Posts Tagged ‘short story’

My copy of “The Creepypasta Collection,” as edited by MrCreepyPasta

A couple of years ago while I was in Germany, I became acquainted with a growing genre of horror known as creepypasta. Creepypasta, for those of you who are unfamiliar, are horror stories, images, videos, music and games that originate on the Internet and are meant to be spread around as memes. Sort of like viral Internet-born campfire ghost stories (see my original post from 2015 if you’d like a more in-depth explanation).

While I had to end my acquaintance with the genre rather abruptly (job searching and then landing a busy full-time job, as well as trying to write my own stories, doesn’t leave that much time for perusing the Internet for horror stories), I never forgot about this strange world of creators making and sharing these scary stories, sharing characters and creating entire mythologies out of some of them (Slender Man, anyone?). So when I found out there was actually a couple of anthologies of creepypasta available in book format, which meant I could read them on my lunch break, I decided to get a copy and dive in to see back in.

What did I find?

Well, like every anthology I’ve ever read, there were some stories that spoke to me more than others. A few I didn’t find that scary at all, but others definitely filled me with that feeling I get from good horror, and even set my imagination alight at times. There are writers in that anthology who would and have done well writing commercial fiction (in fact, some of the contributors listed in the back of the book have published or self-published stories). My favorites in the collection were “When Dusk Falls on Hadley Township” by TW Grim, which reminded me of a Stephen King short story; “Smile.Montana” by Aaron Shotwell, featuring the infamous creepypasta character Smile Dog; “Bedtime” by Michael Whitehouse, a classic of creepypasta fiction that really got my imagination going; and my top favorite, “She Beneath the Tree” by Michael Marks, a Lovecraftian tale that I loved from start to finish.

So yeah, if you’re curious, you should give the collection a read. 4.5 out of 5. As the cover promises, these are stories you can’t unread. And I’m not sure you’d want to.

But I found more than just stories in this collection. I also noticed some things about the genre, especially the pieces in the anthology, that showed me just how different they were from more “mainstream” horror stories. For one thing, the narration in the stories struck me as being more…realist in nature. Not like Realist fiction, which is set entirely around stories that happen in the real world, but like they really believed that the things they depicted in their stories could actually happen. In a lot of horror fiction, even by the greatest writers out there, you get the sense that, except for maybe stories involving serial killers, the authors don’t really believe that what they’re writing about could happen. But creepypasta writers seem to feel the opposite. I got the sense, even with some of the more supernatural or strange stories, that the authors really believed that what was happening in their stories could happen in the real world, and treated it as such. And this shown through especially with the first-person narrators.

When something like Smile Dog can be treated as if it’s real, you know you’re reading something different.

This is something I really admire in creepypasta, because it just gives these stories another layer and gives them the power to really make you wonder if some of what happens in these creepypastas could happen. Some of my own stories are based on my own beliefs of what could be out there, and I like to think that gives them this quality of strange realism to them. Seeing that quality brought out so well with these stories is a great guide for me personally as a writer, so I’m glad I exposed myself to them.

Another thing about this anthology is that it made me realize something: the creators of creepypasta are not too different from self-published and hybrid authors. The latter try to recreate the quality and success of books published by traditional presses without having to go through all the hoops that come with the traditional method and presses. They’re trying a new way to achieve an old goal. And a major component of this is through the Internet to reach readers and advertise. Basically, to spread the word.

Similarly, creepypasta creators are trying to recreate something as well. When I called creepypasta viral Internet-born campfire ghost stories, that was a really apt description. They’re recreating the feeling of telling scary stories around a campfire, and spread it farther than any campfire could. And their chosen medium, the Internet, is perfect for that. Spoken word can be used on the Internet, but so can the written word, images, video, music and so much more. They use the Internet to advertise terror as well as any self-published/hybrid author can to advertise their books. Is it any wonder that one can so transition easily into the other?

Overall, I’m glad I took this dive back into the world of creepypasta. It opened my eyes to things that I’d never realized before, gave me ideas for stories, and caused my respect for creepypasta creators to grow immensely. And while I may never write true creepypasta, I can see creepypasta-esque stories or ideas infiltrating my future work. Just like creepypasta, you never know until it happens. And by then, it’s likely too late.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’d love to talk a bit more on the subject, but a hole in the fabric of reality has appeared in the fabric of my carpet, so that either means something really pleasant, or something really bad. I’m going to go find out.

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

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Just like the last time I posted about this subject, I’m pretty sure someone is reading that post title and is very, very confused.

