The Graveyard

The Lair Of Gary James

Posts Tagged ‘horror’

Linkies (some commentary)

Posted by BigWords on June 30, 2011

Gypsyscarlett posted about the first horror film a while back, so I should point out how late (comparatively) this move into the horror genre was for early cinema. The first comic-book adaptation – something seen by many as a recent phenomenon – was in the 1880s. You can argue amongst yourselves if they meet the precise criteria, but both Ally Sloper and a series of untitled shorts based off a one-pager of a boy (sometimes a girl) standing on a water hose, then raising their foot when the gardener looks into the end of the hose, were made in the mid-1880’s (eighty-four seems to be a date that stands out)

Blake M. Petit put up his 100 favorite comics – there are some excellent choices in there, and I may steal borrow the idea at some point for a post. I really need to convert people to the wonders of Valerian, The Walking Dead and Black Jack for good karma points.

Neftwink has been posting some amazing photographs over the last couple of months, so you should be taking a look.

Oh, and Jamie DeBree raised a subject I’ve been trying to ignore. Notes. The mere thought of explaining how jotting down the things which make up my works-in-progress tick makes me cry.

At some point I’m going to have to explain how I pull all the threads into little blankets of text with which I try to wrap my characters into seamlessly. Hmm… Lots of fabric metaphors there. (You’re guess is as good as mine as to where that came from)

Talents. Uh. “I can see where the holes are.” Stop sniggering. It wasn’t meant like that, and you know it. When I look at things (from novels to comics, from television shows to news broadcasts) I can see where there are things which have been omitted, and where pieces which appear to be unconnected end up intersecting. It’s like I know instinctively where there ought to be more material. It also allows me to call bullshit on nearly everything which BBC News broadcasts – not that doing that is particularly difficult.

While I agree with this, I also acknowledge that there are times when calling someone names is not only necessary but demanded. Anyone who claims the live-action Transformers films are high art, for example, or who insist that Yoko Ono’s songs are beautiful.

When I saw this post my immediate reaction was to point out precisely why we need to be able to film police officers…

Can anyone say “Rodney King”?

Oh, and you must read this as a primer to the forthcoming apocalypse.

Posted in Misc., writing, zombies | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

The Building Blocks Of Story – Finding The Ideas

Posted by BigWords on March 24, 2011

“Where do ideas come from?” is a question I seem to come across more than any other, and as the point has been raised again, I feel I ought to chip in with some of the things which trigger my synapses into action. The first thing you ought to know, because these disclaimers are important, is that I very rarely see anything another writer has done and think “man, that is an awesome idea… I wonder what I can do with it.” Ideas don’t just drop into my lap fully formed, no matter how rounded a first draft may appear to be – though given my recent outpourings, this may be all too believable for some. No, ideas come together slowly. They are, to use a clumsy and rather ill-fitting metaphor, like jigsaw puzzles which have no complete image to work from, nor any pieces which fit together at first. Stories, which are built off ideas in the same way that houses are built from bricks, tend to need a lot of work to get them into the right shape, so this post really isn’t about writing stories as much as it is about the ideas underpinning those stories.

Any story, whether it be a short story or a novel, has a triangle of requirements necessary to the propulsion of events – think of this in the same way as fire needs oxygen, heat and fuel. First comes characters: Without characters to inhabit the landscape of imagination, story becomes much more difficult to create (not impossible, but a lot harder), so I pull ideas for characters from all over the place. I don’t like uprooting existing characters from one story to serve another, so they tend to arise from “What if” questions, usually asked of real individuals. Amongst the people I have based characters on are Harry Price, R. Chetwynd-Hayes, Valentine Dyall, Margaret Rutherford, Sidney James and Richard O’Brien. They share the common feature of not being overly “pretty” individuals (the ‘Hollywood standard’ bores me no end), and they all have, or had, strong identities which come through in the characters I loosely based off of them.

There are a lot of writers who seek a strong voice for their characters, and I have said (numerous times) that using individuals as templates for fictional characters is not a bad thing. As long as people have been writing, real individuals have served as inspiration. This is not “lazy”, or “cheating”, or any of the other negatives associated with appropriating the strong voice and presence of a person who could benefit the work. When I go through a work to refine the dialogue of a character, I often have a strong impression of how they sound and act, and using the impression (not a parody) of a real person is a great boon to the editing process.

With characters sorted, the second requirement I need to get into a story is place. Location is more difficult, as it assumes the story has form already, when, in fact, very often stories come to me as impressions rather than solid, linear stories. Scenes, adrift of context, need to be put in some form of context as I am working, and there is often the need for more work to be done on location than any other piece of the puzzle. A few of the longer works are, by necessity, already tied to a specific location, but sometimes I like to take locations and work in stories simply so that I can play with the history of a place. This, especially as I am throwing around the building blocks I use to craft my writing, deserves a bit more of an explanation than the characters – who seem to show up, demanding that I find them somewhere to carry out their activities.

