Posts Tagged ‘Stephen King’

I recently came across a very fun article from the AV Club, which talked about how any opening in a story could be improved by replacing the second (or in some cases, the third) line with the phrase “And then the murders began.” This idea was formulated by author Marc Laidlaw, which has since become known as Laidlaw’s Rule, and is based on some of the advice of author Elmore Leonard, who said you should start your stories with more action-based openings rather than more quiet stuff like describing the weather or doing some sort of backstory.

As you can imagine, Laidlaw’s Rule can make for a rather fun parlor game. I shared the AV Club article in one of my writing groups on Facebook, and we had a ball with this. Here’s my contribution to the game:

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. And then the murders began.

Charles Dickens has never been less boring.

And you find that this works with almost any story. Harry Potter, for example:

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of Number 4, Privet Drive, were proud to say they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. And then the murders began.

Just as JK Rowling intended it, I’m sure. How about Alice in Wonderland?

Alice was beginning to get tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do. And then the murders began.

Well, in this LSD-inspired story, anything’s possible. What about Stephen King?

The terror, which would not end for another twenty-eight years–if it ever did end–began, so far as I can tell, with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain. And then the murders began.

That’s Stephen King’s IT in a nutshell. New movie out September 8th! Check out the trailer that’ll be coming out some time tomorrow. Let’s see, what else? Oh, I know! How about Wuthering Heights?

1801 – I have just returned from a visit to my landlord – the solitary neighbour that I shall be troubled with. And then the murders began.

It’s already improved greatly. And even works on non-fiction works and speeches. For example, the Gettysburg Address:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. And then the murders began.

America in a nutshell, everybody! Our nation is dangerous to your health.

How about my work? Let’s try Reborn City:

Zahara and her family had decided to eat out at a restaurant in North Reborn that served kosher meat, the closest they could get to halāl. And then the murders began.

Well, there are a few murders in this book (spoilers!). What about Video Rage?

The sunbaked concrete and metal in the hundred-plus degree heat, the many cars and trucks reflected light off their chrome bodies like blinding beasts zooming down the highway. And then the murders began.

Ooh, chilling! How about Snake?

Paul Sanonia had been touched by a nightmare, an unbelievable disaster that had manifested in reality where it shouldn’t belong. And then the murders began.

This novel in a nutshell (more spoilers!).

And the best part is, Laidlaw’s Rule works with pretty much any story. Usually it works best with third-person omniscient narrators, though other narrating styles can work. Take a look at To Kill a Mockingbird:

When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow. And then the murders began.

Jeez, Atticus Finch’s job just got a lot tougher. I think he’s going to have to play detective as well as defense lawyer and dad.

Marc Laidlaw, the formulator of the Laidlaw Rule.

Yeah, Laidlaw’s Rule is a lot of fun. But it also could make for a fun writing exercise. How many stories have actually begun with “And then the murders began” as the second sentence? As a lot of these kinds of stories like a bit of mystery before you discover a body or two, I’d say not many. So it would be fun to start a story this way. Just come up with a random set up for the first sentence, do “And then the murders began” for the second, and see where it goes from there. We could call it the Laidlaw Exercise (coming to a high school or university writing class near you!). And if I wasn’t neck-deep in finishing a sci-fi trilogy, I might try this! God knows I could tell more than a few stories starting out this way.

Maybe I will when I have a bit of free time. Who knows? I might end up writing something totally awesome.

But what do you think of the Laidlaw Rule? And do you have any contributions you’d like to add? Author friends, I want to hear what your books sounds like when given the Laidlaw treatment! Let’s discuss in the comments below.

That’s all for now, my Followers of Fear. I’ll have another post out later this week, so keep an eye out for it. Until next time!

…And then the murders began.

Lately I’ve been pondering something. Well actually, I’ve been pondering a lot of things, including how kissing is treated in different genre fictions and if swallowing the prize in a cereal box makes you a specially marked package (I ponder a lot of things, some of which are strange and some of which may appear in future blog posts), but this one thing in particular I’d like to explore. In a YouTube video I watched recently, the host of the video pointed out that a lot of movies start out with a protagonist walking in on their spouse having an affair, and how that is supposed to start a journey of transformation. This actually caused me to have an epiphany: a lot of fiction–not just movies–revolve around, or start off with characters being in, being caught, or thinking about having an adulterous relationship.

