Posts Tagged ‘inspiration’

Rest in peace, Wes Craven. You will be missed.

The word craven means “lacking in courage; cowardly.” I’m hard-pressed to find a man who embodied the exact antithesis of the meaning of his last man, and who instead managed to pass it onto the rest of us. Wes Craven was a filmmaking genius, a horror maestro who helped to create some of our most iconic movie monsters, including Freddy Kreuger and Ghostface. It is with great sadness that I have to admit that he passed yesterday after a lengthy battle with brain cancer at the age of 76.

I remember the first time I watched the original Nightmare on Elm Street. I was somewhere in my teenage years, and I was in my dad’s basement watching it on DVD. From the very beginning the movie set itself apart from other horror movies I’d seen in the past. The small box displaying Freddy preparing his trademark clawed glove, as if he were coming out of a long retirement to start some marvelous work again. That first dream sequence and death, and everything that came after it. Nightmare was visceral, it was scary, and at the end you wondered what was dream and what was reality, or if maybe they were all one and the same. For a guy who hadn’t had that much exposure to the horror classics of the 1980s (I might’ve only recently turned seventeen at that time and gotten access to my library’s collection of 80’s horror, most of which was rated R), it knocked me off my feet and made me want more.

You see, horror is my drug, and the Nightmare movies were really good blow. In Wes Craven, I’d found a powerful dealer, someone who could give me what I needed when I needed my horror fix. I would later find terror when I saw the Scream movies, and quite a few more (I really liked what he did with the North American remake of Pulse). You could go to him and usually he could provide the goods. Occasionally Craven produced some bad stuff—every filmmaker does occasionally, and in horror bad stuff is pretty common—but on the whole he did great work.

And how did Craven feel about these many fans, these people who saw him as a person who fed their inner desires for terror and probably gave more than one child nightmares for the rest of his or her life? To use his own words, “I come from a blue-collar family, and I’m just glad for the work. I think it is an extraordinary opportunity and gift to be able to make films in general, and to have done it for almost 40 years is remarkable…If I have to do the rest of the films in the [horror] genre, no problem. If I’m going to be a caged bird, I’ll sing the best song I can…I can see that I give my audience something. I can see it in their eyes, and they say thank you a lot. You realize you are doing something that means something to people.”(1)

Indeed Mr. Craven. You did something to many people. You gave us iconic characters like Freddy or Ghostface to haunt our dreams. You helped launch the film careers of Johnny Depp, Sharon Stone, and Bruce Willis (no seriously, he did). And you inspired generations of horror fans, from your protégé Nick Simon, whose new movie The Girl in the Photographs will premiere at the Toronto Film Festival next month, to me, a self-published novelist who, while not exactly famous yet, is working hard to create his own stories that maybe one day will scare people far and wide.

So while you may no longer be with us in Mr. Craven, you are very much alive. Like one of your creations, you haunt us in our imaginations and our dreams, making those you inspired take to their pens or computers and create their own wonderful nightmares. And as long as people fear Freddy or Ghostface or those Hills that have Eyes, you will continue to walk among us, leaving your mark wherever you go and giving us our fix when we ask for it.

So tonight, I will raise a toast to Wes Craven, a man with a vision, taken from us when we didn’t want him to go. I will get online and see if I can get a fix from one of his movies. And then soon, possibly tomorrow, I will get to work on my next terrifying creation and hope your ghost whispers in my ears while I do.

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As a Jew, Christmas isn’t really my thing. In fact, I’ve been referring to it in a half-joking manner as my month-long headache. But sometimes Christmas surprises me, as it did last night.

After watching The Interview on Christmas Eve and sleeping in much later than I had meant to, I’d pretty much been a couch potato all day, catching up on the shows I’d missed out on this semester. Since I was planning on watching the Doctor Who Christmas special, I went out for a walk and stretch my legs. And what a walk it was! The air was actually much warmer than last year, there wasn’t any rain or snow, and there was hardly any traffic! Hardly any at all! You could walk right into the middle of what would normally be a very busy street and just dance! Which I did, by the way. Several times! And nobody gave me a weird look at all…not that there was anyone really around to look. And I probably wouldn’t care what anyone thought if there was someone there, anyway.

After stopping off at the local donut shop for an after-dinner snack (and for what became this morning’s breakfast), I decided to go for a walk on campus. And it was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. Everything was so quiet, so empty, and there was a slight mist in the air. It gave everything a strange, magical air, and I kept expecting to see something magical pop out at me (more than usual anyway). With my earbuds popped in, I ended up dancing on the Oval to some of my favorite uplifting party songs, just because I could. I then stopped by Mirror Lake, which at this time of year is lit up with Christmas lights. I don’t normally care for all the lights, but tonight it was enchanting and I really enjoyed myself.

It was at that point that I decided to head home, especially if I wanted to take a shower before the Christmas special began. And it was also at that point that something that I’d been waiting for finally happened: if you recall back in May during my study abroad trip, I began a short story called The Murderer’s Legacy that was inspired by some of the things I’d seen and read about while in London. The story was about a nobleman living in a version of Victorian England where magic is commonplace. The nobleman is being sentenced to death (or at least a very horrific version of it) for the murder of his wife, whom he did not murder. At the end of the story it’s revealed who actually murdered her and why, but by then it’s too late for the nobleman.

Something like I saw last night. You can see how inspiring it is, can’t you?

 

I thought at the time that it was a pretty good story, and that it had a lot of potential. I still do. But I felt that the version I had in the first draft wasn’t sufficient, and I had to do some major editing and rewriting in order to make the story work. This became more apparent to me as time went on, especially as some of the lessons from all the creative writing I did this last semester began to sink in, namely don’t plunge the reader into a fantastic world with a million different parts and pieces to it if you have only ten-thousand words to do it and tell a story set in that world. My first draft felt like starting Harry Potter in Book 4 or 5 and being plunged into this great big established universe, rather than being slowly introduced to that world in Book 1.

