Posts Tagged ‘supernatural’

The Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast (and my new profile pic on Facebook).

So I decided to go a little out of order with recounting my recent trip to Boston. Why? Because this was probably the highlight of my trip, because extraordinary things happened to me while I was at this location, and because, like a freshly-cooked meal at a restaurant, this is just too hot to leave lying around. So, without further ado, I’m going to recount my recent trip to the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast, complete with photos and videos.

So if you’re unfamiliar with the house and its namesake, Lizzie Borden was a woman who in 1892 was accused and tried for the horrific axe murders of her stepmother Abby Borden and her father Andrew Borden. Plenty of things made Lizzie a good suspect: there were numerous inconsistencies in her statements to the authorities, she had an odd demeanor even before the murders, and the timeline of the murders as well as her proximity to them while claiming not to have heard anything. However, the authorities made some major mistakes during the investigation and trial, which lead to Lizzie being found not guilty. To this day, the case remains unsolved and there are a number of theories as to who killed the Bordens and how (Lizzie is still a popular figure for the acts). The house where the murders occurred has since become a bed & breakfast noted for paranormal activity.

Does it not surprise you that I wanted to stay there? It’s even on one of my lists for haunted places I want to visit! And when my dad and I decided to go out to Massachusetts for our vacation, I knew I had to go here. Somehow I managed to convince him to try the house out, and before I knew it, we’d made reservations.

Lizzie Borden’s room, where I slept in the house.

Emma Borden’s room, where my dad slept.

On July 6th, we left Boston in a rental car to head about an hour south to Fall River, a former textile town on the Massachusetts coast. We got in a little after four, and checked in at the B&B, this old three-story house with brown paint and a parking lot and barn used for business and souvenirs in the back (I bought a couple of souvenirs, believe me). We then dropped our stuff of in our room (I stayed in Lizzie’s bedroom, while my dad was in the adjoining room that belonged to Lizzie’s older sister Emma), and took a little time to explore the house before too many guests arrived. One of the tour guides, Rick, told us where to find Lizzie’s home after the trial and where she was buried in the cemetery, so my dad and I decided to go find those. The house, Maplecroft, is now a private residence, so we couldn’t go very close, but the cemetery was open to the public, so we were able to get up close and personal with the grave (only I would enjoy that!).

Maplecroft, Lizzie Borden’s home post-trial.

Lizzie Borden’s grave. People left some very interesting tributes to her.

After dinner, we returned to the house, where other guests were checking in and getting ready for the evening tour. It was at this point that I noticed the house kept its own set of dowsing rods. And I had to try them.

Which led to the video below:

I may need to get my own set of dowsing rods for future explorations of haunted locations. They’re very good at picking up responses from the dead. And as for what my later paranormal experience was, I’ll get into that in a minute.

Anyway, the last of the guests checked in, and we had a pretty diverse group, with folks from as far away as Canada and California joining us. Our tour guide Rick did a great job of taking us through the house, reconstructing the lives of the Bordens, the murders and the subsequent trial, and the hauntings (this last one he backed up with testimonials and even some really creepy photography of shadow beings and weird faces in windows).

During this tour, my dad actually left once or twice because he suddenly had to use the bathroom. The only reason I’m bringing this up now is because Rick mentioned to us that prior to the murders, many of the Bordens were dealing with vomiting and stomach issues, possibly because their food was bad or because Lizzie was poisoning her family (there’s evidence for both). Were the ghosts, despite our requests, affecting my dad? He did mention feeling a cold presence at one point during the tour, right as Rick mentioned a cold presence.

Or it was just something he ate with dinner affecting him. But I hope, for my own reasons, that’s it the former.

Also, during the tour, Rick pointed out a very weird feature of the basement: if you look at the below photo, you’ll notice what looks like a face in the brickwork in this small section. That face is supposed to look like Andrew Borden, Lizzie Borden’s father, leaving his presence on his home. Weirder still, there seems to be another face within the face in my photo, though what that is nobody knows. Actually, nobody knows what that bigger face is supposed to be, but the second face is even weirder.

Do you see the faces?