I really like Poveglia Island, because… well, for no other reason than it makes for a great story in and of itself. There’s a nice piece of travelogue writing concerning the island, though other versions of the history of the island tend to attract my attention more. It’s as if someone deliberately went out of their way to find the most haunted place on Earth to build an insane asylum, then set loose a mad doctor to do experiments which wouldn’t be out of place in House on Haunted Hill. It is, unfortunately, uninhabited, so tales told of the island require a special kind of crafting to get around the annoying factual element regarding its’ current status.

The third part of the idea triangle is not, as you may have thought, the inciting incident. The motivation for the story may be important, but it lies in a more complex part of the formula than character and location – the third side of my idea triangle is The Item. It doesn’t have to be something which is ‘in play’ during the story – it can be a virus released before the start of the story, or an artifact which draws the characters to it, or it might be something as simple as a shared experience which is elaborated upon. The nebulous nature of the third part is akin to the ‘oxygen’ part of the fire triangle – it is something which needs to be there, but may not be as tangible as the other parts of the equation.

Once ideas for characters, locations and the MacGuffin have been thrown together – often wildly, and with little assurance of sense, things have a habit of coalescing into story. From here on, things tend to get more complex than is easy to describe.

Posted in Over The Line, writing | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »


Posted by BigWords on March 10, 2011

I know that the purpose of word wars (and the like) is to keep going until the time is up, but this came out “just right” before the time was up that I couldn’t add anything to it. It’s very short, but I found it hilarious as a first draft.

Okay, so I may have a very weird sense of humor…

Killing the man in the gorilla costume was a bad way to start the day, but it couldn’t be helped. Bobby made his way across the room, carefully stepping over the growing pool of blood and grabbed the baseball bat he had used, remembering that – at some point – he would need to wipe it down and dispose of the evidence carefully. The matted fur, where he had bashed in the man’s head, clung to the bat in clumps of brown and red – an intricate pattern not entirely unlike the viruses he studied through magnification all day long. Brilliant purples nestled in those stains, and blues of such purity that it was hard to remember that light once glimmered off the sleek aluminum. Placing it in a black bag, he moved over to the body and sighed – it had to be a fat guy… Killing a wiry little runt would have made this too easy. Biting the inside of his cheek, he hefted the man onto his side, so he could expose the zipper of the costume.

There was no zipper. Fumbling, he searched the man’s back for whatever device was used to keep the costume together – Buttons? Nope. Velcro? Again, the answer that came to him was a negative. Bobby’s mind reeled. How did the fat guy get into the costume in the first place? It was possible that he had been sewn into it, but everyone needs to take a piss every now and again, so why would a person go to such lengths… Letting the body drop back onto the floor, he moved to the kitchen. If he couldn’t get the guy out of the dumb costume the easy way, he would have to do it the hard way. Fingers playing a half-forgotten tune on the counter, he finally selected the right knife – not too long, and sharp enough to cut through the costume and the flesh.

As he turned, thinking of the zipper again, he realized that there might be another explanation for the lack of a way out of the costume. Heart racing, he looked to where he had left the body…

Growling, so tall in the confines of the apartment, the thing was making ready to lunge. Holding the knife in front of himself, Bobby said a quiet prayer under his breath and closed his eyes. This, he thought, is why people get away with wearing these dumb costumes. No-one ever wants to fuck with a real monster.

Posted in Misc., Over The Line, writing | Tagged: , , , | 9 Comments »

A Little Halloween Reading…

Posted by BigWords on October 28, 2010

The best part of Halloween, for me, is rediscovering the tales I remember reading from dusty old collections and cheap paperbacks (mostly the Pan Horror collections, but the more recent Peter Haining books could count here as well), and it is one of the benefits of the digital age that most have been preserved online. There are still the odd gap here and there, and a few of the more obscure and hysterical tomes are still missing, but having the mainstays of the horror genre accounted for is enough for now. It’s not unsurprising that the effect of those Pan books especially, replete with skulls glaring out from the covers, have had a lasting impression. When I sat down to do my Halloween post (which will be the report of a week spent immersed in modern horror) I needed to pay some respect to the more traditional and – in my opinion – more lasting horror. The horror neither immediately visceral nor blatant.

I chose fourteen tales, which – by some coincidence not intended – is a fine enough number for a paperback like those I read as a child. These may represent very different styles of horror, but they are connected through a tradition of campfire and torchlit oral tradition… These are the storytellers whose work crawls into your brain, and whose ideas go beyond the mundane and everyday terrors to elicit something grander. You may argue on the inclusion of one or two of my choices (Campbell seems to be a contentious inclusion, though I have my reasons), but you cannot deny the overall strength of the horror story in short form. This is, beyond the excitement of the new, where the restless and uneasy dreams are forged.

Reading through the lists of works now committed to the grand digital libraries is like being a kid again, wide eyed and overjoyed at the way mere words on paper (or, in this case, on the screen) can hold such power. There’s really nothing like a scary story, told in the dark of night, to keep you wondering about the shadows which fall as flickering light fades away and we are left with the ghost of the day.

