I wrote a guest post for Deek Rhew’s blog – Is Anyone Still Reading Horror? Click here to read. While you’re there, check out Deek’s books – he’ll be a the featured Indie Author here on Friday, June 23rd.
Today we welcome Lynn Goodwin to Books & Such as part of the WOW! Women on Writing Blog Tour! Lynn is here today to share some tips about how to make your writing stand out from the crowd. Her coming-of-age novel, Talent: Real Life Doesn’t Have a Script, was released in November 2015. Leave a comment below to be registered to win a copy!
Beyond Show—Don’t Tell:
Fifteen Tips To Make Your Writing Shine
Here are some tips that will help your writing sparkle. One of my tips is “Less is more.” In keeping with that sentiment, I have kept these short and simple.
- Write about an idea worth sharing. Everybody has them, you know.
- Figure out what makes your idea unique. If you look at it from that angle, you’ll interest more people and they’ll want to read something new, fresh, and exciting.
- Hook your readers in the first paragraph. Contemporary readers have very short attention spans.
- Know your characters. Know what they want, what they can do to get it, and what is in their way. Explore these three elements for each character in your journal. Interview the characters. Give them plenty of chances to share with you. It will pay off, because sympathetic, well-rounded characters draw readers into any story.
- Let events happen naturally and logically. Actions have consequences. Let one event lead to another.
- Be wary of digressions. Instead of deleting them, save your digressions for a different story.
- When you finish a draft, read it over. Underline words and phrases that have energy—whatever that means for you. Those are places that you may want to dig deeper and explore further.
- Delete anything that doesn’t belong. If you want to use it sometime, put it with your digressions and use it later.
- Read your writing out loud. Listen for places where your writing trips you up. Rephrase. Dig deeper. Eliminate unnecessary words. If none of that works, go to your journal and ask yourself why the passage trips you up. One idea will lead to another and you will figure it out.
- After you read, ask yourself what you want to know more about and make a list of questions that address those issues. Answer them when you are ready to do so. Keep going back and adding. Trust your instincts as you weave your newest discoveries into the story.
- After the next draft, have a trusted friend read your work to you. What do you hear that works? What could be clearer? What could be smoother? Make notes.
- With every draft, journal about the issues that came up for the author as well as the characters. These journal entries will give you insights.
- Write to elicit an emotional impact in the reader.
- Less is more. Don’t over describe, but give us enough thought that we sink into the story. Don’t flaunt your vocabulary.
- Write with your heart at least as much as you write with your head. Be subjective. If you are telling a story, let us live it with you.
My last piece of advice can be easy to follow or extremely difficult, depending on how you are hard wired. Be open to the suggestions of others, but don’t be governed by them. If an idea appeals, use it. If it makes you bristle, ask yourself why. You can journal about it if you want to, but maybe you don’t need to. Consider the knowledge and sensitivity of the person commenting. If a suggestion confuses you, ask the person who gave it to you what he or she means.
Remember, you need your approval and maybe you need an agent, editor, or publisher’s approval. Maybe not. Tell the story that you want to tell, a story you will be proud to call your own. I’ve given you tips. Please use whatever will work for you as you continue on your writing journey.
Fifteen-and-a-half-year-old Sandee Mason wants to find her talent, get her driver’s license, and stop living in the shadow of her big brother, Bri, who disappeared while serving in Afghanistan.
Talent is a timely story about a girl who learns her brother is MIA in Afghanistan. What does she do? How does she cope while trying to be part of the drama department and attempting to live normally? Lynn Goodwin has captured the angst and the pathos of this situation and created a character who will appeal to many teens. All she wants to do is fit in and live her life, but events keep happening that don’t allow her to do this. I highly recommend this book as a way for young people to understand the effects of war on the people left behind and the kinds of problems teens face today.
TALENT is available on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Talent-B-Lynn-Goodwin/.
Don’t forget to leave a comment below to be registered to win a copy of Talent! This giveaway runs through March 16th.
