Posts Tagged ‘Stephen King’

Writers deal with a lot of tenses, and I don’t mean the ones associated when we hunch over our computers so we can better bang out stories.* No, I mean tenses like past tense and present tense, the tenses authors use to tell a story. Like first and third person POV, the use of either can vary from story to story (future tense and second person POV are rare, for reasons I’m sure people reading this blog can understand). And although I feel like I know plenty on the subject of using tenses sometimes, occasionally I find I still have something to learn.

Earlier today, I received an email from a magazine I submitted a short story to a couple months back. They rejected it. Which, honestly, I wasn’t broken up about. I figured out there were changes to this particular story while it was in consideration at the publication, so I thought this was for the best. However, they did include some notes on what worked and didn’t work with the story. Among those was one that really struck me.

They said that narrating in past tense, while giving the narration strength, also made it clear that the story took place in the past, and therefore made the story overall weaker, as it kind of gave away the ending. Namely, that the protagonist survives.

Now sometimes in a horror story, that’s fine. Part of the thrill is seeing how things turn out when you already have some idea of the ending. Interview with the Vampire is framed just as its title suggests, a vampire getting interviewed about his life. Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door is told by the narrator when he’s an adult remembering his childhood traumas (still the scariest novel I’ve ever read). And Salem’s Lot by Stephen King begins with two of the main cast in Mexico after escaping the town, then rewinds to the beginning of the events, and then afterwards shows those two characters burning the town down.

But apparently, with this story, that should not have been the case, as it took away some of the tension. And a horror story without tension is like a hamburger without a bun. It’s missing something essential.

Food metaphors aside, this shows an issue not only with the story, but a lesson I can learn from. With stories, it often seems instinctual, at least to me, about what tense to write in. Perhaps in future, I should weigh options and think about what the pros and cons of writing a story in past versus present tense. Perhaps then I’ll be able to write my stories and make them more effective in scaring the pants out of people.

And that goes especially with the story I got the rejection for today. I feel like this one could be one of my best if I can polish it a bit more and maybe get some more feedback on it. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens when I try changing the tense (and maybe the POV. I feel like that could also be an effective strategy for this story).

At least I know there’s still room for me to improve and become a better writer. I hear perfection gets boring pretty quickly.

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’m off to do battle with some exorcists who believe I’m an ancient entity here to usher in the end of the world (they’re right on one count, at least), and then do some writing. Thankfully with this story I’m working on now, I’m sure I have the right tense and POV for what I’m trying to do. That should make things easier further down the line.

Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

*In all seriousness though, take care of your backs, fellow writers. That will come back to haunt you if you don’t practice better posture. Believe me, I know. Brought to you by a writer giving a shit.

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As much as we make jokes about it, young adult fiction, or YA, is a massive and popular genre. Over ten-thousand YA books were released in 2012, read by both the targeted demographic, teens, and by an increasing number of adults. And among horror, there are writers who specialize in YA horror. But that leaves a question: when is a horror story a YA horror story? Does it have to star a teen or teens? Or is there something more to it?

I ask this because I have a project for National Novel Writing Month in November where nearly the whole cast are teenagers. And while I have nothing against YA or those who write/enjoy it (the amount of anime and manga I consume is primarily aimed at teens, which says something), it’s not a label I think this story should be given.

If you ask most authors and fans (and believe me, I have), YA fiction is usually defined as having teen protagonists and including themes prevalent around the teen years: first love, friendship, identity, and growing up. By that definition, many horror novels could be considered YA, even though they’ve traditionally been aimed at adults. A good example is Carrie by Stephen King. It fits both requirements–teens are prominent in the novel, and themes such as bullying and inclusion, first love, and becoming an adult are all present in the novel.

I even asked in one of my Facebook groups if other authors considered Carrie YA. I got over fifty responses in the course of a week, and it was divided almost evenly down the line. And while the opinion was split, many people admitted they or their children read it as teenagers. I myself read Carrie as a teen. So is it YA fiction then, like the Cirque du Freak books and last year’s bestseller The Sawkill Girls? And are other novels with teens in the lead role to be considered YA?