An Account of Some Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street by Sheridan Le Fanu
The Altar of the Dead by Henry James
The Call Of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft
The Gulf Between by Tom Godwin
The Judge’s House by Bram Stoker
The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce
‘Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You My Lad’ by Montague Rhodes James
The Picture Of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde
The Screaming Skull by F. Marion Crawford
There Will Come Soft Rains by Ray Bradbury
Transformation by Mary Shelley
Who Goes There? by John W Campbell
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Further reading:

Baen Free Library
The Literary Gothic

“Sleep, those little slices of death, how I loathe them.” Edgar Allen Poe

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The Aristocrats

Posted by BigWords on May 7, 2010

Here’s a warning – don’t read this on a full stomach. It’s vile, and horrible, and utterly irredeemable. But it’s not meant to be all that funny. If you aware of the joke, which has had enough press in recent years to make it somewhat less of an underground joke, then you will be aware that the sting – the last line – is all that need be humorous. It’s appeal lies in how far good taste can be pushed. For what its’ worth, I reckon I’m pushing enough boundaries with it as it stands.

As always, there are obscure references and some strange wordplay. Yes, I know. Bad habits… It’s an edited version of the routine I normally give when performing the joke – the three sequences clipped from the middle-section are truly horrific, so the word count has been sliced to a tad under 2k thanks to the omitted material.

I’ll make no further commentary, save for pointing out this: You have been warned.

The Aristocrats: A Modern Interpretation

by Gary James

The Agent

This guy, fat guy – really fat, as in rolls-of-flesh-hanging-from-every-part-of-his-body – walks into a talent agent’s office. He’s sweating like he’s just ran a marathon, and his face is purple from the three flights of stairs. The suit he’s wearing is the size of a tent, but even such a large suit is stretched to breaking point.

“Whaddya want?” The talent agent asks, not even looking up from his newspaper.
“You… huff… You innerested in a show?”
The agent, still not looking up, grunts. He does this. It’s a trick. It’s the equivalent of eating an apple while taking a novice driver out for a spin. It unnerves the hell out of most people, but the fat man just sits there. Sweat dripping off his face like a waterfall.
“This… This show… best fuckin’ thing ever.”
The talent agent has heard this all before. That’s why he’s in a shitty office on the outskirts of town, with walls plastered in the glories of others. No celebrities in his roster, that’s for sure.
“You gotta… You gotta believe me. This is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.”
So the agent looks up, and a flicker of recognition crosses his face. The morbidly obese man sitting across the table from him is – correction, was – old money. His family was the founder of one of the big hotels: Preston… Perkins… Porter… Potzrebie… Something beginning with P. The agent knew it began with P.
“You’re in this act?”
“Yes. I am… I am the grand finale.” The fat man shifts uncomfortably in the chair.
“I seen acts from all over, and without seeing your act I can tell you this – if you’re the grand finale, the act is a dud.”
“I’ll tell ya… Tell ya about the show. huff It all begins with a grand ol’ dame walking out ontah th’ stage. She sings the American national anthem as a flag is unfurled behind her…”

Laydeez A-hund Gentlemen…

The lights began dimming. The light were always dimmed when a star, however minor, took to the stage -part of tradition, but in this case crucial for the show. All the way down to three small wafer-thin beams circling around the spotlight. At ninety-seven years of age, the lady before the crowd had seen the glory days of the theater, and performed in award-winning plays of the ages. Here, in front of the American flag, as the final notes of the national anthem were replaced by Yez Mir Habn Keyn Bananez, she gives a bow and turns from the audience. The lights are steady on her as she bends over, and with a flick of her wrists flicks her dress up over her ass. Her joints pop and crackle as her ancient frame accommodates the movement required of her for this performance. One last tour-de-force. One last grand exit. Pulled from her retirement home, she is glad to be on the stage, though understandably nervous about the performance – Absurdist comedy? Fuck that. This is beyond anything the likes of Potter could have envisioned. Different thing entirely. A stifled burst of machine-gun laughter fires from the audience and ricochets around the auditorium. “Hearts and minds,” She tells herself. “Hearts and minds.”

Turns out the song wasn’t entirely correct, because there is a banana – the blackened stump of it is peeping out from her between her ass-cheeks. From seemingly nowhere, out of the darkness and the wings, bounds a chimpanzee. I’m willing to bet good money that Gus Golstein never intended this to be played out under his ditty. The chimpanzee, bouncing around like a kindergartner on crack, sees the banana in a heartbeat. Eyes blown like saucers, it rushes the old lady without thinking of anything but it’s stomach. The music builds, the chimp chanting something as it’s jaws snap at her naked, wrinkled, liver-spotted flesh. It sounds like “Hub-hoo, hub-hoo, hub-hoo,” but through its’ excitement there is difficulty making out what – if anything – it may really be saying. In a moment, the banana is gone. Devoured with relish, the skin is flung over one shoulder.