Lynn Goodwin is the owner of Writer Advice, www.writeradvice.com, and the author of both You Want Me to Do WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers (Tate Publishing), and TALENT (Eternal Press). Her blog is at http://blynngoodwin.com. Goodwin’s stories and articles have been published in Voices of Caregivers; Hip Mama; Small Press Review; Dramatics Magazine; The Sun; Good Housekeeping.com and many other venues. She is currently working on a memoir about getting married for the first time at age 62.
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I’m so excited to welcome Stephanie Stamm, author of A Gift of Wings (if you haven’t read it, you’re living a deprived life) to Books & Such. I met Stephanie last spring at the Southern Kentucky Bookfest shortly after she’d published her book and in the early stages of getting her blog up and running at http://stephaniestammblog.wordpress.com/. When I asked her to write a guest post a few weeks ago, she graciously agreed, but said it would have to wait until she returned from Italy – awesome! And if that’s not enough excitement, her short story Phantom Pains, has been accepted by Mystery and Horror, LLC, for their “Undead of Winter” anthology due to be released November 18th. Thanks so much, Stephanie, for being a guest on Books & Such.
When Teri approached me about writing a guest post related to horror, I’d just heard Stephen King on NPR promoting the release of his new novel Doctor Sleep, a sequel to The Shining. The interview had made me want to read The Shining, since (horror!) I had seen the movie but never actually read the book. So I told Teri I’d like to write something about The Shining.
I’m not going to waste your time with a review of a book you probably read long before I did. Instead, I want to talk about what makes The Shining so scary—in other words, about what makes good horror fiction work.
Let’s start with the characters. King writes characters we care about. We want to see Jack Torrance, with his troubled past, his history of alcoholism and violence, be redeemed—not consumed by the Overlook and its ghosts. We want Wendy Torrance to live without the fear of a controlling mother or an unpredictably violent spouse. We want Dick Hallorann to get back home where he can file that will he just had made away, since it won’t be needed until far into the future. And more than anything, we want Danny Torrance to survive, to have the opportunity to grow up and become a man. Much more so than Kubrick’s movie version, the novel focuses on Danny, the five-year-old boy whose psychic abilities give the book its title. We sympathize with the other characters, but it is little Danny we care about most. With his innocence, vulnerability, and power, he shines at the novel’s heart. He is the one the Overlook wants, and he is the one the Overlook must not get.
King hooks us by setting up a conflict between good and evil, innocent Danny and possessed hotel, but that conflict alone isn’t what gives the book its fear factor. What happens to the Torrance family (and Dick Hallorann) at the Overlook scares us, because King very skillfully plays on some basic deep-rooted human fears.
(1) Our sanity is fragile.
We know from early on in the book that Danny has psychic abilities, and we trust that those abilities are real. We know he’s being warned about the dangers at the hotel. We never doubt Danny’s sanity, though his parents and the doctors do. But we seriously doubt Jack’s. And when he begins slipping away, at first we don’t know for sure if there is an external evil (like the hotel and its ghosts) or if Jack is simply losing his mind. How much of what he’s experiencing is imposed by an external force, and how much is in his own head? We are creatures of perception, but our perceptions are fallible. How much can we trust about what we perceive? How much can we really know? Do we really have something to be afraid of, or are we jumping at shadows? With enough thoughts like these, paranoia sets in.
(2) Our power is dangerous.
Danny’s “shining” gives him a power most people don’t possess. There are others who have a bit of the shine, but Danny shines brighter than anyone else. He is powerful. But that ability is both blessing and curse. He sees things, but he passes out when the visions come, and his parents don’t believe him when he tells them what he sees. So he has learned to keep his knowledge to himself. Worst of all, his ability makes him a target for the Overlook. He’s the catalyst that sets the horrible events in motion. The Overlook possesses Jack in order to get to Danny, because it covets his power. Who among us hasn’t at some time felt afraid of our own gifts? Afraid that we may not use the gifts wisely or that using them will result in a bad end or cause someone to be hurt, or that the power will somehow go awry, despite our best intentions? We fear our weakness, but we fear our own power as well.