Well, here’s the thing: the above definition doesn’t include something very important that has to come into consideration. What is that? Marketing. Who is the book being marketed to? Marketing has always played a part in categorizing what is called YA and what isn’t. In fact, the demographic of YA fiction (it’s not a genre, no matter how much we think of it as one), was first defined by librarians in the early half of the 20th century who wanted to know which books were being read by the newly-defined teen demographic and why. It was later picked up by publishers when they realized how they could increase their sales by marketing certain stories to the 12-18 age group.*

So while Carrie has always been popular among teens, it was and has always been marketed at adults, as have all of King’s books. And that’s because King wrote it for adults, not for teens. Meanwhile, books like the Cirque du Freak series were always aimed at the teen demographic, from early writing stages to their eventual publication and marketing.

And that’s what we need to answer my earlier question: if my NaNoWriMo project has a teen cast and incorporates certain themes relevant to teens, is it YA? While I’m sure, if it gets published, some will categorize it as YA horror, I write for an adult audience. Everything from what I include in the story (including possible sex scenes) to just the word choices and the explorations of characters’ thoughts and feelings is through an adult lens.  YA, it is not.

So while a story may include teens prominently in the cast and feature themes and content relevant to teenagers, unless it’s written and later marketed for teens, it can’t necessarily be called YA fiction. Many may still slap the label “YA” on a story given its content, and they have every right to do so, if they feel that story fits their definition of YA fiction. But the intention of the story’s author will be the ultimate decisive requirement, whether in horror or any other genre.

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Thanks for reading this little piece I wrote just to get my thoughts out on this subject before I started writing in November. But tell me, what are you thoughts on the subject? What makes a story, horror or otherwise, YA? Let’s discuss.

Until next time, pleasant nightmares.

And look, I went an entire post without once mentioning Rose. I consider that an accomplishment–oh dammit!

*Thank you Lindsay Ellis for helping me research this article with a great YouTube video.

All you measly humans, fall to your knees! Scream in awe and horror! Get out the beer and ice cream! In less than three weeks, Rose has attained ten reviews on Amazon!

Well actually, eleven reviews. Across Amazon’s American, Canadian, and British sites, the majority of which are on the American. But I’m making a big deal out of it anyway.

So if you have no idea what I’m going on about, well first off, you must be very new here. Welcome to the blog and to the Followers of Fear. I hope you have a scary good time with us. Second, Rose is my fantasy-horror novel which was released three weeks ago by Castrum Press. It’s my first book with a publisher (I’ve self-published previously), and is the result of about five years of work, starting in college as a senior thesis. For what it’s about, here’s the back cover blurb:

Rose Taggert awakens in a greenhouse with no clear memory of the past two years and, to her horror, finds her body transformed into an unrecognizable form.

Paris Kuyper has convinced Rose that they are lovers and as Paris could not bear for her to die, he has used an ancient and dark magic to save her from certain death.

But the dark magic Paris has used comes at a price. A price which a terrible demon is determined to extract from Rose.

As Rose struggles to understand what is happening to her, she must navigate Paris’s lies and secrets; secrets that Paris will do anything to protect.

I’m over the moon that so many people have read the book and left reviews. Not only are reviews great ways to give writers such as myself feedback on what worked and didn’t work, but it’s also a great way to let other readers know if a book is worth their time. And apparently a lot of people think this novel was worth their time.

And what reviews, too! Author of the Portia Adams mystery novels, colleague and friend Angela Misri posted this on Amazon Canada:

Rose is one of those characters (like Carrie in Stephen King’s book) who pulls you into the story, wrapping herself around you, making it impossible to stop reading.

Being compared to Carrie. I consider that an honor.