So if you’re unaware, there are two styles of writing fiction that most writers can be divided into: pantsers and plotters. To put it simply, plotters like to plan out as much as they can before and during writing, while pantsers tend to plan out only a few things, and leave the rest up to whatever they come up with in the moment. Some people do a mix, but for the majority, they usually fall into one camp or the other.

I’m a big plotter, but for a while I’ve been experimenting with more seat-of-my-pants style writing. I wanted to see if that led to situations within stories that felt more natural, more “organic” than something that might feel forced for the sake of the plot. And my experiment yielded an interesting conclusion: except for some short stories (and not many, mind you), I can’t pants for the life of me. And believe me, I tried. I tried to let situations rise as organically as possible and go with the flow. However, what ended up happening more often than not is that I would just sit there in front of my computer, trying to figure out what comes next. Then I’d get distracted, and I’d end up watching a few videos or reading clickbait articles, and then I’d realize that it’s time to make tomorrow’s lunch and get ready for bed, and only a little work has been done, and that just sucks!

I didn’t fully realize how bad I was at pantsing until I was writing an email to my publisher. We were discussing changes I could make to Rose, and I mentioned that I’d really have to think about what changes I would make, as, and I quote, “I can’t pants to save my life.” It wasn’t until I really wrote out those words that it dawned on me how true they were. I can’t pants to save my life. Except for the rare short story, I need an order and an idea of where I’m going. Otherwise, I just can’t write, let alone make a compelling story.

So I’m back on mainly plotting out my stories. But I’m not sad about that. Like I said, I’m a plotter, so it feels good to be writing in a way I know that works for me. And I’m happy for another reason: this experiment in pantsing was a success in a different manner than what I expected. Thomas Edison once said that his thousand failed light bulbs weren’t actually failed light bulbs, but discoveries on how not to make a light bulb. Similarly, I discovered some more of my limitations when it comes to writing, and how I can improve in the future. Far from a complete and total failure.

And if you have a specific way you write, don’t feel pressured to change it because other writers write differently. We all have our areas and our methods that work for us. If you want to experiment and try something new, go ahead and try it. You never know what’ll happen. But never feel that you have to change how you do things. You could end up going from quality work to not getting anything done at all.

Have you tried both pantsing and plotting? How has it worked out for you?

That’s all for now, Followers of Fear. I know my posts have been a bit more spaced out than usual lately, but I’m hoping to have more to post about in the new month. Hopefully even a couple pieces of good news (fingers crossed). Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

I’ve been thinking a lot about what’ll happen after Rose comes out. Specifically, what sort of stories I’ll work on once I’m done with Rose.

I know that’s a crazy thing to think about at this point. I’m still doing revisions on Rose for the publisher, and likely they’ll have me do more revisions before we get to publication, and then there’s the publication, and then a whole ton of marketing and other work just to make sure the book is read and sold and reviewed and whatnot. Thinking about future projects should be the last thing on my mind.

But of course, being “logical” has never been one of my strong suits, and dreaming about the future has been what’s helped me get to this point anyway. So why not wax on about what might happen after Rose?

Well, there are a number of short stories I’ve been thinking about working on. I very much want to edit Hannah, the ghost story I wrote back in January, and I want to write a few stories that have been circulating in my head for a while. I also want to eventually get back to the novelette I was working on that was giving me so many challenges, and see if I can get a bit further in that, if not finish it up entirely. It may end up becoming one of those stories where I revisit it every now and then to see if time has given me a clearer vision of how to improve and/or finish it (I’ve got a few of those). And I’d like a few months to spend on all of those, just to see what I can come up with, and if any of it is publishable.

And of course, I’ve been thinking about what sort of novel I’d like to write next, when I’m ready to write a novel. Probably, that won’t be immediately: Rose has challenged me in ways I’ve never been challenged by a story, and I want some time to refresh my mind before I make a commitment to a project that I could end up working on for years and years. But I have some ideas on what sort of novel I’d like to write next, when I am ready to make that sort of commitment.

For one thing, it won’t be a sequel to Rose. I could write one, and I have ideas I could develop into a sequel for Rose, but I don’t want to return to the world of Rose just yet. Especially when I can’t guarantee I can make the story better or on par with the original so soon after finishing the original.

For another, I’m not yet ready to return to the world of Reborn City. Yeah, I know there are a couple of big fans of that trilogy who want the final book, Full Circle, already (I know a few of you are probably out there), but I’m just not ready to get back to that yet.

