The horror genre is something that I’ve always been in love with. Ever since I was little, and my mum read me ‘The Thief of Time’ by Clive Barker as a bedtime story (If you haven’t read this book then you really need to, it’s amazing). I loved the eerie setting, the creepy feeling it gave me and the fact that parts of this book genuinely had me afraid. It was my introduction to the world of horror and I’ve never looked back.
The Love of Being Afraid.
As a species, we seem to genuinely enjoy being frightened. It sounds odd when put into simple words, but the truth of the matter is obvious. The horror genre is incredibly popular, with books, movies, even theme park rides filled to bursting with the creepy and the macabre. When I visited Thorpe Park last year I was blown away by the SAW ride (and the queues to get on it) and bitterly disappointed that Darren Brown’s Ghost Train wasn’t open yet. I’ve seen bookshelves fit to burst with the likes of Stephen King, Cristopher Pike, H.P Lovecraft and of course Clive Barker. Film night arguments with friends usually involve titles like Dark Water, Premonition (the original Japanese version), The Thing and Carrie.
Back in October 2016 I was lucky enough to write a guest post on the wonderful blog of Kathy Cecala! A fantastic blog full of wit, wisdom and humour.
I think that it is safe to say that today there are more writers than at any other time in history. Between free blogging sites, and self-publishing sites it seems that you can’t swing a cat these days without hitting a writer of some kind and that is wonderful.
The sharing of ideas and opinions helps us all grow as people and as a society. Whether you write stories, opinion pieces or factual ‘how to’ manuals there has never been a better time to get your words out to such a wide and varied audience.
The only thing that hasn’t gotten easier has been finding motivation or inclination to write.
Here we are at the start of another year.
I’m feeling optimistic and excited to get started. Although, I will confess that after heading straight back to work for a couple of days after traveling back from visiting family for the holiday season has actually left me feeling shattered.
Excited and optimistically shattered, mind you.
I’m really excited about the projects that I’m working on this year, both writing and in my working/day job and personal life.
I considered doing the traditional ‘first of the year’ blog where I talk about my plans, resolutions and the efforts that I’m going to make to try and make 2018 the best year ever. But to be honest, I’m getting a little tired of those blogs. They’re not that interesting for you to read and after writing one every single year for the last however-many years I’m getting fed up writing them as well.
But I still want to talk about something I’m excited about this year, and that is my plan to get more of my short stories published! I managed to get a few published in 2017 and I want to get more written and published in 2018.
I love writing short stories, and here’s why.
A hot topic among writers is motivation. There are hundreds upon hundreds of articles out there with tips and tricks for writers on how to keep yourself motivated or how to rekindle lost motivation. I have read a lot of them over the years and some of them speak to me on a personal level and really help me keep my mojo up.
I have an odd relationship with motivation. I love it when it’s around, it makes my life easier and keeps my energy levels up. On days when I’m motivated I can come home after a particularly exhausting day at the office and all but skip into my home office and write into the wee hours.
I had a couple of less good days this week.
Nothing particularly terrible in the grand scheme of things, just a few days where I really wanted to abandon everything, curl up in bed, read a good book and ignore the world outside until I felt better. Tea would be optional in this situation, of course.
Sadly, I live in the world where there are responsibilities to be met and bills to be paid. So, I could not just abandon my life in favour of my bed, no matter how much the urge came upon me or how crummy my mood became.
Naturally, I tried looking for a solution that did not involve hiding under the covers.
Bit of a personal blog today.
For the first time in my writing life I’m hitting a real block.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had writers block before, at least the kind of writer’s block where I sit down of an evening and can’t churn out the words. But this block is different, I am well able to sit here and churn out words, this blog wouldn’t exist otherwise. I’m also having very little trouble writing my non-fiction articles.
This block seems to be entirely related to fiction.
Ever wondered how to write great characters?
I’ve been writing since I was old enough (and had enough motor control) to hold a pen.
Even when a tiny tot I was always telling stories, usually about the adventures my cuddly toys had when no one was around. As I grew older, I told stories about the neighbourhood cats and the family of wood pigeons that lived at the bottom of the garden. Then, as I grew older, still my stories became about my favourite TV show & video game characters, with a few of my own creations thrown in.
Why am I telling you this? Only to illustrate the point that I have been telling stories and writing them down since I was an infant. My mum still has my very first official book “Jack Cat’s Magic Show,” safely stored with the family photos.
But it was in college when I hit my late teens that I started actually taking writing seriously and sending my stories out into the world. I also started trying to learn as much as I could about writing, how to get better at it, what not to do and how to market myself. Unfortunately, in my early years, I absorbed every scrap of information blindly and as a result believed a lot of myths I now know to be false.
Today’s blog is going to be about some of these myths. I would like to dispel them as in my opinion they can be harmful if believed.
While writing my upcoming novel Ghoul, I created a character designed to serve the function of a ‘talking head’ aka someone for Mya, the protagonist, to bounce ideas off. However, I understand talking heads are bad; they result in clunky dialogue that’s obviously just exposition in the form of dialogue. So, with that in mind, I tried to turn my talking head into a semi-developed character with her goals and motivations.
I made this character a Sphinx. I’ve always been fond of a bit of Egyptian mythology, as those who read Amenti will have noticed, and it didn’t take me long to decide where in London my Sphinx would live and she promptly moved into the Egyptian walk of Highgate Cemetery.
I started drafting a bit of dialogue between my Sphinx and Mya, and before I knew where I was my ‘talking head’ fast outgrew the role she was designed for and took on a life of her own. My Sphinx had become Kepi and all of a sudden I had another book growing in the back of my head.
While Kepi lives in the Highgate Cemetery close to the ghouls who dwell beneath it, there is another Sphinx in London. Ophelia and Ophelia even as a rough character concept was very demanding and spent her first hours of life in my head telling me her story.
Writing is a fickle beast.
Sometimes it comes easy; sometimes it does not. We can go for significant stretches of time with little or nothing to show for it. The blank page mocks us cruelly. Then there are periods of great abundance where sleep becomes something other people do because the ideas won’t leave us alone. Rarely is there a happy middle ground.
But that doesn’t stop us from trying, and you can create that fabled middle ground. You can train yourself to do almost anything.
Human beings are (generally) creatures of habit so why not make ourselves creatures of writing habit. Creating a habit helps you squeeze into the headspace for any particular task more easily. Setting yourself a nighttime routine will help you fall asleep sooner (usually), setting a morning routine will help you get to work on time, setting a writing habit will help you write each and every day.
Creating a daily writing practice helps, it took a while to settle in (apparently it takes at least 21 days to form a habit that will stick), but now that it’s there I find it easier and simpler to write at certain times of the day. Once I trigger my brain through the little rituals I’ve built up, it automatically shifts into writing mode.