On the British version, this anonymous Amazon customer left this review (which has been shortened to avoid spoilers):

This is my first encounter with Rami Ungar, and, I must say, it was an enjoyable one. The story gets you hooked right from the beginning and it doesn’t loose much steam all the way through. I liked the rhythm of the story – it’s alert, spot on, with very few dead moments. If you like slow burning, atmospheric novels, then this is definitely not gonna be up your alley.

The story itself isn’t something new, but it’s well written and very easy to follow. If you’re not a native English speaker, you will read this book with flying colours, as the author tends to use a simple and concise wording, avoiding obscure idioms or long poetic metaphors.
The story is not extremely gory like in a Serge Brussolo one, nor is it a contemplative one, like in a Michelle Paver one -I’d say it’s somewhere in the middle, with a few good twists and surprises. Characthers development is quite good, and by the end of your reading you’ll really root and feel for Rose.

And on the American website, the reviews have made my heart warm, my horns sharp, and my wings unfurl. Here’s what people are saying:

This book starts with a surreal quality (I mean, human-plant thing, hello!), but even in the midst of that bizarre stuff it’s easy to follow. The protagonist, Rose, is turning into a rose. I kept thinking, “Oh, the poor woman!” And then the story turns into something so scary that I kept holding my breath as I was reading.

PROS:
The tension between Rose and Paris (and between other characters, too) kept me turning pages.

There is a disembodied laugh in the second chapter that ignites a mystery, and the mystery isn’t solved until almost the end of the book. It’s sort of a B-story, but more like a layer of the main story. I loved this added complexity to the plot.

The fight scenes are excellent! They are well-written, easy to picture, and full of excitement.

And then there’s the twist that I should have seen coming but totally didn’t. Fabulous fun.

CONS:
The book has a fem-lit overtone having to do with how men are supposed to treat women in relationships. Rose’s thoughts got a little preachy on the matter, so I took off half a star for that.

There are a few typos, like calling Chrissy “Christy” later on, and Paris comes out “Pairs” once. But the typos are few and far between and didn’t affect my reading experience. I didn’t take off any stars for this.

OVERALL:
Rose is a fun, scary, and crazy-imaginative book. I super enjoyed reading it. 4.5 stars!

–Priscilla Bettis

Rami Ungar’s Rose is frightening from the first sentence. He creates a world of steadily deepening terror, built not just on power, but on deception and mind games. Ungar is a smart writer who isn’t afraid to leaven the darkness with wit, and the book’s plot gallops along beautifully. No wonder so many reviewers call it a page-turner. It’s irresistible to see what will come next, and always a surprise.

–June Star

This short novel starts off as if in a bad dream. Unfortunately for our main character, Rose, everything is all too real. The ancient spell that saved her life also changed her body from human to a trans-humanoid-rose. Getting back her memory and trying to remember her love and relationship with her savior, Paris, is the least of her worries. The real threat is yet to come and what will Rose do to overcome it?
The book was a page turner for me and one I didn’t want to stop reading. I liked the challenges that Rose faced. Rami was clear with his settings and situations. His characters had depth. The Japanese gods and demons concept was refreshing and deliciously twisted.
I like that this is a stand alone novel. (I am sick to death of series.) It’s a good read and I would read this author again.

–a girl is not no one

This is a solid novel. It’s always entertaining and surprising. The premise reminds me of Kafka and the book never fails to deliver the ups and downs of the protagonist while moving a solid plot forward. Enjoy!

–Hernan

I could go on, but I doubt you would keep reading if I kept tooting the proverbial horn.

Suffice to say, I am so thankful for so many people leaving their reviews on Amazon (and on Goodreads, but I’ll post about that another time). It means a lot to me that you’re enjoying Rose and are willing to spread the word about it. I can only hope that more people will check out the book soon and maybe give their own thoughts on the novel.

If you’d like to check out Rose on any of these sites, or just read a short excerpt, I’ll post the links below. And as always, thanks again for following and supporting me. I couldn’t do it without you. Until next time, my Followers of Fear, pleasant nightmares!