And finally, I want to do something that’s different. Think of it like houses: I don’t want to try selling Castrum on a house that’s basically the same one they bought, just on a different block and with a different coat of paint. I want to sell them a house that’s just as good as the first one, but an entirely different design, while still retaining the Rami Ungar architecture (is this metaphor getting too weird/complicated, or does it still work?).

All these books are different from one another. I want to do the same with my books as well.

I mean, look at Stephen King: he followed Carrie (a psychic girl who gets revenge on her psychotic religious mother and the bullies at her high school) with Salem’s Lot (vampires invade a small Maine town, and a writer and his allies have to stop them), and then went on to write The Shining (a family that includes a psychic four-year-old becomes the winter caretakers at an isolated hotel haunted by something dark and evil) before creating The Stand (a super-disease causes most of Earth’s population to die off, leaving the survivors to engage in an apocalyptic war between the forces of good and evil). None of those are carbon copies of the other, so I want to do something very distinct from Rose.

And I have a few novels I can choose from. I have more ideas than I know what to do with, so I have plenty of options, but there are a few stories I can think of that would make great projects. There’s one in particular I’d like to work on when the time comes, but it’ll depend on a number of factors, including if I have to pitch something to the publisher (I’m not sure if that’s something I have to do, but it’s something I’ve thought about).

Still, there’s plenty of time to think about all that. I just know that when the time does come to think about all that, I’ll have plenty of ideas to work with and consider. Hopefully whatever I choose, it’ll make for some good reading.

In the meantime, I’m off to work on Rose for a little bit. Here’s hoping I can make some good progress before I have to hit the hay tonight. Until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

I have not been blogging much in the last week or so, though I’ve read just about every blog post that shows up in my inbox. This is partly because I haven’t had anything I’ve felt passionate enough to blog about and because of time constraints, but it’s mostly because of the story I’ve been working on lately. You see, this story is challenging me as a writer, and the challenge has me engrossed, more so than a test engrosses Hermione Granger around exam time (oh Harry Potter, you always give me something when I ask). It’s so engrossing, that it’s taking up all my creative energies, leaving me unable to blog or even come up with new ideas for stories (though I already have more ideas than I know what to do with, so that’s not a huge problem).

Some of you may remember that I started working on a story I thought might become a novelette or novella in between drafts of Rose back in October or November. After finishing the short story Do-Over the other day, I started working on this story again, and as I said, it’s been challenging. On a number of levels, actually: for one thing, there’s an anthology I’ve heard about that’s looking for stories of a certain word length, so I’m trying to write this story to keep it within the anthology’s word limits. Yeah, I know I should let the story be whatever length it’s meant to be, but after expanding Rose to twice its word length last year because it was suggested I do just that, I feel like I can aim for a certain word count and still get a good story out of it.

Another reason it’s challenging is because of the narrator. Like Rose, I’m telling this story through the eyes of a first-person narrator, which means I’m reliant on her as a narrator to tell the story and to create a good horror ambiance. But at the same time, she’s got a history, a personality, and observations that she’s putting into her story. It’s less like I’m writing the story and I’m channeling my narrator as she’s telling the story, though I do have the power to go in and make changes as needed. And creating that horror ambiance while balancing my narrator’s voice and what she feels is necessary to put into her story, such as her interactions with her husband, isn’t that easy.

Did I mention that this story also takes place over thirty years before I was born, in a state I’ve only visited once? Well, it does, so in addition to being a horror story, it’s also historical fiction, and I’m working hard to recreate an age and place I’ve never experienced, with all the fashions, technology, and attitudes in place. It’s a lot of work, to say the least.

And on top of that, you have all the normal challenges of storytelling: making a story interesting, pacing, showing vs. telling, dialogue, word choice, et cetera, et cetera. I’ve got my work cut out for me.

But honestly, I think it’s all worth it. Because in my experience, if a novel challenges the writer, it’s going to be a better story in the end. Look at Rose: that novel challenged me every time I worked on it. The first draft alone, I had to go back to the very beginning and start over again because I had to totally reroute the path the story was taking. During the third draft, I added forty-thousand words, a whole new plot line, and even a character or two just to make the story not only longer, but better. And in the end, I created one hell of a story that I feel has a great chance of publication. Hopefully with this story I can get a similar outcome.

Stories can be challenging to write sometimes. It may be difficult to get the words on the page, but in the end, with a lot of work, I think it can lead to a really compelling story. And I’m looking forward to seeing if, after a lot of blood, sweat and tears, I can wrangle out a good story here.