After the tour, some of us stuck around on the first floor to snack on cookies, talk, and even try recording sessions. I went to bed around 11:30, and dozed off pretty quickly. And that’s where my other paranormal experience occurred:

I woke up in the middle of the night, and it felt really cold, like someone was blasting an air conditioner right in front of my face. And I heard a woman’s voice shout, “Go to sleep and DIE!!!” And I just knew it was Lizzie, though it would be another minute before I realized that she was probably angry for asking about her hand in the murders earlier. And I simply said to her, “I wish you peace, Lizzie.” I hear a scream, and the cold air is gone, and I know Lizzie is too. Later I would remember seeing a blue room for a short second, which I think may have been Lizzie’s room as it looked back then (remember, the house has been restored to look like it did in the 19th century, but there’s no way to know if it was exact down to the paint and wallpaper). And then I’m back in the room, and I’m alone again.

I realize that it was possibly just a very vivid dream, but there’s still a possibility that Lizzie was trying to communicate with me in a dream. And it wasn’t sleep paralysis, because I’ve experienced sleep paralysis, and this was very different. In any case, I’ll take my paranormal experiences where I can get them.

Me imitating Andrew Borden as he was found in 1892. I couldn’t resist.

I should also mention that during the night, my digital recorder ran out of battery. Most likely it wasn’t properly charged before I went to bed, though it’s also possible the spirits drained the battery to use its energy. Either way, I don’t know how much was recorded that night. When I have a chance to investigate, I’ll find out.

To wrap up, the next morning my dad and I had breakfast, and we talked with the other guests about our experiences last night (people were really impressed with mine). Then my dad and I packed up, checked out, and left, my dad saying the whole time how creeped out he’d been staying in that house. I just exalted in the fact that I got to stay in the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast, and got to bring back so many great memories as well.

So yeah, I highly recommend going to the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast if you get the chance. Even if you can’t or won’t stay overnight, doing a day tour is pretty awesome and edifying. And who knows? Like me, you may get a paranormal encounter that’ll stay with you for years to come.

That’s all for now, Followers of Fear. I’m going to try to get out the last couple posts about my trip in the next few days, so hold tight. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

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Boston from the air.

Did you miss me? You didn’t?! Well, that’s mean! I thought you guys liked me!

Anyway, if you haven’t heard, I recently took a trip to Boston, Massachusetts with my dad. We went from July 4th through yesterday, July 7th (I kept the dates of the trip vague because I am slightly paranoid of burglars and/or stalkers). I went with my dad, as we don’t get to see/hang out with each other that much these days, and the last couple family trips to cool locales, everyone but I was able to go. And how was it?

One word: Amazing! This is probably the best vacation I’ve ever taken in my 24 years of living (in this dimension, and in this incarnation). I got to see and do everything I was hoping I’d get to see and do, and then some, and everything was just so much fun. What made it even better was that I got to take quite a few photos and souvenirs home with me (possibly more than I should have bought, but whatever), and I even got to meet some really amazing people while on the trip (more on that later).

And I even got some evidence of paranormal activity from one of the places we stayed at, which I’d been desperately hoping would happen. I’ll be showcasing that in another post. Just as soon as I edit the video.

So, now I just have to decide how best to relate all that happened to me. I was originally planning on doing several posts, breaking down each day (or in some cases, parts of each day) so you get the full-scope of my vacation. However, I do have a friend who’s been breaking down her experiences in Canada with week-by-week snapshots, where each day is broken down into simple paragraphs. Some version of that may work for me, as I have a lot of travel to talk about, and there’s only so many hours in the day (especially when you’re working a full-time job and trying to get writing and editing done too). And should I do things in order? I’d like to get the paranormal stuff out sooner rather than later.

Well, while I’m deciding that, I’ll just let you know some of my thoughts of Massachusetts:

  • Boston is nothing like I expected it! I’m so used to Columbus, which is very flat and the buildings either look very old or somewhat new. In Boston, it’s extremely hilly, and even the newest buildings incorporate something in their architecture that looks like it belonged on houses two or three centuries ago, as if to remind us always of the history in that city. That really surprised me, and I found it so beautiful. On top of a beautiful city, to boot!
  • Dunkin Donuts are everywhere! My dad and I were surprised by how many Dunkin Donuts were around Boston, even just a hundred feet from one another! We were like, “They have Dunkin Donuts like we have Starbucks!” And I think I only saw three or four Starbucks outside of airports and malls while we were there. We’d later find out that Dunkin Donuts originated in Massachusetts, so of course it would be everywhere in its home state. Which, as it turns out, was very lucky, because we very nearly didn’t have a Boston cream pie before we left (and that would’ve been a sin if it had come to pass). Thanks for fixing that, Dunkin Donuts!
  • Everyone was so nice! I think we Midwesterners have this impression that everyone in East Coast cities are snooty and rude (especially in New York), so I expected as such in Boston Not so: everyone was so nice! From cabbies to salesmen to random passersby who gave us directions, everyone was kind and courteous. That’s sometimes hard to get, even in the Midwest, where everyone is supposed to be nice (trust me, they aren’t always). I wonder if I just missed all the rude people or if they went on vacation this past week.
  • Never drive in Boston! It’ll drive your stress levels up. Use public transportation if you can. Also, be prepared, because that city is super-expensive! Worse than I expected, actually.