Rose Excerpt

Amazon US

Amazon Canada

Amazon UK

Goodreads

Well, I just finished another short story, if that title doesn’t clue you in. And honestly, I’m glad I did: I didn’t think I’d get this one done before the final edits on Rose come in (those are hopefully going to be sent to me later this week).

“Pinochle on Your Snout” is a short story that came from me wanting to work two very different things into a single story. The first is The Hearse Song (video of that song here), which includes this famous verse: “The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out, the worms play pinochle on your snout.” That song also provides one of the best titles I’ve ever given a story. The other thing I wanted to combine was the De Vermis Mysteriis, or Mysteries of the Worm, a grimoire created by author Robert Bloch and later incorporated into the greater lore of HP Lovecraft. The book is supposedly able to summon all sorts of nasty things, and has appeared in a whole bunch of other media since then, including stories by Stephen King revolving around Salem”s Lot.

It took a bit of brainstorming, but I was able to come up with a story based on those elements. How is it? Well, it’s a first draft, so it’s shit. But I think there’s potential there. It reminds me a lot of “The Boogeyman” by Stephen King, in that it’s mainly told as a confession between a man and someone whose job is to listen to other people’s stories (though not a shrink like in the King story). And I think it has a way of drawing people in. Perhaps it could be something someday.

Of course, I’ll need to do A LOT of editing on this one before I even consider sending it to publishers. How much, I’m not sure. Fiction is the only type of alchemy where you can turn shit and other worthless materials into gold. You just can’t tell how much tinkering you need to do before the alchemical transformation is done.

In the meantime, and while I’m still waiting for the final edits of Rose, I’ll edit a novella I think has plenty of potential and may only need a few edits. It’s one of the most disturbing stories I’ve ever written, so it has that going for it. I may even know a press that’ll consider publishing it.

And speaking of Rose, there’s only three days left if you’d like to be an advanced reader for this upcoming fantasy-horror novel from Castrum Press and yours truly. The novel follows a young woman who turns into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems). If you’d be interested, send an email to ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com. All I ask is you read the book and consider posting a review after its release. Thanks, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Well, that’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Pet Semetary is considered one of His Royal Scariness Stephen King’s most terrifying novels, and one King has said he’d take back if he could due to the subject matter of child death in the book. Both it and its 1989 movie adaptation are classics, so people were both intrigued and a little wary when it was announced that the movie would be getting a remake. Then we got trailers that intrigued us and then made our heads scratch. I don’t need to state spoilers here that the little girl dies instead of the little boy this time, right? Well, too bad. But King was okay with the change, so we had to wait and wonder what the movie would be like when it came out.

Based on King’s novel, Pet Semetary revolves around the Creed family, who move into a house in the Maine countryside when father Louis Creed gets a job at a university clinic. He soon finds out that there’s a cemetery for animals on his property, and beyond it another burial ground that has to bring back anything buried in it, including his daughter’s cat. However, sometimes they come back very wrong. When the Creeds are affected by a terrible tragedy, Louis uses the burial ground to reverse the tragedy. But it only leads to an even bigger, more terrifying disaster.

Um…I wasn’t scared.

There’s plenty to like about this movie. It looks the part of a modern Stephen King movie, and they manage to bring the spirit of the novel, especially the feeling of a domino effect at work with the characters, into it. And for once, Jason Clarke, who plays Louis Creed, actually connects with me as an actor. Normally I don’t like him when I see him in something, but this time I really felt it. Every bit of grief, relief, or horror, resonated with my core. And most of the other principal cast members are great in their roles. Jete Laurence (who’s name, by the way, is a dance move in ballet, which I find fitting given her character’s love of ballet in the film) makes a sympathetic protagonist in particular, and later makes a welcome addition to the pantheon of evil kids out to get us.

However, there’s much about this film that left me feeling less than impressed. For one thing, many of the scares were jump scares. And as I’ve become fond of saying lately, jump scares are the cheapest form of terror in horror films. Once they’re done, the fear seeps out of you and you’re okay again. Even after one really effective jump scare, I was okay a minute later.

