Monday, November 21, 2016

Far Out Fantastic Events: NaNoWriMo and New Gaiman TV Series

The most far out fantastic events for me since last week have been my participation in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and news of author Neil Gaiman producing a new sci fi TV series.

World-building and Character Development for NaNoWriMo

I had said at the beginning of the year that I would write a full first draft of a novel (or novella) and there’s no better motivator for it than now, NaNoWriMo. In the last two posts I talked about writing through writer’s block for one of my short stories and searching for new monsters for another. [link to the posts that talks about these] But I’ve decided to take a break from both these stories so I can write my novella during this month of November. The problem is I only started writing it last week and we’re already in the middle of the month. In fact, I didn’t even actually start writing it; I just planned it. But even so, there probably won’t be another motivator for another year, so I’ll still write it even if some of that writing spills into next month.

Some people start off approaching their novel with character development because the story is more character-dependent. Others may start off with the stories’ events and, therefore, the plot and so develop it as they write. This novella will depend on the settings most of all, at least initially, since it centers around the collision of two universes. So I began with developing those. Therefore, I thought that the best way to begin writing this story was to start with the world-building. The novel will take place in a near-future earth, so that setting requires relatively little development. The setting that does require a lot of development is the online game that the story involves. So I’ll basically be developing a world for a MORPG (multi-player online role playing game) for this story. But who knows, maybe it will turn into a real online game. (Any game developers out interested?)

I’ve also been working on making a profile for the protagonist. I need at least sketchy details about the main character because knowing something about him ahead of time will also help me find a direction to go in writing the novella. Normally, with short fiction I can start writing the story itself and then take care of the other developmental aspects after. But with a 60-plus page novella versus a 10-to-20 page short story, I would probably get writer’s block within a page of the draft. For a story as long as that, writing without a pre-created main character and setting that is so integral to the plot would be like writing in a vacuum which just doesn’t happen. This sequence of writing a novel or novella works for me personally; it may or may not work for other writers. A lot of it has to do with the type of story you’re writing.

Two planets are reflected in a body of water.

Neil Gaiman to Produce New Sci Fi TV Series

Speaking about conflicting universes, Neil Gaiman is planning to produce a new TV show about interdimensional travel, according to iO9. Titled The Building, it’s based on an indie-produced film called Parallels and involves a group of people in a skyscraper that travels through multiple universes. The series will cover the origins of the skyscraper and the characters’ attempt to get back to Earth of our own dimension. So here’s one more in science fiction to add to the alternative universe subgenre! Working on a TV show like this and having recently written for several Doctor Who episodes, which also deal with multiple universes, shows that Gaiman is opening up to more sci fi. He’s mostly written fantasy.

I may or may not be posting here this weekend (or early next week, keeping in mind that I’ve been running late with these posts which I apologise for). I will have family in from out of town for Thanksgiving and so am not sure if I’ll have time to come up with something to post. So if you don’t see me here this weekend, I’m still on the planet, in this universe, and will be back here at the Fantastic Site the following weekend. And remember, we may be in a dark aftermath of the elections and many of us may be unsatisfied and even straight out angry over the results. It may be right up there with a zombie apocalypse for some of us. But we still have a lot to be thankful for. So try to remember some things to give thanks for this Thanksgiving.

Those of you who are participating in NaNoWriMo, what level of the writing process do you begin your novel? For example do you begin by brainstorming for ideas or by outlining? Do you start by creating your characters or by writing the story itself? Leave your answers in the box below.

Until next time . . .  

Monday, November 14, 2016

In Search of New Monsters For Horror Fiction

A ghoul holding a candle and peaking through a doorway.

The most current horror story I’m writing is a haunted house one but the challenge is in coming up with unique monsters. So far I’ve steered clear of the vampires and zombies (unless you count attacking skeletons, which I don’t because they don’t have enough flesh to be considered a corpse). I don’t want to create any spoilers, but the monsters that are cliché in this story are more so in high fantasy than in straight horror.

For the past decade, vampires and zombies have dominated the horror/sci fi scene. As with many types of monsters, their popularity is a phase. Vampires have been fading out in the last year or so. Although the two will be in the popular imagination for years to come, like everything else they are fads and fads eventually fade out. Aliens were a fad in the ‘90s and early 2001s; pirates were a fad in the late 2001s through the early half of the present decade. As much as I love zombies, their popularity will probably be used up soon and the masses will probably move on to other characters of interest. These could be demonic clowns which seem to have been getting more of a spotlight horror fiction lately.

Yet, for those of us writers who specialise in certain monsters that have been traditionally popular such as the undead or werewolves, we can still put twists on their characters in order to prevent rehashing old plots. But the challenge in writing about archetypal monsters such as these is to come up with new ways of portraying them. Fairly recently, comic books have been doing this by making the hero a zombie such as in I, Zombie, or a vampire breaking the stereotype of monsters as evil and victimising. But now this trend is getting old.