There’s a moment of confusion as the chimp searches for more food hidden in the hiding place, it’s fingers knuckle-deep in her repository – the spotlight scans the stage, the audience treated to mere flashes of the scene. Now the audience is getting nervous and excited, the unexpected acts of the animal confounding their determined belief in the stability of the performance. The trainer rushes onto the stage, agog… But too fast, and his foot finds the discarded banana skin. Toppling head over heels, he falls. The chimp, uncontrollable now, releases a stream of urine in a high arc over its’ head, covering the woman, the trainer, and a fair portion of the stage. The orchestra is trying desperately to keep in tune as splashes of the liquid falls perilously close. A shoe flung by the trainer narrowly misses the chimp, but before he can get to his feet, the man is pulled from the stage by a large wooden stick wielded from the side of the stage. It began with the pee.

Behind the chimp and the ancient woman, lurking in the shadows, a man sneaks on stage. His striped black and white top, topped with a mask, hunchback with a bag emblazoned SWAG… Clearly up to no good. The flag behind him falls, covering his escape for a moment, but struggling he frees himself. The bag flops to one side from under the flag, now reading TREASURY, closely followed by – emerging triumphant – Uncle Sam. He grins to the audience, unzips his fly and salutes – in both senses of the word. Cymbals clash, and a drum-roll indicates that the main event is merely warming up. The old lady gets to her knees and crawls to the side of the stage, trailing blood behind her. The chimp, busying himself with a bottle procured from some dark, hidden corner, bounds across the stage. Shaking the bottle violently, he raises his prize aloft, grinning a grin which would challenge the Cheshire fleabag for horrors.

And Uncle Sam is fully erect. One hand sliding up and down his shaft, the other remaining in mock salute. The chimp pulls the top from the bottle by force. “Do you want to sing a song for America?” Cries Uncle Sam, jaws clenching. Blood, cum and the vile fluid are spurting over the stage – a Guignol bukkake spread red, white and blue. There is a cry, and a whoop, and a cigarette flies through the air. An errant flick, maybe, or of deliberate aim – it hits the ground, bounces – once, twice, and it is at the blue liquid. The flames immediately rise, and clowns rush in with buckets held aloft. Over to the source of the flames, they’re circling each other, slipping and sliding in the mixture of liquids, falling and rising. One manages to stand long enough to throw the contents of his bucket over the flames – a ticker-tape display unrivaled in the memory of any stage hand.
That’s when the curtains begin to slowly close.

With a flash of light, the orchestra unleashes a thunderous racket, obscuring events behind the curtain. And, oh, what events… For this is a drama, and the players are positioning. The flag, so carefully unfurl’d at the top of the performance has been replaced with a giant smiley face. The lights fill in the center of the stage, revealing that Uncle Sam is busy giving head to the chimp – upon whose head has been placed a Nixon mask. It is slightly less disturbing than the retarded grin it had previously been displaying, but nonetheless too much for some of the audience. The orchestra is in full swing with a tribute to Gershwin, interrupted only by the grunts from the stage. The old lady is gone, her blood-trail leading off into the depths of darkness. And the chimp laughs… And he’s jerking around, and waving his arms… And Uncle Sam’s head is bobbing up and down as if he’s hunting for apples in a barrel.

With a snap of his jaws, Uncle Sam stands. Blood pouring down the front of his costume, the remains of the chimp’s cock dangling from his mouth. A scream. Deafening and bewildering emanations erupting forth from its’ throat, the chimp stands screaming, topples in mid-movement, then pulls at the place where its’ missing appendage ought to be. With a skip and a dance, Uncle Sam exits – stage left. An over-sized barbecue is rolled onto the stage by two assistants, the old woman’s body skewered into position above the open flame. The fat man is wheeled on by eight preteen girls dressed in what could only be described as Victoria’s Secret’s junior range – though secret is hardly a word to describe their bodies under the whispy fabrics. They’re straining to move the fat man’s bulk, the wheels of his carriage screeching underneath. The fat man is drooling at the sight of the corpse – his feast. Pieces of paper released by the clowns float aimlessly above her, the odd one catching too close to the heat and burning up.

The fat man, center-stage, begins licking his lips, and the girls move aside. Uncle Sam returns, twirling a carving knife as he tap-dances to the roast. The chimp is off, running God-knows-where, by the time the fat man has a knife and fork in his greasy, chubby hands. The little girls line up at the front of the stage, as the cutting and carving begins behind them. As if on cue, and in unison, they lean forward and vomit into the pit. Onto the orchestra, who screech and grind to a halt mid-tune. A rumbling fart releases from the fat man’s gut, as a finger slides into his mouth, then an ear, sliced and diced and cooked to perfection. As if by silent order, the girls release another wave of their pea-soup-like vomit, splashing over the musicians and into the first three rows of the audience. Chunks of God-knows-what bouncing off the instruments…

Uncle Sam is dancing around the bloated, flesh-eating monster now, naked from the waist down. In graceful movements, and to the sound of a kazoo being played offstage, he twirls and floats across the boards, coming to a full stop every few minutes to release a stream of diarrhea in an abstract expressionist splatter which could – if not for the smell – rival Jackson Pollock for ingenuity. And softly, between mouthfuls of human flesh, the fat man speaks – the pledge of allegiance uttered through a mouth full of bloodstained teeth. As the light flickers out, there is one final movement, Uncle Sam rushing front and center.
“God bless America,” he intones.