And then there’s the change from the original story: Ellie Creed, the elder Creed child, dies instead of toddler Gage, and ends up being the one resurrected. Hey, I’m cool with it. If there are no surprises, why bother remaking a film? But that’s the only real change that’s worthy of talking about. Afterwards, the film adheres rather closely to the novel, and even where it doesn’t, it’s pretty predictable. I would’ve preferred it if after this change, they decided to make more changes to the story and send it in different directions. I mean, if you’re going to have an older child, rather than a toddler, the source of terror, why not take advantage of that (especially since older children are much better at planning and being devious)? Go where we won’t expect it and give us the terror of not knowing what will happen next!

That look, like a raised eyebrow. It says my whole opinion of the film and the decisions made with it in one look.

I mean, I had to rewrite two-thirds of my novel to make it publishable, and I went in some different directions to make it work. The result was a much better and far more unpredictable thrill ride. So I know what I’m talking about.*

Finally, I felt Jon Lithgow as neighbor Jud Krendall was underused. The character in this film only existed for exposition. In the original novel and the 1989 film, his friendship with Louis feels real. Here, it’s forced in so the character can explain stuff (sans flashbacks too, by the way. I liked the use of those in the original film, why couldn’t they be in this film?). Between this film and Velvet Buzzsaw, I feel sorry for the guy. He’s been in bad roles in two films this year, and neither of them make great horror films.

Oh, one more thing: you can tell that cat is a puppet at certain points! It’s painfully obvious! Makes me miss Goose the Cat, who I couldn’t tell was a puppet at several points in Captain Marvel.

On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving 2019’s Pet Semetary a 2 out of 5. Perhaps it’s trying to keep the film under two hours and not alienate Stephen King purists, but in all honesty, I would’ve preferred another twenty minutes or more and some new directions for the story. As it is, the film is going to serve a reminder that not all the adaptations in the current Stephen King renaissance will be gems.

*Speaking of which, I’m still looking for advanced readers for my upcoming novel Rose. The story, a fantasy-horror novel, follows a young woman who starts turning into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems). In exchange for an early electronic copy, all I ask is that you consider posting a review on or after the novel’s release date. If you or somebody you know is interested, just send me an email at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com.

I wasn’t able to catch Get Out when it was in theaters, and by the time I watched it on DVD, so much time had passed I didn’t feel like writing a post with my thought. To sum up said thoughts, I thought it was a creepy, atmospheric film that openly explored racial attitudes among Americans, though I felt the main character was less a fully realized character and more of a vehicle for the audience to experience the movie through. So when I heard about Us, I was very intrigued. And then I saw that first trailer. And I knew I had to see what Jordan Peele had cooked up this time. Today, my sister and I went for an early showing, eager to see what people were talking about.

To say the least, the film was surreal. Like Peele was channeling Stephen King when he was writing The Dark Half and created a visual twist on the concept. And it works for the most part.

Us follows Adelaide, played by Lupita Nyong’o, a mother and former ballerina who goes up with her husband Gabe, daughter Zora and son Jason to a vacation home that Adelaide stayed at as a kid in 1986, when she experienced a traumatic episode. That night though, they’re attacked by the Tethered, twisted, animalistic doppelgangers of themselves that seek to murder Adelaide and her family. Thus begins a trial for the family to not only survive, but to find out why this is happening to them.

From the get-go, this is a strange and eerie film. It combines storytelling with atmosphere, music (seriously, the part music plays in this film cannot be underestimated), and action in order to create an intense experience. At some points we were so on edge, a woman sneezing a couple rows behind us caused twenty people to jump out of their seats! And that includes me and my sister.

And the amount of symbolism in this film can’t be understated. A lot of details go into this film that are meant to make you examine the imagery and ideas being presented. From actual twins, symmetry and patterns in objects and pictures, the Bible phrase Jeremiah 11:11, rabbits,* and so much more. All to get you thinking on these themes of identity, duality, being an American, socioeconomics, creative expression, and so much more. I won’t go into what it all means–I’m sure there are bloggers and YouTubers who will do a better job of that than I could–but it will leave you thinking for hours after you leave the theater.