The problem with much horror, not just today’s but that of the past 50 years at least, is that it caters to the more familiar archetypes like the ones mentioned above. Which is a little ironic because the basis of horror fiction is fear of the unknown, and so fear of the unfamiliar. But Frankensteinian monsters, Dracula and Jeckylle-and-Hyde archetypes have been done numerous times in both books and movies, not to mention television. What’s so surprising is that, with the fan cult following of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthullu character, that a major movie hasn’t adapted that character yet. Though a movie based on Lovecraft’s Mythos, The Mountains of Madness, has been in the plans for the last two years at least, there seem to be very updates on it.

An article at, entitled “Alright, Folks, It’s Time Horror Got Some New Monsters” talks in great detail about the need for new fiends in fiction. It’s a really good one and includes interviews with horror authors and movie directors on the subject. I strongly recommend reading it.

So what monsters out there in the mythical universe do you think deserve a chance in books, TV and the big screen? Please leave your answers in the box below.

Until next time . . .

Monday, November 7, 2016

Post-Halloween Post: 'I, Frankenstein', Writing Challenges, Variant Cover

I hope everybody had a great Halloween. It went by all too fast as always. Maybe that’s why I’m a horror writer, so I can have “Halloween” year round. Overall, my All Hallow’s Eve was okay, even though I became dreadfully sick and I hadn’t even eaten any candy! So I didn’t do anything that night except stay home and read H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Rats In the Walls”, which is one of his best stories and has plenty of Gothic elements such as a haunted castle and a dreadful family secret. I strongly suggest reading it. The next evening, however, I attended a Halloween party that my writers group put on. Each year we get together on or near the hallow-day and read a story we each wrote based on a photo prompt. I’m not good writing in response to prompts, at least when it comes to fiction. So I’ll admit that my story was crap. But I’m glad I wrote and read it for the sake of participating. Here’s some more of my post-Halloween activity:

Short Movie Review of I, Frankenstein

The day after the party I was sick again. This time jt was probably from eating too much Halloween candy and other goodies at the night before. So I stayed indoors most of the day. I used part of the time to watch 2014’s I, Frankenstein that one of the local TV stations was airing. I hadn’t seen it before. Overall, I liked it. It’s a popcorn horror/dark fantasy flick, but it worked. What made this movie fairly good was that the story stays relatively true to Mary Shelley’s novel. Even though it starts out after the events of the book, its continuity between them and those of the movie was strong. The movie was loaded with plenty of suspense and story development and more than enough action. In fact, the movie was mostly all action, which kind of rushed the story. The set design was fantastic, though. The special effects were okay, the exception being that when the demons are killed in battle and explode the pixelation of the digital effects give away the realism. Also, Frankenstein’s monster (given the name “Adam” in this movie and played by Aaron Eckhart) looked too much like a normal human being which was my biggest fault with the movie. Other than those few problems, it wasn’t bad.

The Challenge of Writing the Opposite Sex’s P.O.V.

Now that the Halloween rush is over, I’ve been getting back on track with my writing projects. I’m continuing editing my current short story, a sci fi horror about a search engine. It’s been a bit of a challenge because the main character is a woman and I haven’t written many stories with female protagonists. The few that I have I’ve fallen short in developing their main characters. But the key to writing from the point of view of the opposite sex is to think of the common human desires and ambitions your protagonist has, and so desires and ambitions we all share as human beings, then give him/her distinctive traits. An article by author A. Lee Martinez at talks about this in more detail and so if you have problems writing from the view point of the opposite gendre I strongly recommend reading it. 

Writing Through the Block

The other challenge with this story was a sudden case of writer’s block. It came about from myself having inevitably changed directions in the course of the story while revising. I couldn’t go back to the old direction because the story and character would’ve remained stale. So what did I do when I couldn’t find a solution that connected A with B and therefore one scene with the next? I simply wrote through the block. Not only did it help me continue revising the story but it lead to a new idea that enhanced the plot! So the next time you get a block in your writing try writing through it no matter how lame the words seem. It’s in writing itself that develops ideas and brings in new ones, maybe not immediately but eventually.

To Come . . .

The other project I’ll be returning to is “Circa Sixty Years Dead”’s variant cover, the photo realistic cover that I said I would give my newest published book of horror. [link] So you’ll be hearing more about that in the weeks to come.

So what did you do for Halloween? Did you go to any parties? Hand out treats? Hand out tricks? Did you watch or read any good horror? Feel free to leave your responses in the box below.

Until next time . . .

A skull with a pair of skeleton hands beneath it.