Sign On The Dotted Line

“What th’ fuck. This act… This… fucking-whatever-it-is… A carnival of horrors. What is it called? I mean… Do you even have a stage name?”
“Oh yes. We have a stage name.”
“So what do you yourselves?”

“We’re The United States Congress.”

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Apocalypse: The Incident With The Car (One For The Road)

Posted by BigWords on January 30, 2010

From my zombie WIP (currently laboring under the working title of Zombie Apocalypse) comes the first actual sighting of a ghoul. This is from the chopped-down version – and still comes in at around page fifty. It is still in very rough shape. There’s so much I’m meant to be doing right now that updating this blog has been pushed down the schedule a ways, though as soon as I get everything sorted I’ll be back to abnormal as usual.


The Incident With The Car
(One For The Road)

Harold’s mind was racing as he turned off from the more familiar streets on to the long road back to Lumberton; a mobile ‘phone gripped tightly to the side of his face as he pushed the car on to greater speeds, desperately attempting to conjure a plausible scenario which could explain his absence and yet cast him in a good light. It was harder to fabricate balls-out lies than he remembered from his youth, the necessary neurons not quite firing in his brain due to a potent mixture of fatigue, stress and – crucially – alcohol. Simmons wasn’t born to move in lazy towns, the pace of life in the city had shifted his internal clock too far from the rural timeframes which others seemed to accept. “I’m on my way back now, and you wouldn’t believe the roads up here.” A pause. “Probably around three. Maybe a touch later if I can’t floor it down some of the dirt trails which pass for roads up here.” The line crackled and fell away for a moment. Dumb fuckin’ ‘phone he thought, and held it in front of him as he tried to focus his vision. The bars indicating reception quality rose and fell in a steady rhythm, mimicking the equalizer on the car’s radio.

The dull thud, as a shape hit the car, rolled over the hood then fell away to the side of the road – taking the wing mirror with it – was merely the punch line to the bad joke that Harold Simmons’ day had become. A sharp crack appeared in the windscreen after the fact. At no point did Harold’s mind dare to contemplate the possibility that he might have inadvertently caused the death of another human being. “Aw… You god-damned cock-sucking son-of-a-whore,” Simmons spat out. The mobile ‘phone had landed at Harold’s feet as he struggled with the steering, beeping once in protest at its’ treatment before deciding that things were too stressful to deal with.

Spun like a child’s toy, the car came to a stop facing back in the direction whence it had come, its’ journey’s end marked by black rubber laid into the surface of the road. The body lay twenty-five yards back, yet the most important detail of the night – at least in Harold’s mind – concerned one broken light, a dented hood and a certain missing wing mirror. Toting up the damage, albeit with four beers and an empty stomach hindering his math, the damage came to the somewhere in the region of a thousand dollars. “This is why I hate pissant, backwater, shithole, hicksville…” Harold’s tirade stopped mid-sentence when he realized Mr. Roadkill wasn’t as dead as he ought to be. Staggering along the dirt embankment, his victim haphazardly navigated his way towards Harold.

“What is it, you dumb sonuvabitch?” Harold yelled, stepping out of his car. “You want to swap insurance details or something?” No response. “I could’ve killed you back there, ya drunken bum.” Still silence. Bain damage, Harold pondered, maybe a mute? Too drunk to talk? The last thought hit a little too close to home. The man moved closer, agonizingly slowly, but moving closer all the time. Harold glanced at the man as he tried to reign in his anger. Average height, average weight and utterly unremarkable, even Roadkill’s clothing was forgettable. The checked shirt, blue jeans and heavy workboots didn’t help with his bland conformity. This guys wife couldn’t pick him out of a line-up.

Harold ran his hand over the hood, “Look at it. Just look at it.” The car was of no importance to Mr. Roadkill, who – it seemed – moved very fast for a man who could barely  put one foot in front of the other without having to comically readjust his center of gravity by waving his arms like a windmill. Harold turned back to the man in time to see the man lunge forward again. He seemed to hang there, mid stumble with his head cocked slightly too extremely to one side. Inertia, slow to take hold, finally caught up with him, and his full weight propelled him the two feet distance towards Harold. The full weight of the man had pinned Harold to the side of the car, time stretching as Harold’s brain tried to make sense of the surreal situation.

“Get off me ya pole-smoker.”

Mr. Roadkill sunk his teeth into Harold’s left arm, tearing away jacket, shirt and skin from the wound as he pulled back, trying to straighten his head. The man’s arms flailed, making him look even more like a certifiable bug-munching, shit-flinging looney tune than ever. Senses already dulled by alcohol, shaken by the crash and confused by the crazy idiot with a biting fetish, Harold tried to force his brain into action. Harold pushed back against the man with all of his strength, mentally calculating how much time he had wasted with the interruption to his journey. Roadkill, sprawled on the ground, displayed no sense of impropriety at his actions, moving his head to one side as Harold’s foot swung out at him, swiping at the leg once immediate danger had passed.