(3) We are monsters inside.
Part of the reason we fear our power is because, down deep, we sometimes wonder if we aren’t really monsters at heart. And this brings us back to Jack. The Overlook plays him because he’s vulnerable to its manipulation. The son of an abusive father, he has battled the demons of his memories, his alcoholism, and his own violent temper. He’s ridden by the guilt he feels over breaking Danny’s arm when the boy was just a toddler. He wants to get his life in order, to make good on the job at the Overlook, to be a good husband and father, but he fears those things will never happen, because he knows—knows—he’s really a monster who doesn’t deserve anything good. Since he knows he’s a monster, he has sabotaged himself at almost every opportunity. The Overlook preys on his fears and lets him have it both ways. It twists his mind, tricks him into believing he can rise in his position, make good, find the success he’s never had. All he has to do is give in to the monster he has never been able to shake. What could be scarier than that?
(4) All is chaos, madness, out of control.
Two words: hedge animals. The Overlook is a place where elevators run on their own, spilling out confetti from parties that took place decades ago. Where fire hoses shift position at will. Where the bloated corpse of a long-dead woman rises from a bathtub to strangle a small boy. And where hedge animals walk, run, and attack. Hedge animals. Plants cut into the shapes of animals. Nothing is obeying the laws of nature here. The world of The Shining is one where the fabric of reality is fluid, where boundaries that we take for granted don’t exist, where things that shouldn’t move move, and where things that shouldn’t have bodies do. It reminds me of Hieronymus Bosch’s paintings of hell where human bodies, animals, plants, and machines combine in myriad torturous and disturbing ways. Bosch could have painted someone being devoured by a hedge lion—or better, a hedge rabbit. Creepy.
Stephen King knows how to scare us, because he understands our hearts and he knows our fears. He builds a foundation of emotional connection and then lets the fearful scenes unfold. We are hooked, and we read on, hearts racing.
Speaking of hooked, I have to find a copy of Doctor Sleep, so I can read the rest of Danny’s story.
I had a fantastic week off and was able to finish and start some wonderful books. Despite the fact that it’s Monday and only having around four hours of sleep last night, I’m feeling surprisingly energetic. But that’s a good thing because today I have the pleasure of welcoming Bradley Corbett a.k.a Green Embers to Books & Such! This busy man has three blogs very worthy of your time and attention so stop by and enjoy! Thanks so much, Bradley, for being on Books & Such!
The Fun of Horror in Films!
I am very humbled and honored that Teri asked me to write a guest post for her amazing blog. (Hopefully you all don’t go running and screaming away… although thinking about it I was asked for a horror theme… so feel free to run and scream at the mere sight of me.)
I am not a huge horror fan but some of my fondest memories come from watching horror movies. There was one place where my roommates and I decided to further my horror education. The ultimate goal was to watch Freddy vs. Jason. At the time I had seen very few movies that you could classify as horror.
My horror education began with watching all the Friday the 13th movies and then moving on to watching the entire Nightmare on Elm Street films. We did this over the course of about two weeks, which turned out to be an incredibly fun activity. We would start formulating the different rules of horror while watching the show. She showed her boobs, that mean she gonna die (yup almost every time). A character being a slut (guy or girl), you know he/she is gonna die. (At the time I hadn’t seen the Scream movies but that came soon after).
I also discovered something during this run of horror. These movies weren’t scary. They were gory, yes but not really scary. If anything they were more like comedies/thrillers to me. Now these Japanese horror films, I find them scary (The Ring kept me up for days and I never view static on the television the same again). After finishing this marathon, we did watch Freddy vs Jason and it was great! Makes me sad they never did get around to making Freddy vs. Jason vs. Ash (this was going to be a real thing from my understanding).
