeling of having something evil and murderous lurking over your shoulders. Because of that, I thought I’d make a list of problems that is mostly unique to the horror genre. Here it is for your humor edification.

1. You’re not dangerous or creepy, you’re actually well adjusted. For some reason the popular image of horror fans is that we’re a dark, moody bunch who got bullied a lot as kids and we’re just looking for the opportunity to get our revenge on the world in the most depraved of ways. Why does anyone think that? Is it because we like movies where serial killers find half-naked girls in the woods, throw them against trees, and then cut them in half?

I don’t know. But if I’m anything to go by, I’m not that image. True, I was bullied a bit when I was younger, but it definitely didn’t affect me that badly! People tell me I’m a funny and really nice kind of guy whom they generally like. And most other fans I know are good people, we just like a good ghost story or slasher flick on the weekends rather than the latest Sandra Bullock comedy or have a fantasy football league. I mean, some of us do those things as well, but we also like to shout “Redrum” when we’re angry or go see Slipknot when we’re in concert. It’s just how we roll.

2. It’s hard to get people to go to the movies with you. Is there a new Avengers flick out? You’ll probably find someone to go with you by simply sending a text message. Comedy or romance film? If no one in your immediate social circle is available, chances are someone at the office will go with you. Horror movie? Yeah, unless your date or your friend is super brave or tolerant of scary stuff, you’ll be sitting in that theater alone for the most part. I speak from experience.

And speaking of which…

3. You can’t make people see why Cary Fukunaga’s departure from the new adaptation of IT is such a disaster. In case you didn’t know, Fukunaga, who’s directed True Detective among other things, was set to direct a two-part adaptation of the Stephen King classic. Sadly he split after he and New Line couldn’t see eye-to-eye over certain aspects. To which many say, “NOOOO! Why?” Most people just assume we’re being drama queens, especially since there’s already an adaptation of IT out there that scared them as children.

Really not scary.

Really not scary.

Yeah, as children. Truth be told, you watch it again, it’s a crappy adaptation, sanitized for TV audiences and with so much changed from the original story fans of the novel are left with a bad taste in their mouths. And Tim Curry as Pennywise the Clown isn’t even that terrifying. Mostly he just laughs at a distance and talks about making corpses float. The kids are never shown in real danger. I’ve seen scarier things in a college final (for more reasons why the IT TV miniseries sucks, watch this review by the Nostalgia Critic and laugh yourself silly at how you ever thought this could be scary).

So naturally, we were hoping that we would get the adaptation IT deserves. Without Fukunaga, it’s about as dead as a corpse floating in a sewer, and we’re all disappointed.

Hey, maybe I did make you see why Fukunaga’s leaving is such a disaster. Go me!

4. You can’t wear your horror fan badge with pride on first dates. Horror fans do date, and a lot of us have great relationships and families. However, declaring you’re a horror fan on the first date and several subsequent dates is like romantic suicide. People assume that, if you’re male, you’re some wannabe serial killer creep who spends too much time peeping on girls, looking at graphic porn, and practicing killing in a dark and moldy basement. If you’re female, they think you were one of those goth girls in high school whom nobody got along with and who has anger and break-up issues.

Like I pointed out above, we’re not. Most of us stay out of those basements, get along with plenty of different people, and would never dream of hurting anyone. Not as if we can point that out on the first date though. Maybe pull out a Stephen King novel when you start staying over at one another’s places, and that’ll signal that you like to dip into terror every now and then. After a few more sleepovers or whatever and the books consistently stay scary, they’ll realize that yes, you like horror, but you’re not going to hobble them with an axe or mallet and chain them to a bed in your house.

As you can see, Halloween's a big deal for me.

As you can see, Halloween’s a big deal for me.

5. Halloween is more than just a single day of the year for you. No, it’s an entire freaking month, and a lot goes into it. You want the perfect scary costume, the perfect creepy decorations. You have to decide what scary movies coming out you’re going to see, what scary movies you’re going to revisit on DVD, what books you’re going to read. You’re going to want to discuss how the new season of American Horror Story is doing leading up to the two Halloween episodes. And you’re going to want to find the perfect party to show off your Halloween love.

You see, Halloween for us is kind of like how moms treat their daughters when they enter beauty pageants for children. We want to show the world how good we are, we want it done right, and you all better cooperate with us and with our zeal for this or there will be plenty of hell to pay! Happy Halloween, bitches! You just try and beat me at my own game!