Moving backwards to the safety of the car, Harold was careful not to take his eyes off Mr. Roadkill for one second. Bite me once, shame on you. Bite me twice, shame on me. Slipping into the driver’s seat he brushed his right hand over the open wound, pulling closed the door with his increasingly painful arm. It burned, but as he could still move his fingers (enough to flip off the bitey idiot as he pulled away at least) he put the incident behind him. That’s gonna hurt in the morning, he thought.

The drive went surprisingly quick once Harold had gotten past the back-roads and on to the freeway. The streets were clear of heavy traffic, though the question of why didn’t register.

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I Have A Cunning Plan…

Posted by BigWords on October 17, 2009

I’m still wandering from idea to idea without so much as an inkling of what my NaNo will be about, though the notion of adopting “dares” seems to be one which has real appeal. They will, of course, need a through-story to make sense of them, and a proper sense of time and place. Some ideas which are being bandied around sound really fun to tackle, and I may have to decide on a genre quickly if I’m gonna add more, but the following seem to have merit:

Have a character who kills people via txt-tlk.

Interesting, but it might be a bit of a hard sell.

Use as many AW user names as character names as you can.

Oh yeah, this one is gonna be interesting.

Make your characters play ‘The Game.’
BP if someone says, “I lost the game” at the climax.
DBP if the game is a plot point.

Maybe. I like the notion of an ARG being a plot point.

DARE: Use the words lubrication, moist, and intercourse in your novel

This… I kinda HAVE to do, don’t I?

DARE: Have a character say “I reject your reality and substitute my own!” to another character.

I like.

Include a character who makes constant references to the internet meme of your choice.
-BP if the internet doesn’t exist/hasn’t been invented yet in your world.
-DBP if no one questions this character until at least halfway through the story. That includes references to it in thoughts.
-TBP if the character ends up turning evil because his/her ways were questioned.
-QBP if they become the main villain.

Have a character who only says one line
BP if they say the line in every scene they’re in
Double BP if the line makes sense in the context of the scene
Triple BP if it turns out to be an important plot point

DARE: Have a belligerent robot.
BP: If he was programmed that way.
TBP: If the purpose of his creation was to drive the entire world insane.
QBP: If the programmer did this by accident, but was happy with the result.

Dare: Incorporate Vampire-Robot-Nazis who are also zombies into your plot.
BP if one Vampire-Robot-Nazi who is also a zombie says “You’ve just been Philed in.” after shooting somebody several times.

Damn… So many good bits of business to use, and I still – fucking pathetic, I know – have no plot. The one thing I have set my mind on is the fact that I’m exploiting the Friday the 13th date in the middle of November. That’s when all the nasty horror stuff will appear, though with the suggestions that I like from AW and the NaNo boards being more SF in nature… Yeah, this is gonna take some hard work to accomplish.

The geek in me loves the following:

Have one of your battles be an RPG battle, and record commands, damage taken, limit breaks, etc.
– BP if all your battles are like this
– DBP if at least one of your battles is a random encounter, with the monsters spawning literally out of nowhere

I might just do an entire novel set in the City Of Heroes game.

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Pick A Genre, Any Genre…

Posted by BigWords on October 16, 2009

NaNo is approaching fast, and I still haven’t even decided which genre I’ll be using for my entry. That’s right, I’m completely and totally out in the wind on this. I should decide soon, but there are so many crazy things that seem like they would be fun to try. If November rolls around and I still haven’t decided on a specific genre I’ll be forced to sit down and type the first thing that comes in to my head, which won’t be pretty…

The options are endless, though somehow intimidatingly small. A western? Nope. Still tinkering with the mess I’ve got the last one into. A thriller? Too plot-heavy to wing it, and there wouldn’t be enough time to come up with an amazing twist or three. A detective story? Maybe. I like the work-backwards’s way (mangling the English language here, bear with me) in which they work, but the one month rule is a bit tight to do one justice.

Fantasy? Very possibly the genre which will save my ass. I like the strangeness I’ll be able to play with. SF? Tied with fantasy, though perhaps too much to deal with in one month. Horror, then? Oooh, yeah, a very real possibility, but it won’t be zombies. The zombie novel I dusted off and checked through looks too good to waste energy on aping, and I will be coming back to it after November.

So I’m left with… Erotica? Sheesh, trying one for the first time with the whole pressure of NaNo would be insanity, and I’m not sure what new insight I would be able to offer that genre. Comedy, possibly? Aaah, yes, my old friend comedy. Though my taste in humor is very, very dark, the prospect of trying to remain in a funny mood for a whole month will probably result in one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever written. Parody might be do-able.

Maybe autobiography would be too self-indulgent, unless I decided to drag up a lot of old shit that is unresolved. I’ve been witness to some incredible, and some very illegal, things over the years, so settling old scores by telling the world where the bodies are buried (metaphorically) would also be therapeutic. It might get me greenlit by an unhappy reader, but at least it would be interesting and a unique angle.