Well, I got another story done this evening. And I honestly didn’t think I’d get it done that quickly tonight. I thought it’d take an hour and forty-five minutes to finish off this story. Somehow I got it done in half an hour. But who cares about that? I got a short story done!

Yeah, I use Bitmoji on occasion. In case you forgot.

Anyway, if you skipped the title the story is called “Do-Over,” and is about the lengths one girl goes to fix her life after she sends out a tweet she doesn’t realize is really offensive, ruining her life. Yeah, pretty relevant, isn’t it? In fact, this story was partially inspired by the story of Justine Sacco, the woman who sent a tweet making a joke how she hoped she wouldn’t get AIDS in South Africa, then saying it wouldn’t happen because she was white. When she finally landed in Cape Town, she was a trending subject on Twitter, had received a lot of hate over the Internet, and had even lost her job! However, I decided to make my protagonist a teenager rather than a thirty-year-old woman, because teenagers are still learning what is considered appropriate and what isn’t (actually, a lot of adults are still learning that, but let’s ignore that for a moment, shall we?), and I felt that would make her more relatable.

At least, it did to me. One thing I’m afraid of is that something I’ve said or done will come back to haunt me, especially if it’s on the Internet where nothing dies. I’ve even had friends and family members look over blog posts and stories just to make sure that nothing offensive was said when I wrote about a sensitive topic (my Aokigahara post is a prime example of that). Tapping into that fear and what it might be like to face that sort of hatred and rejection for making what you thought was just a stupid joke online really allowed me to tap into the character and relay things from her point of view.

And speaking of inappropriate tweets, coming up with what my protagonist tweeted was really the hardest part of writing the story. It actually held me up for about three days while I tried to figure out what my character would tweet. Obviously, coming up with offensive garbage is pretty easy. You only need to look at what makes the headlines to realize that. But coming up with something that a teenager would think is a joke was actually pretty difficult. Eventually I took the suggestion of someone in one of my online writer’s groups to do something close to me and, as I’m bisexual, came up with something that would upset me and my fellow LGBT individuals. After that, the story was fairly easy to write.

This also happens to be the shortest story I’ve written in years, a mere thirty-six hundred words. I can’t remember the last time I wrote a short story that short! And honestly, I wasn’t trying to truncate it that much. I knew it would be short, and I just wrote it. It just became short on its own, I guess.

Still, I know it’s far from perfect, and there may be issues I don’t see at this moment. I’ll probably get it beta read before I submit it anywhere.

Even so, I’m happy with the story I wrote and I’m glad I got it done this evening. Next time I sit down to write, I’m getting back to a certain story that I left unfinished and tackles themes of prejudice. Surprisingly, it’s not the last Reborn City book.

Goodnight, Followers of Fear! Pleasant nightmares!

I’ve mentioned it before, but short stories are often hard for me. And one aspect of writing those that I often have trouble with is the very first part of any short story. Openings. They give me grief.

With novels, I have a lot of room to maneuver around. After all, even a short novel is around sixty-thousand words (and mine are never that short). With all those words, I can take a lot of time and space just setting up the scenario of the story. Take my novel Rose, for example: if we count Chapter One as the opening, that’s sixteen pages and nearly five-thousand words just devoted to setting up the story. And I’m very used to writing this way. I like long, expansive stories. I grew up on a diet of Harry Potter, and in my teens delved into the novels of Anne Rice, Stephen King, and Dan Brown. No one could accuse those guys of being short.

But if I’m writing a short story, the highest word count to still count as a short story is ten-thousand. And if I want to get published in most magazines, the limit is usually around six-thousand. So while I’m used to opening a story with about five-thousand words, or half the length of the longest short story, I now have to try to contain my openings into a much shorter length.

The struggle is real.

Because of this need for brevity, one of the things I sometimes end up doing when I write a short story, at least in the beginning, is to use a lot of exposition. And in some stories, exposition is good. It helps fill in essential information. But in other cases, exposition is just…bad. Instead of actually presenting the story,  the author is just explaining things. Telling you stuff. It’d be like if instead of actually showing Harry Potter growing up, learning about his heritage, and going to Hogwarts, it’d be like JK Rowling wrote, “There was a boy named Harry Potter. One day he found out he was a wizard, his parents died saving him from an evil wizard, who disappeared and gave him a scar in a process, and then he went off to wizard school.”