My dad and I off on an adventure.

That’s all I got so far. I’ll tell you guys about Salem and Fall River another time.

Anyway, that’s what I got so far. I’m going to see what I can do about that video footage. Hopefully I can upload a decent YouTube video and amaze you with my paranormal proof. And I appreciate you being patient with me while I try to figure out how to present this extraordinary vacation of mine (any suggestions you have would be most welcome).

Until next time, Followers of Fear!

I found out about this novel on Facebook, which was billed as a Lovecraft/Cthulhu Mythos-meets-YA sort of story, and wondered how that would work. When the opportunity came, I downloaded it onto my Kindle and started reading. And my, I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

Awoken follows Andromeda “Andi” Slate, an average teenager who isn’t to thrilled about living in Portsmouth, New Hampshire but deals with it with the help of her good friends. One night, she has a dream about seeing a giant tentacled monster and being rescued by a handsome youth. The next day, she and her friends get their hands on an infamous book of eldritch magic known as the Necronomicon, and do some reading from it. Within a day, a new teacher arrives at Andi’s school, as well as a strange new student who looks like the handsome youth she dreamed about. What happens next will not only change her life, but will decide the fate of the universe.

So if the handsome youth bit didn’t clue you in at all, yeah, there’s a pretty big romance aspect to this story, bigger than what I’m used to reading (especially in a Lovecraft-themed story). However, it’s a romance story between a human girl and a Great Old One (basically an ancient demon-god, if you don’t speak Lovecraft), one trying to balance the desire for the end of the world with his newborn desire for a human girl! I’ve never seen that before!* Romance isn’t something you normally associate with the Great Old Ones, who are notorious for seeing humans only as snacks (when they see them at all). It’s so weird, it kept me interested even though I don’t usually go for romance! Definitely one of the good points of the story.

So what were the other good points? Well, I liked Andi for the most part. Besides one or two problems, she was a very likable character, even when in the middle of an annoying teenage mood. The story was also very well-written, with very few typos and a distinct voice for Andi that kept me wanting to keep reading. I also liked how Elinsen made the works of Lovecraft accessible for her audience, who probably wouldn’t be big fans of Lovecraft and his Victorian-era speech patterns, though she manages to slip some of those words in, like cliquant and voltaic. Despite a few changes here and there, the Cthulhu Mythos is pretty much intact and treated with reverence, and the usual tropes that Lovecraft fans enjoy are there: cults, ancient beings, the idea that certain truths cause madness, Azathoth threatening to wake up, etc. The author also manages to slip in references to HP Lovecraft and his works (Portsmouth is secretly Innsmouth, Andi fears water, a reference to a racist writer from Rhode Island, Cthulhu’s relationships with the opposite godly sex, a cat, etc.), as well as references to Stephen King and even one reference to Supernatural that made me laugh out loud.

However, I did have some problems with the story. A major one was the male lead Riley (name based on a famous underwater city), and his relationship with Andi. Look, I know that in romance the asshole with a secret heart of gold is a popular trope (I’ve seen it in a few manga), but Riley is super-unlikable. And yeah, he’s secretly a terrible god who sees most humans as ants, but I can’t help but hate him as a protagonist. And his relationship with Andi is so abusive for a good chunk of the book. It’s supposed to come off that he’s protective of her, but doing things like commanding Andi to do things and intimidating her with his mood shifts just scream abusive creeper. What’s even worse is that Andi, once she falls for the guy, can’t extricate herself from him. It’s like an unhealthy obsession, to the point where she’d rather die or go completely mad rather than live without him (and that’s not teenage histrionics, she really feels that way at one point). It’s almost like she’s the ultimate worshipper for a Great Old One, and I just want to tell her that even taking out the god part, her relationship isn’t normal or healthy! How crazy is that?

I also wanted more from the main antagonist. We only see what she does in the name of her apocalypse, but I could’ve used more from her. Who was she really? Why did she do what she did? How did she become a worshipper of the Great Old Ones? I would have loved to see that explored a bit more in the story, and sadly we didn’t get that.