The problem was, I didn’t know how to fix this story so that it was not only simpler, but flowed better and actually told a story rather than introducing the reader to a complicated world they couldn’t take in slowly. Try as I might, I couldn’t think of a way to approach this story and edit it. Until last night, that is, when standing by Mirror Lake, something just clicked and inspiration flowed. I finally figured out how to make this story work, how to tell it in a creepy way while keeping the basic idea behind it alive. Not only that, but I had all the research materials I needed at home, so looking up what I needed for this story would be a cinch.

You can imagine the size of the smile on my face as I walked home that evening. I had all the inspiration I needed to rewrite The Murderer’s Legacy into a good story. Then I realized I have no time to work on it, with a thesis and classes to deal with. Oy vey, the life of a writer in college. It’s never easy.

Well, who knows? There may be a chance for me to still work on this story before May. I’ll have an easier workload this coming semester and that means more time for homework and writing. Maybe I’ll be able to finish Rose early and work on this and all my other projects. We can hope, right?

Well, that’s all for now. I’ve got plenty of work ahead of me, so I’m going to try and get that done. Have a good weekend and (if I don’t post again before December 31st) Happy New Year, my Followers of Fear.

As any author can tell you, there’s no one way we get our ideas. In fact, we get our ideas from everything: stuff that goes on in our lives, the people we know, current events, books, TV shows, movies, video games, from a phrase, from a place, from something we like or something we hate, and from more things than I can list. It’s the actual spinning of the story that can be rather difficult. We have the start of an idea, but we need to build up the story around it. Who’s the protagonist, what’s going to happen, where and when is it going to happen, why is it happening, etc. And depending on the author, the idea, and where it came from or what it consists of, the story based on the idea can come either very quickly or take a while.

For me usually it doesn’t take too long to come up with a story once I have the idea. There’s one notable exception however, and that’s when the idea revolves around a character and nothing else. By this I mean a character pops into my head, maybe no more than just an image but still a character, and I want to write a story around that character. And it isn’t easy for me to come up with that idea.

Other inspirations don’t take that long. I saw the movie Schindler’s List and came up with a whole book series based around the idea of someone actually leading a rebellion against the Nazis. Remember when I went to the Sky Steele show a week back? I had an idea from something we talked about after the concert involving a supernatural crime story. And a creature featured in a fantasy TV series I watched last year inspired a story about how religion can actually kill you. All of this happened within minutes or hours of being inspired.

But starting out with an intriguing character and little to nothing else? It takes me days to come up with a story to match. In fact, of the last ten ideas for novels I’ve had, half of them were based around characters and took me days to actually come up with an idea I could write down on my list of feature-length ideas (I’m up to 145 of those, by the way. Unless I can become successful enough to write full-time, I’m not sure I’ll be able to write them all!). They all started with one or two characters, maybe a setting, but all of them took days to come up what they would be doing or what would happen to them. The most recent one, which I first started trying to brainstorm a story around on Tuesday, I finally got something today.

Sometimes, the gears in my head turn so loudly, you can hear them.

What happened was that I saw this Halloween-themed video (which I will have to post about when October rolls around) and I got a little scared by it. Not only that, but I also kind of fell in love with one of the characters in the video and decided to base an entire Halloween-based story around her. Just one question: what kind of story? Finally figured out today to base the story around ancient myths about Samhain, the holiday Halloween is based on, but up until then I could not think of a single thing to base the story around. Well I did, but none of them really worked for me. I couldn’t see myself writing something around those other story possibilities, let alone anything I thought would be good. I’m glad that I was able to finally come up with something though, or might have gone a little madder than usual.

You know, as much as I love getting ideas for stories, I hope that in the future these sort of ideas, the ones that take several days to form and usually start with a single character, pop into my head less often. And when they do, I hope it takes less time to come up with a story based around them.

What about you? What sort of ideas do you struggle to create stories around?

What do you do when you’re struggling with an idea and can’t think of anything?

It’s amazing what happens when you see a good movie and it just makes you want to write. For instance, I just saw The Woman in Black with Daniel Radcliffe in it at my school’s union and was totally freaked out by it (I would write a review on it but it’s just too soon after the last review). Even while I was watching the film though, my head was swirling with inspiration. Horror is my craft, and I was carefully noting what the filmmakers had done, how they built up tension in this or that scene, how they symbolically signaled that Radcliffe’s character had discovered an important clue, and basically how they told the story (you can learn a lot about storytelling just by watching a good scary movie).

In addition to noting these things, I was also coming up with ideas, ideas for my own stories that I’d like to write someday. When I do come up with stories based on films I’ve watched, it usually has to do with some element from the movie that really stuck with me or something that I’d like to use myself someday, or even just some stray thought that goes through my head while I’m watching. For example, when I saw Taken with Liam Neeson back in high school, I thought how cool it was that he was taking out everyone and anyone with guns, and that led to my idea for a story on a serial killer who tracks down and kills mafioso (do not take that idea!). I also thought that when he was chasing down that punk from the airport, how much Neeson would have it if he was a werewolf, and that led to an idea about werewolf spies/detectives (don’t take that idea either, I will know if something similar is published after this blog post! Just kidding, I know you wouldn’t do that.).

I’m not going to go into details about the ideas I had in my head when I left the theater. I will say though, that once I’m done putting them down on the ideas list I have on my flash drive, I’ll get to work on finishing my new short story. I am in such a writing mood. Wish me luck.