And I have yet to work out if it will even be a novel. I’ve always wanted to write a musical along the lines of the Morrison-era Doom Patrol comic. A giant ball of light in the middle of a stage singing how having sex with one’s self is so grand… Heh heh, that’ll probably be my Christmas pantomime idea, so I better leave it till later. A comic-book script will be tough to hit 50k with, unless I come over all Alan Moore with the descriptions.

A computer game? Which brings up an interesting question I hadn’t thought of until now… Does computer code count towards the final word count? Hell, I could hit 500k (maybe more) if I was allowed to go wild with code, and I could turn in an actual finished (if kinda small) game if I was left alone for a month. Maybe I’ll bolt myself away and unplug the ‘phone so I have no distractions…

Wow. So much choice, and so little time left to make up my mind.

I want to keep clear of anything anyone else is doing as well, just to add to my problems. That’s one of the reasons I’m so picky about my work – I can see so many similarities to the works of others. I’ll check the SYW area of Absolute Write every now and again, and nearly every time I do so – or closer to every time – I end up scrapping a handful of ideas because they have been covered so well by others.

Nathan Bransford said that originality was impossible over in his blog, but I still want to strive for something that feels unique. Something that rings with a sensibility that could not have come from the mind of any other writer. I want, to put it bluntly, to be so fucking original that it hurts. Yeah, that’s the ranting of a spoiled child, but I’m not gonna apologize. I’m in crisis mode here.

Two weeks and counting. This is probably gonna be a very long two weeks, filled with possible storylines emerging, bad ideas being mocked and an unhealthy amount of liquor being drank. Two weeks of worrying – because worry is good – and frantic scribbles to see if I’m able to come up with a unique idea, told in a unique way, with unique characters. Hell, I might as well give up right now…

Maybe nobody will notice if I just re-write my favorite myths as extended superheroes-by-way-of-horror film mash. A drunken, mean Heracles bitch-slapping people for no real reason. I could even write it so it reads exactly like early Image comics. Hmmm… There’s an idea.

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The Idea Store – The Laws

Posted by BigWords on October 11, 2009

While I was searching through my folders looking for suitable stuff to share, and there are many, many hopeless stories in the wings, waiting for their moment, I came across a television pitch that reeks of badness. It isn’t just awful, it extends to a place beyond the edge of the terrible to a new location which has yet to gain a descriptor. Really, the dialogue is so bad it is painful to read. The idea however…

Ah, the ideas. I like coming up with ideas, and the one which caught my attention was a twist on the Murder She Wrote / Columbo / Kojak ‘concept crime drama’ with a twist that hasn’t really been touched on. I would liken it to the early-to-mid Seventies wave of gimmick-television, but that seems somehow counter-productive. This is one idea which – under other circumstances – I would eagerly follow up on, but I have enough on my plate right now and the idea is one which will take time and work.

Feel free to mock…

The Laws

Murphy’s Law (pilot episode)

if anything can go wrong, it will go wrong

During the course of the episode the MC is widowed, has his car stolen, his dog runs away, is fired from the police force and his house burns down. That is just the start of his problems, because he is then implicated in the massive crime case being brought against a local businessman who is believed to be a crime lord…

The set-up is so that he has a mission to work to for the first season: to clear his name, and then to get his job back. I even re-wrote the pilot as a two-parter, with the second episode (O’Toole’s Commentary) ramping up the misery to show just how bad his life was going to get before it was gonna get better.

Hanlon’s Razor

never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity

At some point in writing the first episode it became clear that having a ‘big bad’ hovering behind the scenes was merely a distraction, and rather than adding plots it was confining ideas. Exposing the ‘crime lord’ as merely being an idiot was a neat subversion of the familiar trope of crime lord geniuses, and segued neatly into one of the hardest things I’ve ever tried to write.

Scheier’s Law

any person can invent a security system so clever that she or he can’t think of how to break it

The murder of a security specialist throws fresh suspicion on Murphy, as he was the last person to see the man alive.

The impossible-murder scenario has been so well-ploughed that I couldn’t get through the writing without some major cheating. The murderer his in the house, then fled when the police arrived – dressed in a police uniform. Lame, I know.

From giving myself a headache trying to open up the complex world of crime drama, I decided a story set in a location I knew about would be something easier. Nope. Trying to write about software programming is one of the more difficult aspects of the modern era. You either simplify the subject to make people feel like they can understand things, or you write about the subject realistically and lose half of your audience.

Conway’s Law

any piece of software reflects the organizational structure that produced it

A cracker’s attack on a server exposes a murder at a large company which has been in the news due to financial irregularities.

In the end I decided to drive the story with a comedy element that felt forced, and even with heavy re-writes this feels out-of-place alongside my general idea for the show – which is stated in the title of the pilot episode. This was meant to be the most miserable, downtrodden, beaten-up character who had ever been seen, and terrible things were meant to happen to him in every episode.