Ultimately though, Awoken is a different take on the Cthulhu Mythos, and I enjoyed myself despite the issues I had with the story. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give the novel a 3.2. If there was a sequel, I’d consider reading it (though four years after publication and no updates from the author on her social media since October 2013, I’d say that’s not going to happen). If this sounds like your sort of thing, take a dip into the madness and see for yourself.

Now if you need me, I’ll be playing Hide n Seek Across the Dimensions with Nyarlathotep. Hail Cthulhu, and I’ll see you around.

*Please be aware, I haven’t read all of Lovecraft’s bibliography, so if this does happen somewhere in his stories, I haven’t gotten to it yet. So don’t spoil it for me, okay?

There’s been a battle raging among horror fans and horror writers for years. A fierce battle with all the monsters, deaths, and mysterious disappearances that one can expect from such a group. This battle is played out in bookstores and on bestseller lists, in interviews with magazines and television hosts, and even on message boards (because this is the age of the Internet, so why not?). The debate is: which is better, horror stories where the supernatural is the cause, or where humans are the cause?

Surprise to say, this is an actual debate among fans of horror. What makes for a scarier story, one where the horror is caused by something supernatural, or when it is caused by a human like you or me?* Or perhaps some combination of the two? Each side has their own pros and cons, and depending on which you prefer, can have a huge influence on what you tend to read and, if you’re a creator, what you put out in the world. Authors themselves tend to deal in both kinds, but if you observe an author long enough, you start to notice their preferences. HP Lovecraft and Anne Rice seem to go more for horror, while Jack Ketchum likes human horror. His Royal Scariness Stephen King has a lot of supernatural forces in his work, but there’s definitely a partiality towards human-based horror. One needs only read Misery to see that. Even in his more supernatural stories, there are usually human characters who are only to happy to cause pain and death, whether of their own volition (Carrie’s mother and Chris Hargensen in Carrie) or under the influence of a much more powerful force (Henry Bowers and Tom Rogan in It).

A great example of supernatural horror.

So is there a better source for horror? Let’s take a look, starting with supernatural-based horror. Honestly, this one’s easy to explain the appeal: whether it’s been called Satan, Lilith, dark faeries, demons, yokai, or a hundred other names, humanity has been scared of some possible other out in the universe. Something greater than human beings, possibly very malevolent, and ultimately difficult to understand. The only way to survive is to run, placate the monster, or find some way to fight back, and the last one often comes at a high death toll. There’s also greater room for imagination with supernatural stories. You can take forces right out of mythology, use them as they’re typically portrayed, or change up their mythologies. Sometimes you even come up with original creatures, like Stephen King’s Langoliers or the entity formerly known as It. There’s a lot of freedom and potential in supernatural based horror.

On the other hand, there’s a chance that you can fall into a trap of relying too much on a mythical creature’s established mythology. And if you try to create something original, you find it’s extremely difficult to do so. Not only that, but with something non-human, there’s the risk that, unlike a human villain, the reader will have difficulty connecting with them. Some readers really enjoy connecting with villains, which in this instance makes Cthulhu a bad villain choice.

My own human-based horror.

Human-based horror, on the other hand, is a lot more personal, and very true to life. Despite our lofty ideals of goodness and perfection, one needs only look at the news to know that humanity is capable of dark thoughts and acts.  Human-based horror taps into that, delving deep into what humanity is capable of without a supernatural cause or encouragement, as well as how characters and we the audience react to it. It’s a powerful, visceral way to tell a story, and is often quite effective at scaring us with not only the acts of the characters, but at what we ourselves are capable of.

And that unfortunately is also the con of human-based horror. No one likes to be exposed to their darkness or flaws, and this form of horror gets deep into those. Which for some readers can be more disturbing than they would like. Hell, for some writers it’s more disturbing than they would like, sending them to parts of their imaginations they would rather leave alone. And exposure to this sort of horror can not only leave readers scared, but depressed. I’ve written before about how the escape into imaginary horrors can be therapeutic, and sometimes people prefer an escape that doesn’t remind them of the reality they’re escaping. Or as someone from one of my writer’s groups put it, “If I wanted human horror, I’d put on CNN.”

So which is better? Well, I say neither. Like I’ve just shown, both have their pros and cons, as well as their supporters and detractors. Personally, I (and most of the members of one of my writers’ groups) prefer supernatural horror, but we all agree that the occasional jaunt into human-based horror and vice versa are great. Hell, one of my novels, Snake, is human-based horror, and it’s one of my favorite stories.  So in the end, whichever you prefer to read or write, make sure to every now and then dip into the other so as to better appreciate both once you dip out again. And if you write, whatever you write, remember to keep practicing both types, so that someday you can write it well.