After it was over we decided to go on with our horror marathon. We watched the Child’s Play movies which started out trying to be serious but by the time Bride of Chucky came around it had morphed into Dark Comedy. (I would imagine seeing these as a kid would be pretty scary). Then after that was over we watched the Scream trilogy (the fourth one had not been made at that time) which was fantastic. It was a horror movie spoofing horror movies but in a subtle way. It was the perfect way to cap off that horror marathon run.
Several years later my good friend and I decided to go catch the Friday the 13th reboot in theaters. I would have to say that was one of the most enjoyable times that I have ever spent in the theater. It was opening night and normally I get annoyed if the crowd talks during movies but something else happened. We would scream and laugh together. The sense of the group excitement was just all around fun and seemed almost magical. The movie might not have been the best but that was one of my most fun experiences in theater and all because of the crowd.
I look at what the horror genre has become though and it makes me kind of sad. The gore and torture porn has been increased significantly and the fun has vanished. We’ve also seen the rise of more intense, psychological suspense/horror films where they try to keep a lower rating (PG-13 <- a United States thing) so they decrease the gore but up the intensity. I’m fine with this as I think these movies are truly scary. The dynamic has changed and maybe it is nostalgia speaking but I miss those corny horror movies of yesteryear.
Thanks again Teri for having me as a guest blogger!
For the month of October, in honor of Halloween and my love of horror books and movies, I’ve asked some authors/friends/fellow bloggers to write guest posts related in some way to the horror/paranormal genre. Today’s guest is Calvin Dean, whose first book, The Epitaph of Jonas Barloff, I reviewed at https://teripolen.com/2013/05/24/the-epitaph-of-jonas-barloff-by-calvin-dean/. Hurry over to Amazon or B&N and get his book – it’s perfect reading for Halloween! His second book, A Door Unlocked, comes out today, so make sure to pick it up while you’re there – I already got mine. Thanks so much, Calvin, for visiting Books & Such.
Influence, inspiration and confidence can come from the strangest places. As a little leaguer, I remember marveling at how far the bigger kids could hit a baseball. One day I stepped to the plate and fouled a ball over the backstop. Wow, I thought to myself. I can do this! All I needed was a foul ball with some pop to boost my confidence.
Years later, I started writing my first book. Influence from great authors came easy. Confidence came, not in foul balls, but in the foul behavior of odd characters. Let me explain.
Horror Influence – The Early Days
I knew him as Sivad. (Davis spelled backwards.) In the 1960s, he dressed as a vampire and hosted creature features on a Memphis, Tennessee television program. But it was a live appearance at the Gloria Theatre in my small hometown that nearly frightened the living daylights out of me. At an afternoon matinee, Sivad brought along a few sidekicks – Frankenstein and The Mummy. Or maybe it was The Werewolf. Though the sun shone brightly outside, inside the theatre it was the stroke of midnight, and a full moon chased crackles of lightning up and down my spine. Needless to say, being in the same room with ghouls from my creepiest nightmares sent shivers that reverberate to this day.
Horror Influences – From Books
I don’t know why I picked up “Dead Sleep” by fellow Mississippi author Greg Iles. I didn’t know Greg. Didn’t know he was from Mississippi by way of Germany. All I know is that after one chapter, I knew I would become a huge Greg Iles fan. In that chapter, a famous photographer is passing time at a Hong Kong art exhibit. As she enters the museum, those already inside regard her with horror. She soon discovers why. One of the portraits is a spitting image of her, but the fleshy skin tones are all wrong. Instead of warmth, her skin is pale. Blue. Dead.
I love the way Author Conan Doyle crafts a sentence. Pure eloquence. “The Hound of the Baskervilles” is my favorite Sherlock Holmes novel. While it’s a mystery, there is just enough darkness to please any horror aficionado. In fact, one reviewer said my debut novel, “The Epitaph of Jonas Barloff” is a cross between Goosebumps and an Arthur Conan Doyle novel. I took that as a huge compliment.