Like, a lot. A whole lot. Like if it’s not a main focus, then there’s a good chance an adulterous relationship will show up in a story at some point or another. I can think of four Stephen King stories that involve affairs as major plot points. One of the most popular TV shows out right now has an affair as a major plot point (*cough* Scandal *cough*). The novel Gone Girl, one of the most compelling mystery/thrillers of the past decade, has an affair as its catalyst. Adultery is freaking everywhere you read/view/listen!

So this got me thinking on three points. First, why do affairs show up so much in fiction? Second, is this a good trope, or a trope that should be done less? Perhaps even phased out? And third, how often do adulterous relationships appear in my own fiction?

Well, that first point is rather obvious (unfortunately). Adulterous relationships show up so much in fiction because they happen so much in real life (unfortunately). Of course, affairs have happened since the beginning of monogamy, but I’m not so sure they were discussed as openly as they are these days. Affairs were considered vulgar things, so the only places they were really talked about were places where it was okay to discuss that sort of thing: bars, raunchy plays (William Shakespeare was actually considered a very dirty and lowbrow for his time), and the occasional dirty poem (yes, those did exist). In polite society, they were only quietly discussed, and that kind of reflected how often adultery was discussed in fiction, and how it was treated when it was brought up.

Scandal, which revolves around an adulterous relationship (still love you, Olivia).

Nowadays though, for whatever reason, we’re a lot more comfortable discussing adultery. In fact, rather than being something discussed in hushed whispers, adultery can be a major and accepted talking point. When a celebrity or a politician, especially one who preaches family values, is caught having an affair, it gets discussed ad nauseum in checkout lines and on national TV. Websites that facilitate adultery are at the center of major scandals, and advice columns around the world regularly feature letters from people who had discovered their lover has a side lover. There are even people who think that having an affair is healthy, natural, or no big deal. It’s a thing, and it’s pervasive (unfortunately).

And as fiction tends to reflect the real world up to a certain extent–last I checked, there aren’t any real exiled queens with dragons calling her “Mother”– it makes sense that adultery would show up in a lot of fiction.

So that answers the first question. What about the second question? Is the adultery trope a good one, or is it overused to the point that we might want to use it less?

Well, that’s a tricky one. Affairs are so common (unfortunately) that it would seem weird to take them out of all fiction. It’s like war or murder; they’ve happened, and they will continue to happen, so you might as well base a story or two around them. Like it or not, adultery is a part of everyday life, so it will show up in fiction.

I think the thing to keep in mind is just to avoid certain clichés with adultery. Any mystery writer will tell you that the lover killing the victim over jealousy or an affair has been done to death (pun intended), so perhaps one should avoid using that cliché, or find a way to use it so that it actually comes as a surprise rather than being expected, like in Gone Girl. Another cliché to avoid is how finding out your lover had an affair is a signal to go on a journey of self-discovery, or to try something new and exciting. Like I said above, the cliché has been done quite a bit, and it really doesn’t make sense. Affairs can change lives, but I don’t think they are one of those events that suddenly change how you look at life or at yourself. A near death experience, or the realization that you become everything you didn’t want to be, maybe. But walking in on your spouse? I think that’s a more likely to cause a shouting match. Maybe an alcohol binge or a murder, but probably not a journey of self-discovery.

And while we’re on the subject, nearly all the affairs in that cliché I mentioned involve the wife or the girlfriend doing the cheating, which is odd because most affairs involve the husband or boyfriend. That’s not some anti-male sexism, that’s just statistics. We could balance it out a little more.

I guess the answer I’ve come to is that if you’re going to have an affair in your story, and it’s going to be a major plot points, make sure it’s not subject to tiresome clichés we’ve seen a thousand times.

And now to my final point how much does adultery show up in my own fiction? And yes, I have to make this a major point of this post. This is my blog about my writing, and all authors who share their work with others are a little narcissistic, including me. Can you blame me?