What’s your take on this debate? Which is your favorite?

*Still debatable if I count as human, though.

I’ve been watching a lot of Supernatural on Netflix lately, and something in the most recent episode I watched got me thinking. It was stated at the beginning of the season that the main villain of the season, the demon Lilith, is breaking magical seals to raise the demon Lucifer out of Hell, and she needs to destroy sixty-six seals to do so. Based on that, I thought there were sixty-six seals in total, which seemed reasonable. According to the episode I watched yesterday though, there are over six-hundred possible seals, and Lilith needs to only destroy sixty-six to get Lucifer out of Hell.

Now I’ll admit that I’m still working my way through the season, so there may be more to these seals than what I know right now, but based on just the description I have above, that’s a pretty poor security system. You’re keeping the ultimate evil bound by six-hundred seals, but only sixty-six need to be destroyed to let him out? That’s like only needing an eleven percent passing score on a lie detector test to get access to Top Secret national security files. You’re just acting for trouble.

With that in mind, as well as my thoughts on the movie The Boy that I reviewed earlier this week,* I got to thinking. Sometimes creators do things in fiction that make absolutely no sense when the fans get to them. Obviously, there are things in fiction that are most likely impossible–the magic of Harry Potter, actual giant lizards like Godzilla, TARDISes and Time Lords (sadly)–but we forget that so we can enjoy the story. This is called suspension of belief, and it’s how we can enjoy these stories. However sometimes a creator–whether it’s a book, a movie, a comic, or a TV show–is just too hard for us to believe. When that happens, the story, and our enjoyment of the story, suffers horribly.

With that in mind, here are some things every storyteller can do to make it easier to tell a story without dong something that will make a reader/viewer say, “What the hell? That’s so stupid!”

  • Avoid the unnecessary or stupid twists. Back to The Boy again, which, if you haven’t read my review, singled out the twist that the boy Brahms was alive and a full adult as the movie’s biggest fault. I get that they were trying to distinguish the movie from others like it with a unique twist, but besides feeling kind of lame, the twist made the whole concept of the movie nonsensical (see my review for full details on that). If you plan to include a twist in your work, ask yourself a few questions before you use one, such as: is this twist necessary to make a good story? Is it predictable? Does it make the story seem silly or even make the events of the story make no sense? I’m convinced if the filmmakers of The Boy had asked these questions, they might have had a better movie on their hands.
  • What brought people to your work in the first place? I love bashing 2009’s Friday the 13th remake, because it is such a terrible film. In fact, the filmmakers even seemed to think that the movie was crap, or that they were unable to really make a great Friday the 13th film, so they packed in as much swearing, sex and nudity, drugs, alcohol, and raunchy or childish humor as possible. The result was a film that felt like it was trying to be one of those dirty teen camping trip comedies that had to remind itself every few minutes it was about a serial killer living on a lake.
    If you’re going to tell a certain type of story, keep in mind at every step what sort of story it is and don’t focus unnecessarily on elements that are only a small part of the story or even unnecessary. In the case of Friday the 13th, people watch those movies to see Jason go on a rampage. The sex and drugs and all that other stuff are just added bonuses as well as what causes Jason to target his victims, not why we pay nine dollars at the box office. And the fact that the filmmakers felt those elements were more important is why I’ll always enjoy bashing this piece of crap out of Michael Bay’s bum.
  • Could this happen in the real world? I have a lot of problems with the Hunger Games books.** One of my biggest problems is how the series ends: Katniss finds out President Coin ordered the bombing that killed her sister, so she kills Coin in revenge as Coin takes control of the nation. The new government of Panem hushes up Coin’s treachery to preserve the new order, so for all intents and purposes Katniss just assassinated the new President unprovoked. And Katniss…is portrayed as a girl gone mad with grief over the loss of her sister, she gets exiled to District 12 with weekly phone conferences with a shrink, and lives happily ever after?
    I don’t care if you’re the face of a movement, if a similar revolution occurred in America, and the face of that revolution killed the new leader, you bet that person would at least get locked up in a prison or psych ward so they couldn’t tell anyone what they’d done. Exile and getting to raise a family? Nothing bad happens to her? I don’t care if she has nightmares a lot and never tells us her kids’ names because she’s afraid of losing them, that still would never happen in real life!
    So when you’re telling your own story, ask yourself if a situation is so unbelievable, even in the wackiest of fiction, that people can’t suspend their disbelief anymore. If it is, you might want to consider tweaking it so that guys like me don’t go on a rant about it on the Internet.
  • If it needs a lengthy explanation for why it happens, you might want to rethink the why. This one comes from personal experience. When I was writing Reborn City, I had this really complicated reason as to why my protagonist Zahara Bakur had to join the Hydras. That, and another situation later in the book had really complicated reasons why those things had to happen. It wasn’t until later drafts that I realized how overly complicated those situations were and found simpler explanations for why Zahara had to join the Hydras or the other thing had to happen, explanations that were so simple but worked so perfectly I wondered why I tried to use the run-around logic that a smart reader could easily poke a hole in.
    So if you want a specific event in your story to happen for the sake of the story but the way you get it to happen is really overly-complicated, requires a lot of explanation, and from certain angles makes no sense, perhaps you should reconsider either the event or why it happens. It beats having two unnecessary pages of dialogue explaining why something needs to happen when a much simpler explanation is at hand, at any rate.
  • And finally, don’t forget what is obvious or necessary. This kind of fits into my third point, but I’m making it separate because I feel that’s the best way to present it. Anyway, in one of my fiction workshops in college, a classmate turned in a story that took place in a post-apocalyptic setting. It was a good first draft, but a major problem I had was that the protagonist apparently forgot his bow and arrow at home. I said to her, “This is a world where people dumb enough to leave their weapons at home while on a trip are likely to get killed a hundred different ways. No seasoned hunter like this guy forgets his source of food and protection.” In the same way, make sure that you avoid moves like that, where a character does something that makes no sense for someone in their position or the setting has some part of it that also makes little sense when you think about it. Trust me, it will improve the story if you avoid those problems.