I don’t read series novels. Nor do I like long, drawn-out books. There are exceptions. After reading “Boy’s Town” by Robert McCammon, I needed another McCammon fix to pacify my addiction. So, I picked up “Speaks the Nightbird”, which is actually a two-book series. It’s about a magistrate and his aid who must pass judgment on a woman accused of witchcraft in colonial Carolina. The Matthew Corbett character pulled me in and wouldn’t let go. Next thing I know, I’m yanking the sequel from the shelf, “The Queen of Bedlam”. Eight hundred pages later, I want more McCammon.
Confidence from the Odd Places
In Dean Koontz’s “Odd Thomas” series, Oddy can see and communicate with the dead. That’s right up my alley. I especially liked the lighter moments with Elvis and Sinatra, which added humor one doesn’t necessarily expect in a horror novel. Because of this, I used humor in “The Epitaph of Jonas Barloff”. Dean Koontz gave me the confidence to try it.
What novels, horror or otherwise, influence you? What inspires confidence? I know horror is a niche market. Within that niche are people who demand more vampire stories. More zombies. More werewolves. More witches. What scares you? For me, it’s haunted houses and spooky cemeteries. As Halloween approaches, I hope you’ll find yourself buried deep under a security blanket with a good book. To set the mood, I recommend carving a jack-o-lantern and placing it in a dark corner of the room. Make sure you lock the doors and put the knife safely away before settling in for the night. (Sinister laugh!) FREE KINDLE EBOOK: In honor of my favorite holiday, Halloween, I’m offering “The Epitaph of Jonas Barloff” FREE! Be sure to log-on to Amazon.com and download a free Kindle copy Oct. 16 – 20, 2013. Mark your calendar now.
By the time you read this, my second book will be released – or will be soon. The release date is Oct. 5, 2013. In “A Door Unlocked”, messages from the grave help a young mother rescue her kidnapped daughter and unravel a web of corruption. Like “The Epitaph of Jonas Barloff” it’s a quick, fast-paced read. Available in paperback, Kindle, Nook – and soon, Audible.
Happy Halloween. And happy reading.
Author of “The Epitaph of Jonas Barloff”, “A Door Unlocked” & “The Rookie Umpire”, a short story.
As promised, today I have a guest post from the multi-talented Destiny Allison, artist and author of Shaping Destiny and Pipe Dreams. If you haven’t visited her art website at http://destinyallisonfineart.com/ or her blog at http://shapingdestinythebook.com/ , drop by and I guarantee it will add to your Friday celebration!
The processes are similar. In sculpture, you create a rough outline or armature that will support the weight of the material once you begin to flesh it out. If the armature is flawed, it’s a lot of work to fix it and sometimes you can’t. Once you have it in place, you start adding — large chunks at first in a haphazard and rough fashion — until you have a shape you like. Then you begin the final detailing, adding, subtracting, and honing the work. A sculpture, like a book, is done when your tweaks don’t change anything.
What I find interesting, and hadn’t noticed myself, is that my books are really visual. Readers see the people and places vividly and many of them have said Pipe Dreams should be a movie. I think that’s because my artist eye is trained to notice things and because I see letters like shapes. An A is a triangle. An O is a circle. Each letter has a different emotional connotation that inspires me. In my sculptures, geometric shapes and organic forms combine to express idea and emotion. The same is true in my letters and words. The arrangement of words in a sentence creates a visual effect that stimulates feeling and imagination.
Here’s an example:
If you drew a line along the top of the first two words, you would see that all the letters flow from high to low, creating a sideways triangle. In the second, the t at the end of act balances out the O and makes more of a rectangle. Triangles, in sculpture, denote action while rectangles are static.
Authors understand that the right word can make all the difference between a good sentence and a bad one. The right word creates flow. Sometimes it’s about a specific meaning, but in other instances it has to do with the shape of the word, whether we realize it consciously or not. If people want to know more about this theory, I describe it in detail in my memoir, Shaping Destiny.