Surprisingly, not that much. I’ve thought about a number of stories I’ve written since I was ten years old, and of those, adultery shows up in maybe three or four. Only to really come to mind. One was a vampire novel I wrote in high school that was really me exploring my own sexuality before I was aware of it (see this post for more details), and the other was a recent short story. In the latter example, I only spent about a paragraph on the affair. It serves as one of the reasons why another character commits a double murder, but it’s far from the main focus, which is actually the environment of the characters. I actually have plenty of story ideas that involve adultery, but I haven’t gotten around to writing them, and they are a minority among all the other stories I’ve come up with but have been written yet.

Whether we like it or not, adultery will continue to appear in fiction for a long time to come.

I think this might be because adultery is just not an issue I want to focus on. Outside of a few shows I watch, I’m not very interested in adultery. This might be because I’m not interested in romantic relationships in general, or because they’re just other tropes that I would prefer to work with. Not only that, but adultery is rarely that scary. I am all or a writer, I prefer to write about scary things. Monsters, ghosts, the horrors that mankind is capable of, the fear of things that could happen to us if things were just a little different. Unless you’re dating a psychopath or something, adultery is not really that scary. The biggest fear is getting caught, and in most fiction, that is what happens. Not much incentive for a horror writer to focus on adultery. Or at least not this horror writer.

But who knows? Adultery could show up in more stories in the future. My style is still evolving, so anything is possible.

Adultery is sadly very common, which means it will continue to show up in fiction for generations to come. However, the way we use adultery in our fiction can be highly a versatile, and that ensures that it won’t be a trope that will get tired anytime soon. Just avoid the clichés, and if you don’t care to use adultery in your stories, don’t. For every writer who isn’t comfortable running about such a subject, there is always one who is.

What’s your take on adultery in fiction?

Reborn City

Reborn City

Well, this took longer to do than expected. I started writing this novel in November, and it’s late February now. I hope this isn’t an indication of how long the rest of the novel will take.

So if you’re unaware, for the past couple of months I’ve been working on Full Circle, the final novel in my Reborn City trilogy.The RC trilogy follows the Hydras, a superpowered street gang living in a dystopian future. Amongst its main themes are the horrors of prejudice and hatred, gang violence, drug addiction, and above all, learning to overcome what you and what others think of you.

I started writing this trilogy in high school, and it is so crazy that I’m finally on the last book. Even better, I made it to the first real milestone. Okay, technically with thirty-five chapters, there is no even point where it’s off the fourth of the way through, but being nine chapters and is close enough. And while as a first draft this novel is going to need a lot of work (pretty sure that the first two chapters are going to need lots of revision), I think I’m off to a very good start. I’m doing a good job of reintroducing the world to readers who haven’t been back in a while, introduce some really cool villains, and set up an intriguing plot. Plus, I feel like this novel is going to show how much I’ve matured as a writer. You really get this on mature sense of style and storytelling from reading this book. Even if it isn’t horror, this might be my best work yet in some respects.

All right, now for page and word count, which is something I always include with these updates. In terms of pages (which means 8.5″ x 11″ size pages with 12-point Times New Roman font and double-spaced lines), the total is 106 pages, with the average page number per chapter being 11.7. In terms of word count, the total is 30,313, a decent-sized novella, with the average word count per chapter being 3,368. Not bad, if I do say so myself.

So how will things go from here on out? Well, despite my worries at the beginning of this post, I’ve actually started speeding up my writing. This is in thanks mostly to Dragon, a speech to text software that I bought and downloaded onto my computer. Basically what I do is I narrate the story myself, and Dragon puts what I say on the page. What might take me two hours to write now takes closer to a half hour, forty-five minutes. It’s quite handy, and I plan to do a full post on it on Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors in the near future.

Book 2: Video Rage

Book 2: Video Rage

The point being, hopefully it won’t take another four months for me to reach the halfway point of the novel (which I’ll say is Chapter 18 for simplicity’s sake). And I have some interesting chapters coming up, so that’s even more reason to write. Chapter 10 is going to give us a look at most of the villains in this book, and I’m really looking forward to exploring them a little bit. I’ve actually made some of them a little scary. Like, Stephen King – style psycho crazy villain scary. And I always have fun writing those sorts of characters.