I will take a moment just to say that I think the son character is one big reference to the Friday the 13th franchise. This is mainly because his name is Jason and he wears a mask throughout a good portion of the film for some reason, but there’s plenty in the film I could point to that backs that assertion up. I won’t because I don’t want to spoil anything.

If there’s one thing I didn’t care for, it was the humor in film. Not that it was terrible, but after the main plot of the film kicks into gear, I found how much of it there was, most of it coming from family patriarch Gabe (played with plenty of love by Nyong’o’s Black Panther costar Winston Duke) distracting. Like, there’s this one scene where the family is discussing what to do in light of what they’ve experienced, and they make a series of Home Alone jokes! Takes you right out of the tense, creepy mood.

Then again, this is from Jordan Peele, who’s still primarily known as a comedian. Humor should be expected. But at a certain point, I just would like it if was toned down a bit. That may just be my quirk, but it’s how I feel.

All in all though, Us is a true success for Peele. On a scale of 1 to 5, I’m giving it a 4.6.  Unsettling, trippy, and memorable, Us will stay with you for hours after you see it. I have no doubt that with time, it’ll be seen as one of the best horror films of 2019, and maybe the first great one of 2019 as well. Take a breath, jump in, and see the madness yourself.

 

And while I still have your attention, I’m still looking for eARC readers for my novel Rose, about a young woman who starts turning into a plant creature (and that’s just the start of her problems). If you would like to get an advanced copy, all you have to do is send me an email at ramiungar@ramiungarthewriter.com. I only ask that you consider leaving a review on or after the release date. Thanks, and I look forward to hearing from you!

*Fun fact: rabbits are capable of a much wider range of beneficial mutations when they reproduce that cousins or even siblings can mate with each other and still produce a healthy and genetically diverse brood. Take that how you will, but I have thoughts on how that plays into the film.

Greta follows Chloe Grace Moretz as Frankie, a young woman living in New York who finds a handbag on the subway on the way home from work. She brings the bag to its owner, Greta Hadig (Isabelle Huppert), a French widow living alone. The two women strike up an unlikely friendship and find comfort in each other’s company. That is, until Frankie finds out Greta is hiding some terrible secrets, and her relationship with the older woman takes a very dark turn.

The best part of this film is its lead actresses. I’ve always loved Chloe Grace Moretz. She’s a great actress who truly embodies whatever role she inhabits, be it a vigilante or Carrie White in the better movie adaptation of Stephen King’s Carrie (don’t @ me, Sissy Spacek/Piper Laurie fans). Greta is no exception, with Moretz really coming across as this young woman who’s kind and a little vulnerable, but also at the same time has a bit of fight in her. And Isabelle Huppert’s Greta is plenty creepy. She’s no Annie Wilkes, but she can go from sweet and grandmotherly to cruel and sociopathic at the flip of a switch. it’s a great change.

And Maika Monroe from It Follows has a supporting role in the film! Good to see her again, I haven’t seen her in anything since that film (probably my fault more than hers). She’s great as the best friend who’s seems shallow on the surface but has a deeper, badass side to her.

However, the film isn’t exactly a thrilling psychological slow burn. We’ve seen this sort of story before, and that makes it predictable. By the last third or so, I could predict what was going to happen minutes before it occurred. And while there are some tense moments, they’re too few and far-between to create a gripping atmosphere. Couple that with an unnecessary and boring dream sequence, and the film’s quality really goes down.

On the whole, I’m giving Greta a 2.8 on a scale of 1 to 5. The talent is there, and God do they try to make it work, but an obvious plot and lack of actual terror make this a forgettable entry into the thriller genre. Which is a shame, as the director was the guy who gave us Interview with the Vampire in 1994 and as I said, Moretz is the superior Carrie in the superior adaptation. But hey, every now and then you strike out, am I right?