In the end, the thing you want to tell is a good story. Avoiding anything that strains the credulity of your audience can be very difficult, but with trial and effort, you can get very good at it. This is also why I recommend having your stories looked at by editors or beta readers who won’t spare good advice because they’re afraid of hurting your feelings or risking your friendship. They can help you avoid these traps and improve the overall product of the story.

What tricks do you have for avoiding situations that strain the credulity of your audience?

What are some stories where they did something that really took you out of the story?

*By the way, it’s been nearly a week since I published that post, but an average of 36 people a day have been checking that post out since. I guess I’m not the only one who found that twist completely stupid.

**Especially the trilogy’s very backstory. A nation in the far-flung future had a massive civil war, and the Capitol decided that to stop future rebellions, the entire country should revolve politically, economically, and socially around an annual death game involving youth from the Districts? If Panem can genetically engineer scary monsters, they can synthesize a drug that takes out aggression and dump it into the Districts’ water supply. Problem solved, and all those seventeen-hundred and twenty people who died for the Capitol’s perverse pleasure instead grow up to be contributors to society. Yes, that is diabolical and I know I’d make a great dictator. My mother informed me of this fact when I pointed out this problem with the books.

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?

You will be afraid.

When I went to see this movie, the woman behind the counter at the concession stand told me it was really good. When I came out of the theater, she was still there. She asked me what I thought. I replied by doing a comically frightened pose and saying, “EEEEK!”

The Conjuring is definitely a thrill-fest. It tells two stories at once: one is the Perron family, who have just moved into a house with a very hostile spirit living in it (some days you wish you could sue your realtor for that). The other story follows real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga in this adaptation, who are trying to continue ghost-hunting and solving the supernatural in New England while also acknowledging that their work is dangerous and could kill them (or their  marriage).

The movie’s director, James Wan, said he wanted to get away from Saw with this film, and I’d say he did a very good job. With just a minimum of blood, guts, and gore and more of an emphasis on the strange and the unknown and the just plain creepy, we are given a terror show of scariness, with plenty of jumps and freaky things that will have you hugging the arms of your seat. At one point I jumped back in my seat and said quite loudly “Oh my God!” That’s how good it is.

You also see a very accurate portrayal of how ghost-hunting is done, though usually an exorcism is not in the mix. And the build-up of suspense is done masterfully. Plus you’ll never want to play any sort of game related to Blind Man’s Bluff or Marco Polo or hide-n-seek after this film. And with some really awesome special effects, you’ll think to yourself, “This movie can’t get any better. It’s already scary good!”

For the whole movie, I give The Conjuring a 4.5 out of 5. Bring your friends, because you’ll need someone’s hand to hold by the end of the show.

Also, they say this movie is based on a true story, but I have a feeling they fudged some things in order to make the story fit a movie. Still pretty darn good.