6. Our love of metal is probably much healthier than being a fan of Justin Bieber. Again, we’re back on that negative image. Most horror fans have a pretty wide-ranging taste for music. Stephen King’s a rock fan, and I have an eclectic mix of J-Pop to classical on my iPod. Yes, I like metal too and so do a lot of other people, but it’s all just fun. We’re not actually looking to submit to Satan or in danger of turning into gunmen. Most metal artists are apparently pretty decent people when you meet them too. They have normal lives like you or me, they just are good at reaching our inner angst through music. It’s much better than listening to an overgrown toddler still going through puberty and acting like a total idiot when he’s not on tour, anyway.

7. It’s hard to discuss serial killers, fictional or real, in the company of others. I learned this the hard way, and to this day I still wish I’d shut my mouth before it made people give me stares. Sorry if I’m a little passionate about explaining how Ed Gein helped inspire Hannibal Lecter, Norman Bates, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. You’re the one who asked if that last one really was based on anything real.

 

8. Most importantly, we go to great lengths to find gold in a pile of shit. I mean that metaphorically, of course. But it applies so well. There’s a lot of horrible horror novels and films out there, and horror fans will go to great lengths to find a film if they think it’ll be interesting to watch, much more than fans of other genres. Fear for us is like a drug, and we’ll try the gamut of bad films if it’ll give us the high we’re looking for. And even if we get a couple of bad ones, it’s well worth it when we find a really awesome one that scares us to our core.