Plus we have some new revelations about certain characters, a little character development, and a location I’ve been saving to explore for this last book. Should be fun.

Well, that’s all for now. If any of what I’ve said here is made you want to check out the Reborn City trilogy, I’ll include the links below. And if you do decide to check out my books, please let me know what you think. Positive or negative, I love feedback and I would love to hear yours.

Until next time, my Followers of Fear. Pleasant nightmares!

Reborn City:  Available on Amazon, Createspace, Barnes & NobleiBooksSmashwords, and Kobo

Video Rage: Available from Amazon, Kindle, CreatespaceBarnes & Noble, iBooks, Smashwords, and Kobo.

Big news, my Followers of Fear! On August 2nd, I will have reached five years of blogging! Yeah, five years. This blog (and the wonderful people who follow it, thank you very much for sticking with me through thick and thin) has been with me through four years of college, numerous articles on Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors, two visits to Europe, one-and-a-half internships, a very long period of unemployment, four published books (plus three at various stages of the editing/compilation process), too many short stories to count, a couple of which were published in some magazines and two anthologies, and a weird period of my life where I hunted down a serial killer while consulting with and developing an unusual relationship with another serial killer.

Oh wait, that’s the plot of Silence of the Lambs. Never mind.

Anyway, in honor of the big day, I will be doing a few things differently (and I don’t mean buying myself a cake in honor of the day, though that might happen as well). For one, I will be doing a Q&A, with questions provided by you, the readers. If there are any burning questions you’ve wanted to ask me, you can ask those in the comments up until July 31st, and I will answer them.

However, if you ask me to tell you where I live, or if I will marry you, I will have to decline on both counts. Sorry obsessives, I don’t want to end up in a real life version of Misery or Yandere Simulator.

Also, if you want to know what scares me, I’ll tell you right now: the Alvin and the Chipmunks cartoon from the 1980’s. I’m pretty sure the chipmunks from that show are actually the result of a strange genetic mutation, either from nuclear fallout or genetic engineering, and the males in that species all have some deformity in their middles that prevent them from wearing anything but long muumuus. Why else do the Chipettes get actual clothes but the title characters don’t?

I’m also terrified of large spiders. Tiny ones, I can deal with. However, if I can make out individual features on its face or it looks like it could easily stretch across the palm of my hand, I will scream like a little girl. It’s happened before.

I also want to hear feedback from you, dear readers. What do you think I’m doing right as a writer and a blogger? Anything I can improve upon? What posts do you prefer from me? Tell me in the comments below, so I can make Rami Ungar the Writer an even better blog.

Another reason to look forward to the big day, I’m going to be doing a giveaway on August 2nd in honor of the big occasion. I will be giving away an autographed copy one of my books (your choice of which one), that I will send to the winner after winning. I’ll give the full details on the day of the anniversary, so if you want to participate, check in on August 2nd. I’ll announce the winner in a subsequent blog post.

Oh, and one more note: I’ve got a couple of interviews coming up. One is with a blog I discovered through my friend Joleene Naylor, who will be releasing an interview soon. The other is actually a podcast. I’ll be rejoining my friend and colleague Dellani Oakes on her podcast, Red River Online Radio (links to follow soon) to talk books, authors, and maybe reading an excerpt from Video Rage. Get excited!

Alright, gotta go. I’m looking forward to hearing your questions and feedback, and I’m especially looking forward to celebrating this big milestone with you. Let’s have a good time on the second, shall we?

Until next time, my Followers of Fear!

It’s Friday again, so you know what that means. It’s #FirstLineFriday!

Now if you don’t know what #FirstLineFriday is, let me explain the rules. On Fridays, you:

  1. Create a post on your blog entitled #FirstLineFriday, hashtag and all.
  2. Explain the rules like I’m doing now.
  3. Post the first one or two lines of a potential story, a story-in-progress, or a completed or published work.
  4. Ask your readers for feedback, and encourage them to try #FirstLineFriday on their own blogs (tagging is encouraged but not necessary).