I suppose this goes to show that when I have an off day (lasting, in this case, several weeks) I can produce ideas that are decent, but my writing still sucks ass worse than anyone’s writing really should.


One more snippet before I put this to rest. It’s from a file labelled as ‘analecta’, and hasn’t got anything of real value in it, but this struck me as being the beginning of something rather than a neat self-contained idea:

Orange and green numbers clatter from the typewriter at machine-gun pace, obscuring the sounds of dying angels. There are feathers floating down from heaven tonight. Billy is busying himself with his studies, head down in a book on necromancy, while in the corner of the room Sarah is cutting off her face with a razor blade.

Richard inhales from the cigarette hanging loose on his lip, fingers bleeding on the keys of the new typewriter, turning red the universe he writes.

Not that I’m able to say what the hell it should be, but it brought a smile to my face as I remembered it. Might be a post-modern take on The Rapture, might be a neat little horror story…

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Need A Bit Of Assistance With The Story, Huh?

Posted by BigWords on August 8, 2009

There’s as many ways to write a book as there are writers, possibly more. I’m not the kind of person who slavishly devotes time to following How To books, mostly because there is often as much bullshit as there is good advice tucked in the pages of that “best-selling author who want YOU to achieve the same success” and who has outlined their methods in painstaking detail. It always strikes me as fanciful that a person picked off the street at random could be turned into a chart-topping success after reading one of those books.

But that is the belief which How To books exploit, in the hope you will part with your money. Put the cash back in your pocket, and wait a minute before you give your credit card details to the webpage which promises to get you millions of sales. I’ll point you in the direction of a few places which are distilled and undiluted help for the ideas rattling around your brain. They aren’t pretty, and they aren’t particularly long, but they work for me. That’s the important thing, right?

If you have read The Da Vinci Code and thought “How the fuck did that piece of shit get so many readers,” then The Da Vinci Formula: The Da Vinci Code’s Formula For Success is what you need to check out. It was originally published in a writing magazine, but the webpage is easier to find than a back-issue, so I’m directing your attention there.

Please, for the love of Cthulhu, don’t write like Dan Brown, even if you’re just in it for the money… It is more of a brief outline of how it managed to break through popular consciousness than a step-by-step guide to the process of writing such a book. Some parts of the article have been useful in figuring out what I should avoid, rather than copy, but take from it what you will. You could tell that I hated The Dumb Venetian Crud from what I’ve just written, right?

I’ve been a big fan of old pulp magazines for as long as I can remember, possibly due to seeing the Doc Savage movie at an impressionable age, but I digress… The Lester Dent technique for writing pulp stories is a fine tool for short stories and novellas. It is an excellent resource, and one which should be savored for the brevity and intelligence of advice.

An Effective Writing Formula For Unsure Writers is useful, and Lieutenant Colonel Robert H. Emmons, Jr., the author of the piece, has a good grasp of the requirements of a riveting story. The numbered outline idea has plenty of followers, but I can’t honestly say that it has ever worked entirely well for me. Things get moved around too much, and I like twisting the story to fill in the blanks when I come to natural pauses, though it might give your story shape.

There’s a special world of How To devoted to getting kids to write, such as Formula Writing originated by Jan Cosner, and anyone wanting to get back to basics should thing about using this to decide if every word is working properly in their stories. I got irritated with the tone after a few minutes, but more patient writers will probably receive some good advice from the work tools. While I’m on the subject of “back to basics” writing, I’ll explain where fairy tales come into the equation:

Most genre fiction (I’m using ‘genre’ even  though it is a moronic word) has a tendency to structure itself around some very basic and intuitive ideas which can be traced back to fairy tale and myth. Substitute magic cloaks of invisibility for chameleon nets, swords for phasers, princesses for diplomats and castles for starships, and that is basically what SF has been using since the creation of the form.

There is a How To article which spells out the writing of fairy tales better than I can, and it should be viewed through a distorted lens of modern ideas to get the most out of the ideas in fairy tales.

I’ve steered clear of some of the better know books on the subject of writing thus far into my meanderings, so it is only fair that I share with you a couple of the titles sitting on my bookshelf which have helped me manage ideas, just to clear up which books are actually useful and which you should take with a grain of salt. I’m starting with Stephen King’s exploration of the horror genre Danse Macabre,which has lots of ideas about the conventions and twists that horror stories use. His tone is, as always, reassuringly chatty, and he never gets too complex for the material he is using.

It might not be of use if you are planning trash like Twilight, but for horror it is one of the few indispensable books out there. On Writing is also up there with some of the best advice you can find.

Most real How To titles are useless for me, but Christopher Kenworthy’s Writing Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror from (ugh…) How To Books is not completely irrelevant. Some of the advice is completely patronizing and redundant, and he has the troublesome knack of finding the most obvious choices in his examples, as if he is trying to show how not to follow an idea through to its’ most interesting angle.

I may come back to this book at a later point for a more detailed reason why I dislike it, but for now I’ll put this post aside for a while.

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