Like Fukunaga’s IT would’ve been. And now I’m sad.

~~~

If anything, this post is meant to show you that horror fans are normal people, just like you or bronies. Are we perfect? No. Are some of our interests very macabre? Yes. Have I been to a morgue? Once or twice, but in the long run, does it really prove anything? Not really. It just shows, like everyone else, we’re all a little different and have our own special quirks.

So the next time you meet a horror fan, do us all a favor. Don’t discuss serial killers with us until we know you better. Instead, talk about the IT adaptation we wish we had and about how hard it is to get a good scare these days. Or the economy, that works just as well.

Was there any particular problems about being a horror fan that I missed?

Do any of these items stand out to you at all?

I am Sheldon Cooper.

I’m great in my field, or perhaps I’m narcissistic enough to think that I’m great. I can talk on and on about writing and horror until I realize it’s too late, I’ve made the person or persons I’m talking to feel uncomfortable. Sometimes I don’t even realize it. But then I find myself talking about how much I hate the Friday the 13th remake and I forget I’m supposed to be having a conversation.

I have odd habits that make no sense to others. I laugh at jokes only I find funny. Sometimes they don’t even leave my head and I’m in hysterics. I talk to myself, I trace shapes in the air with my mind. I hold imaginary conversations with my characters and with other people’s characters. Whatever leads to an idea, right?

Social situations can confuse me. I’ll say something that seems totally innocent in my head, and not realize most people will find a second, possibly offensive or disgusting meaning to it. If I’m lucky, I’ll realize within the next couple of hours this faux pas and never repeat it. Occasionally I never notice though, and I worry about those times, because I’m not sure when or where or why they happened. I only know that they probably have.

If someone says I shouldn’t do or say something, I will ask why if the answer isn’t immediately obvious to me (which is usually sixty percent of the time). If you only say “Just because” or “It’s bad”, I won’t believe you or listen to you. If asked why, I will reply “Once some nasty peers of mine asked me if I was gay before I knew what that meant and they wouldn’t tell me. I said yes just to see what would happen and was the laughingstock for the rest of the day.” So you either tell me what’s so wrong and you walk me through it to make the point, or I’ll just assume that it’s not so big a deal because you don’t want to spell it out.*

Sometimes I’m resistant to changes or new things that seem great but I just don’t feel comfortable with yet. I was horribly opposed to social media like Facebook for years because I just didn’t want to have to try it, an to a certain extent it just wasn’t necessary. I’m only now considering a smartphone. A sudden change in schedule can also annoy me to no end every once in a while. And if I can’t watch my shows? Oh, it’s going to bug me. And don’t make me try that thing I have preconceived notions of. I’m sure I’m going to hate it until I try it and I form new opinions.

I like fun, but sometimes I’m happiest in front of the TV with a drink and a show, writing during the commercial breaks or slow parts of the show. If there’s a cat on my lap, even better. I don’t date much, if at all. I sometimes feel that the whole dating/mating/courting process is such a waste of energy and an unnecessary cause of stress. And why go out? The indoors of the world are so friendly, comfortable and familiar.

Oh, and I’m very pale. Can’t forget that.

But I do have my differences from Dr. Cooper. I write fiction and tell stories. I like touching and hugs and I like to be social, though sometimes I prefer it on my own terms. And my roommate and I don’t banter about in such a way that audiences would laugh if they heard us. Plus I definitely believe in God and ghosts, so that’s another important difference.

But yeah, very much like Sheldon Cooper. It’s not always a bad thing–some people say my eccentricities are part of my charm–but it does have its pitfalls. Still, I wouldn’t change me for the world**, because then I wouldn’t be able to do what I love and do the things I’m able to do. It just would be too different.

*I remember when I was eleven or twelve I learned from a camp friend there was an N-word. Being that age and in an environment where swearing was as plentiful as breathing, I wanted to know what it was, but no one would tell me and they wouldn’t tell me why they wouldn’t tell me, which upset me to no end. I didn’t find out until a year later and read Stephen King’s IT why that word was so bad. So way to go, camp kids, you let a horror writer explain to a kid why he shouldn’t use the N-word. And if that doesn’t take the cake, years later some of those same campers would use the N-word casually, calling each other that when we were the whitest Jewish kids you’d ever seen. By that time I was the one trying to keep them from saying it, but up until the end of summer they never stopped, even when a black man nearly heard them say it. I tell you, talk about ironic reversals!

**Unless of course it’s for the suave spy/bad boy personality that’s at ease in almost any situation and draws people together for a common cause, usually defeating some awful evil. I might go for that.

First off, I just want to tell the Guardians of Peace and North Korea, there’s no need to hack our computers or our residence! My roommate and I were just drawn by the publicity of this movie! We are not a threat to North Korea! I repeat, we are not a threat to North Korea! The only thing we’re a threat to is the local alcohol population! Plus my roommate kicks ass in Destiny and I kill off fictional people at the drop of a hat, but that’s it!

That said, my roommate Morgan thinks the whole cyber attack and cancellation of this movie was a publicity stunt! How absurd! It’s not an Oscar winner, but it’s a decent movie. Why would Sony fake a cyber attack and then cancel a movie about the North Korean dictator and his highly repressive and cruel yet overly sensitive government in order to drum up press and get more people interested–oh my God!

Well, with the subject material, the buzz around this movie, the apparent drama with the terrorists and  how could we not see it? And when we found out the movie was available through YouTube, we decided to download it. We hooked up my computer to the TV, rented out The Interview, and sat down to watch it.

Me about to watch "The Interview." Totally awesome!

Me about to watch “The Interview.” Totally awesome!