As I said in my last post, I’ve been having a lot of great ideas for stories. And on Monday, I had this rather strange and unique idea for a novel, inspired by Japanese mythology and culture (one of my best sources of ideas, by the way), and has an interesting structure to it that would be unusual and fun to write. Obviously, I can’t go into more details without giving away the plot (and I hate to give that sort of thing away). But I can hopefully give you a very good opening for this story, while maybe adding a hint in that opening.

Anyway, enjoy:

Almost everybody has a bucket list, along with something on that list that they want to accomplish before they graduate or leave town or die: to learn how to code (the dream of my somewhat nerdy brother Eric, as well as my somewhat cool boyfriend Luca), to go to a heavy metal festival and see their favorite bands perform (my friend Rudy, who plans to do just that after graduation), or to confess their feelings to the rebellious, cool-as-hell River Fuhrmann (my friend Lavender Murphy, who has no idea that the rebellious, cool-as-hell River also has a thing for Lavender, but is too proud to admit it). I have my own bucket list, but mine is rather unusual, as at the top of my list was ghost stories.

Thoughts? Overly long? Any errors? What’s on your bucket list*? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

And while you’re at it, why not try #FirstLineFriday yourself? It’s easy, it’s fun, and it’s great practice for authors of all stripes. Sadly, I’m taking a small break from tagging, so you’re safe from my torture for now. But if you want me to tag you, consider yourself tagged. Or better yet, let me know. I’ll catch you next week.

Anyway, that’s all for now. I’m hoping to see a movie this weekend and maybe write a review of it. If not, you can expect a blog post this Sunday.

Until the next time, my Followers of Fear!

*Mine involves meeting and/or having my books read by Stephen King and/or Anne Rice, going ghost-hunting with the Ghost Adventures Crew, having a custom car made from a hearse, and writing for Doctor Who. Does that surprise any of you?

So I recently got back into reading The Complete Fiction of HP Lovecraft, after about a year’s gap since I last dove into his work on my Kindle. I actually got from 15% to 32%, which for a 1112-page book is pretty good, if you ask me.

Now, if you don’t know who HP Lovecraft is, he was kind of the King of American Horror between the reigns of Edgar Allen Poe and current monarch Stephen King, though he didn’t really achieve any sort of fame or influence until after his death. When I read him last year, I found his style old and outdated, and while some of his stories were actually pretty creepy, others were just strange or boring (see my thoughts in Thoughts on Lovecraft: Part 1).

So what were my thoughts one year later, having read several more stories? Well, he still prefers to write like a contemporary of Poe, one of his main influences in writing, which I find still rather irksome (I could parody it here, but I did that well enough in Part 1, so why try and repeat it?). I’m not that big a fan of that style, as I find it stuffy and somewhat boring, so occasionally that made for an annoyance to get through.

And Lovecraft is still a proud and unrepentant racist and xenophobe. Seriously, “The Horror at Red Hook” manages to drag so many non-white ethnicities, including Kurds and Yazidis, through the mud.

And he’s the only author I’ve ever met who’s used the word “eldritch,” meaning sinister or creepy (why didn’t he just use those words?).

But other than those problems, the tales I read in this section of the book were much better than the ones I read in the last one. Sure, the short story “Azathoth,” which was the first mention of the Elder God, is actually just a fragment of a novel Lovecraft never got around to finishing, which was annoying. Imagine, I get to the end of that short piece, and I was like, “Wait, that’s it?” Thank goodness for Wikipedia, which explained to me why I shouldn’t be so angry.

And there was that story, “Imprisoned with the Pharoahs,” which got a little dense with the language and made it annoying to get through, though as a fictional account of one of Harry Houdini’s adventures, it is pretty cool in retrospect.

But other than those two, these were very good stories. They were creepy, dark, and had some pretty nice twists and turns in them. I can see why a few of them have been adapted several times into movies or radio plays and the like. “Herbert West–Reanimator” is a fun tale about one man’s growing obsession with overcoming death and extending life (very Frankenstein), and how that obsession causes a domino fall of events that shows the readers the price of obsession. “The Lurking Fear” felt like a Stephen King novel from an earlier age, filled with elements of insanity, the supernatural, and insane tastes. And “Shunned House” needs to be made into a movie by Blumhouse Productions, because it is freaking scary! It’s a vampire novel that hearkens back to the days when vampires were barely human, and is probably the best of the stories by him I’ve read so far. Imagine a movie version, with James Wan in the director’s seat! No one would see it and think of vampires with Twilight or any of that other sentimental crap out there ever again.