I often worry that when I do exposition in short stories, it’s the latter kind. Which probably means it is the latter kind. That may be cynicism on my part, but when you’re still inexperienced at something, you’re prone to making mistakes. So perhaps I really am using exposition, and in all the wrong ways too.

Luckily, there are a few things I’m trying to remedy that. One is that I’m keeping in mind something important: I’m writing first drafts. And first drafts are always terrible. Even if they contain intriguing stories, they’re rife with issues that require lots of fixing. This is why we writers edit, multiple times if necessary, before we publish. Heck, Rose had to go through four drafts before I felt it was ready to be sent out to a publisher. And likely if a publisher does like it, they’ll probably have me do a fifth or even a sixth draft before they’re ready to publish.

So if I feel an opening needs work, I can edit it in the next draft, and remove any bad exposition or other problems with the opening I spot.

Hopefully I can improve this part of short stories.

And sometimes, I don’t even need to wait (and this is my second method, by the way). Sometimes a way to fix a short story’s opening comes to you just while you’re writing it. On Friday, I started a new short story that I think has potential. I think I got four hundred words in before I stopped, but then I was like, “Is this really the opening I want?” And as I thought about it, it wasn’t. But how to fix it? And yesterday at some point–I think it was right before I saw Winchester–a way to change the opening occurred to me.  I think this is the right way to open the story without going into exposition. So the next time I work on the story, I’m going go back and rewrite the opening, see if this produces better results. And if it doesn’t, there’s always something new to try. Or I can go back to my original opening. After all, it’s a first draft. I can make as many adjustments as needed.

And finally, I’m reading a lot more short stories than I’m used to. I learned how to write novels partly from reading novels, so reading short stories should help me get an idea on how to write them. I’ve already listened to two anthologies on audio book, and I just started reading the Stephen King collection Night Shift on Friday. So far, they’ve been very helpful, but I’ll need to read a lot more to get a better sense of short story writing.

And finally, I just need more practice. After all, you become a writer by writing in the first place, and continuing to write no matter what. With any luck, more practice with short stories will lead to better ones. Hopefully, anyway.

I’m still trying to be a better short story writer, and openings are still hard for me. But with practice and exposure to good ones, I can hopefully make some progress on that. And who knows? Maybe even produce some stories that a magazine will be proud to publish. Anything’s possible, right?

 

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ve been looking at a screen for most of the day, so I’m going to take a break and read something. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Well, after the fourth draft of Rose, I knew that I didn’t want to go into another novel too soon. I wanted to do some short stories. And I somehow managed to get my first short story of the year out in five days. Impressive. These usually take about two weeks to a month. On a good day.

Hannah is a ghost story about a team of paranormal investigators that explore an elementary school that’s reportedly haunted, and what they encounter in there. And for a Rami Ungar short story, it’s actually shorter than most I’ve written, just under fifty-nine hundred words. Usually they end up between seven-thousand and nine-thousand words. I wonder how that worked out?

And for the record, the Hannah in the title of this story is not based on any Hannah I actually know. And that’s a few: it’s a popular girl’s name in the Jewish community, so of course I’ve met and made friends with several. The titular character’s name actually has to do with a famous urban legend from another country, which I can’t name or go into without giving too much away about the story. I can’t even go into details of the legend, lest I give too much away. However, the name Hannah is a clue, if you want to try to figure it out. Let’s just say, it’s an Americanization.

Anyway, I’m hoping this short story is some good. I’ve been listening to a lot of horror anthologies on audio book lately, so I think I’ve absorbed some of what those had to teach me on short story writing. I also learned a lot from the fourth draft of Rose on concise language and strong writing (thanks Joleene), which probably contributed to its shorter length. And at the very least, if the story is terrible, at least it’ll be well-written.

Of course, there’s still things that can be improved. I think the middle and ending are pretty good, but I’m worried the beginning has too much exposition and telling, and not enough dialogue and showing. I’ve seen short stories do that well, of course, but I’m not sure if it’s done well here. Well, I suppose that’s what second drafts and beta readers are for. And hopefully once those are done, I can get this story published somewhere (I have a few ideas of where I would like that to happen).

Now that Hannah is done, there’s another short story I’d like to get to work on as soon as possible. Maybe even tomorrow, if my schedule allows. I’m looking forward to this one: it’s a story with a wonderfully relevant topic to today’s world.

For now though, I’m headed to bed. After all, I’ve got work in the morning. Goodnight Followers of Fear, and until next time, pleasant nightmares!