Horror and magical realism are my favorite genres to blend. My first published attempt at doing this is my horror short “Autonomy Bleeds Black” where pain and power manifested into elemental forces. One of my favorite magical realism works is Pan’s Labyrinth directed by Guillermo Del Toro. I’m a huge fan of Del Toro’s and am grateful that Pan’s Labyrinth was my introduction to him. In interviews, he’s described this film to be very personal as someone who lived under strict and religious conditions, but used fantasy works and other genres to escape. Often our escapes become reflections of our inner world and help us interpret what’s going on within us subconsciously and consciously.
…These genres are mirrors, but for their effectiveness to withstand any resistance to our personal revelations, we writers have to hook the audience in with familiarity and give them the illusion of control.
…Is writing the second draft supposed to almost feel like you’re writing another story? Well, it doesn’t feel that extreme to me, but there’s a lot that needs to be added, changed, and polished. I don’t know why this seems strange. During this writing session there are times I feel like my first draft is a botched mess and the fact that I’m having to fill in details that were obviously necessary must mean my writing needs a massive amount of improvement, but harsh inner critic aside, I’m fully aware that writing will always be a practice. The best I can do is remain teachable, open, and devoted to the craft.
Just like music makes the mood for a social gathering, atmosphere and archetypes are key elements to the mood of any work of fiction. In art, mood and tone with colors range from cold to warms; I know in writing we have to explore all sorts of sensory details, so what I learned today, and also what I consider today’s triumph, is conveying a character’s demeanor with common attributes we associate with a Jungian archetype.
Switching From Confidently Editing and Writing Anxiously
I have to be honest, I didn’t miss the anxiety that comes with wanting to make sure every word you write is significant. The ideas bursting inside of me while I was editing was really exhilarating. Now I’m back to layering the story down, brick by brick, word by word.
The first draft was easy for me. I heard something the other day while I was listening to writer podcast “The Writer’s Routine”, hosted by Dan Simpson, that writing the first draft, aka writing the vomit draft, can be easier than the second draft. The writer being interviewed said he always ends up being very perfectionistic about every word, not to mention he said he’s a lyrical writer so he definitely wants flow and artistry to be prominent in his storytelling (probably most writers want that, but some of us REALLY care about it…obsessively). Hearing that from American-noir writer (who happens to be British), Chris Whitaker, author of We Begin at The End, was really comforting. I was thinking, “Yes, I totally understand that,” but then there’s the other voice inside of me, the voice striving to live a fulfilling life and often challenges my guilty pleasure with, “I know perfectionism tends to cripple me rather than heal me.” Very true. For the first draft, I let my perfectionism go, but now that I’m writing the second draft… I’m wondering if I need to bring back the ol’ harsh inner critic.
The only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs or impede their efforts to obtain it. Each is the proper guardian of his own health, whether bodily or mental and spiritual John Stuart Mill […]
For a good page turner, you have to do more than a cliffhanger. Cliffhangers are our scapegoat for suspense. Avid readers catch on to that real quick. To paraphrase one of my favorite authors on suspense, Donna Tartt, “Suspense is when two people are having a conversation and there’s a bomb counting down to explode under their table.” Oh the many factors to consider… Do the characters talk about the bomb? Are they oblivious? Is one character beating around the bush about the bomb? Does the other character understand the other’s subtext? Is the bomb noticeable? Is the bomb ticking loudly or silently? Is the timer for the bomb a good amount of time or minutes away from going off? Who planted the bomb? Considering the factors needed for a suspenseful page turner is all about context. If it isn’t rich enough, the audience will assume the predictable: the bomb will go off, the characters will die and that means the characters weren’t important in the first place. In other words, lack of context makes the audience apathetic and cliches make them cynical. All interest dies. So, while I was thinking about the resolution for the first part of my novel hoping to make sure I don’t emotionally shutdown my audience, I did my best to keep it like a chess game and maintain the captivation through a series of power plays.
Do You Read To Death or Read For Sex? On Narration Style
A friend told me that there are mainly two types of readers out there: the ones who read to death and the ones who read for sex. The ones who read to death surrenders to the author’s siren call to turn the next page. They’ll gobble up a book of over 200,000 words in a matter of days, certainly less than half a week. The one who reads for sex, like myself, makes the experience last. They aren’t necessarily slow readers, but gluttons for the suspenseful moments. They might read a few chapters, then set the book down to make their own predictions about the story or daydream of what the characters would do or say if they met in person. These people may also read like professors who are wondering more about what they can learn from the author, what each character’s archetype is, how and why the story structure was presented as is rather than in a more traditional or more contemporary way. I do read and write for sex. No it’s never been a procrastination technique, but a very pleasurable learning technique that keeps me enthusiastic about my career. I don’t want to bore the ones who read to death with extraneous details and I do hope as I grow as a writer, every sentence will have such an addictive quality that it will be hard to put the book down and even harder not to break it down critically.
The magic abilities assigned to each character reflect their personality and develop overtime, but I almost bombard them with restrictions, not just for conflict, but for strategic problem solving. In the world setting of my story, everyone is a mage or a magical being and they are all part of various societies that have laws for and against particular paths of magic. There is a reigning government in place that most of the mages and magical beings respect, but there are some “outlaws”, for lack of a better term. So while I was thinking about the structure I have in place, I was also thinking about what makes a good magic battle. Combining my own imagination with Timothy’s advice, here’s what I came up with…
It doesn’t matter how old you are, fellow writer. You are in charge of your life and one of the ways you take charge is through writing, self-expression, analysis, arguments, or storytelling. You are the one who decided that writing is an essential part of your lifestyle, so why aren’t you living in a way to ensure that writing remains a priority? Beating yourself up over a rest day during an entire week of work is preventing you from living like a writer. Like I said, you’re in charge, so when you decide to overwork yourself, you’re also deciding to sabotage yourself. You do this because you’re ashamed, afraid, and guilty, but I want you to remember that when you’re in those flow moments, where you’re just inspired to write and the words just come, that is when you’re dignified, fearless, creating without regret.
It’s kind of maddening when you flesh out a good structure for a short story and you try to keep it true to its genre by keeping it SHORT and then new ideas pop up that you know will make it LONGER, but you also know that idea would be SO GOOD for the story because it ties into the theme and enhances the continuity and after that, you only HOPE that as you edit the second draft of the story and hope to have the damn thing published SOMEWHERE, all the rehashing will be worth it and no more new ideas interrupt your publishing process!