Eek! Rats in the walls! Now I can’t sleep.

Also, “The Rats in the Walls” is great if you want to scare anyone around a campfire. Just saying.

You know, the more I read of Lovecraft’s work, the more I see why he’s been so influential. Sure, his early stories could be rather pointless or silly, and never approached scary, with the exceptions of a few, like “The Tomb” and “The Temple.” But as time went on, as tends to happen, he got better. He figured out what worked and what didn’t. He learned how to get into our heads and make us tremble, make us wonder. He pushed the envelope for his day, introducing elements of cannibalism, satanism, gods that care nothing for us except maybe as snacks. And he did it so well.

And even now, after I’ve decided to take a break from him, I still find myself getting inspired by him. I’ve already gotten a few new novel and short story ideas from his stories, particularly “The Lurking Fear.” I have no idea when I’ll write them, but I think that when I do, they may even chill me.

So yeah, I think I’m definitely a Lovecraft fan now. Last year I wasn’t so much of a fan, but now I think I am. He’s definitely grown on me. And I think I may visit him again someday, perhaps even before the end of the year. Especially if he gives me so many good ideas. And if you like a good scary story and can handle some old-timey writing style, then I suggest you visit Mr. Lovecraft too.

Well, that’s all for now. I’ve got my own stories to work on, so I’m going to get on that. In the meantime, I hope you have a scarily good time, my Followers of Fear. Until next time!

Yesterday someone in one of my writers’ groups on Facebook posted about a recent upsetting experience. She’d told her family that her book was coming out later this year in July, and that she had other books on the way too. Apparently her family’s response was entirely negative, telling her that only rich and famous people actually called themselves authors, and that she should keep her head out of the clouds and on the ground because she obviously wasn’t one.

Not only was this reaction just plain horrible (we should be getting tons of love and support from our families for our writing dreams, not criticism and put-downs), but it’s also ignorant. While not all authors become rich and famous, they don’t need to be to be called authors. And even the rich and famous ones, which are rare to begin with, started out as dreamers with a manuscript they wanted to get published. Seriously, every one. JK Rowling was a single mother living on state benefits while writing Harry Potter. Stephen King was a teacher with three kids and not a lot of cash before the paperback rights to Carrie allowed him to move up the economic ladder a little. HP Lovecraft never saw true success in his lifetime, but he’s considered one of the most influential authors in modern-day horror. We all have to start somewhere.

But that’s beside the point. What I’m actually trying to say is that fame or finances are horrible ways to measure whether or not someone should be called an author. Someone could have millions in the bank or have a reality show and a famous spouse and write terrible fiction. No, if you’re going to measure by what right someone has to be called an author, then do it by how passionate someone is about writing, and by how their work resonates with others. If someone is very passionate about writing, about telling stories and sharing them with others, and that person’s work resonates with readers, I really think they deserve to be called an author. And in the case of this particular author, she’s clearly passionate about her writing, and it resonated enough with her publisher that they want to publish it and believe it’ll do well in sales. In my eyes, she definitely deserves to be called an author.

Of course, there are always people who feel they know better, whether or not they’re inside the industry, and there will always be people who just want to put others down just so they can put others down. I run across those people from time to time. I can’t say which kind the family of the author I’ve been talking about it, but I know what response I would give them: Screw you. Those people don’t hold any power unless you allow them to, and your own opinion of yourself and your work is more important than what they have to say. And if they’re only going to say hurtful or denigrating things, then maybe it’s best to put them aside and find people who will give you the support you need. Let them stew in their own negativity.

Or to put things more simply (and humorously):

So let them naysay. It won’t get them anything if we don’t let them have anything from it. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t intend to let any of my detractors (few that I have) say anything bad about me and bring me down. No, I’ll keep on writing, editing, publishing, and marketing, and listen to the voices who will help me along in that.

And in its way, having those supporters is way better than any riches or fame (though those would be nice).