Let me tell you, we had a ton of fun with this movie. Even me, and I prefer horror. James Franco and Seth Rogen are hilarious as a nutso man-child and his straight-man babysitter who possibly are closer than best friends (hint hint, wink wink). And every other major actor in this film, including Randall Park as Kim Jong-un and Diana Bang as Sook, play their roles with such convincing ease that it’s hard to believe that it’s just acting The only reason I don’t really believe that Randall Park is not Kim Jong-un is because there are some slight facial differences.

In any case, the humor is everywhere in this movie. From the WTF Lord of the Rings references to the somewhat disgusting body humor and especially Franco’s obviously-in-need-of-medication Dave Skylark, this film was a blast of hilarity and a good six dollars spent.

One of my criticisms is that they could’ve pushed the boundaries a bit more. Not just with the humor, but also with showing how evil North Korea is. Without spoilers, I felt that how they showed North Korea being evil wasn’t far enough. I know everyone is aware of North Korea’s evil, and it’s difficult to make fun of famines and about impossible with a concentration camp, but still, more could’ve been done.

So all in all, I’m giving The Interview a 4.0 out of 5. It’s a great film, I hope more people watch it, I hope I don’t get hacked, and I’m glad I got to watch it. Happy Holidays and good night, my Followers of Fear.

See the difference?

In 2006, author Emily Schultz published her first novel Joyland, about a teenage boy growing up in an Ontario town in 1984. This was her second published book, coming after a 2002 collection of short stories. It apparently got some really great editorial reviews from national publications, calling it a great coming-of-age novel and an exploration into teen sexuality.

About seven years later, His Royal Scariness Stephen King published a novel with the exact same name, about a college student in 1973 who gets a job at an amusement park and finds himself solving an unsolved murder (I’ll have tor find time to read it one of these days). Plenty of King fans went online to download the e-book (some may not have realized that for a while the book wasn’t available in that format, which will explain what happens next). But the funniest thing happened: several of these King fans downloaded Schultz’s book believing it was King’s book. And right until the end, some of them never realized they got a literary coming-of-age by a Canadian-American author instead of a dark, creepy whodunit from Stephen King!

And it reflected in the reviews some of these people gave Schultz’s book. Here’s one who absolutely hated it:

I have always loved Stephen King novels. However, this one was a rambling, stream of consciousness mess. I had to go back and read over the last pages again and again to try to understand what was happening. For a person who reads several books a week, this is annoying, to say the least. I will still read his next book, if there is one. He fascinates me with the way he thinks, generally. This book was not my favorite, by any means.

And here’s one who thought they’d try to counter-balance all the negative reviews from King fans:

However somebody give it a one star rating because THEY accidently purchased it thinking it was Stephen King, i’ve no idea how they did that but this review is too counter balance that one.

Here’s a prankster who thought they’d satire the whole confusion:

As soon as I learned Steven King had his sex change operation AND changed his name, I immediately rushed out and bought this book. The surgery (and hormone therapy) have really changed his appearance AND his writing. It’s amazing. It was almost like reading a completely different author.

Mrs King (Schultz), your new vagina has served you well! Nicely done!

And here’s one from someone who actually thought it was a great Stephen King novel, if you’ll believe it:

Full of suspense and mystery and real, visceral horror. Don’t be put off by the new nom de plume. King’s new pen name signifies another evolution in his career, just as he emerged from the Bachman years’ “Thinner” into the soul-baring masterpiece of “It”. Writing from a feminine perspective is admittedly experimental, but this experiment is a SUCCESS.

Now, I’m sure plenty of authors would be upset about this confusion. Ms.. Schultz has actually kind of taken advantage of the confusion and the money coming her way by creating a Tumblr blog called Spending the Stephen King Money, where she details how she’s been spending her unexpected royalties, from donation to charitable organization to IKEA shopping trips. And of course, it’s only brought more attention to her, and her book. I’m sure plenty of people will read it now just to read the story that got confused with a Stephen King novel.

In fact, there’s a certain author who plans to read the book:

Yep, King is ordering her book, and Ms. Schultz in turn is planning on reading Stephen King’s Joyland. It’s a really weird but hilarious ending to a rather strange series of events stemmingfrom a simple misunderstanding. But hey, I’m sure both authors will laugh about it when they look back on it years from now, if they aren’t laughing about it now. And who knows? Maybe they’ll collaborate torelease books around the same time with the same titles and see what happens. In fact, I kind of hoping they do!

I’m not sure how this sort of thing happens, except through serendipity. In fact, this is the first time I’ve heard of such a thing happening on such a scale that even some media organizations report it. Sure, we all have or know someone who went to get a certain book or movie or check out a certain TV show and ended up reading or watching something with a similar or identical title (that actually happened to me a couple of weeks ago). But on this massive scale? It’s almost a little hard o rap your head around. If Saturday Night Live was airing new episodes right now, this would be the subject of a Weekend Update joke.

Well, like I said above, this is a case of serendipity at work. Just a happy accident. I wish something like that would happen to me, and I’m sure plenty of people will echo the sentiment. Not only is it a funny story, the royalty checks and recognition wouldn’t be too bad either. But it’s still very unlikely, even when your book has a similar name to a bestseller (The Quiet Game and Snake aren’t the only books out there with those names, believe it or not).

But I don’t think’s that’s a bad thing. After all, it’d suck if a lot of negative reviews brought down your book’s average because of some silly confusion. And I’d prefer to get success through my own hard work, creativity, and the help of my good friends and/or readers rather than through some silly mix-up of random chance.  More satisfactory that way, anyway.

I just have to write something that will allow that sort of success. Well, hopefully that story will come soon, if it hasn’t already. We’ll just have to wait and see.

What do you think of the King/Schultz mix-up?

If this happened to you, how you would react?