10/18/18

How to Write Scary Stories / part 2: playing off of common fears


I'm going to open this post with this question:

What do you fear?


Don't focus as much on emotions with this one, but instead think of things that unsettle you.

A common trait in stories is when they play off of fears.

Normal people are secretly scared of a couple of things, and we probably all could name at least three things that slightly creep us out.

When I was younger I was terrified of dolls, people would give me dolls as gifts and I would unwrap them and start screaming. Luckily, I have passed that fear, but a lot of people still are unsettled by old dolls, but probably not to that extent. But as a writer, it is your job to take that tiny little fear and blow it up to something terrifying in your story.


Common fears for people are:

1. Glossophobia (public speaking)
2. Acrophobia (heights)
3. Entomophobia (insects)
4. Trypanophobia (needles)
5. Claustrophobia (being enclosed or trapped in small spaces)
6. 
Nyctophobia (the dark)


A lot of these fears are rational or could be made rational.

When I think about books or movies that have disturbed me, I try to find a common ground between them. They all usually have one irrational fear and then one common theme to make the story have suspension of disbelief, which we talked about last time.
For example, in I'm Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid the common themes are the fear of the unknown, confusion, and that lingering sense we sometimes get that something's not right. The story takes place in what should have been a pretty normal environment, i.e. a road trip to meet the parents of a significant other, but the unsettling feeling that something is off follows along.


 I'm Thinking of Ending Things is a psychological horror, so it relies more on feelings to scare the readers, which it pulls off well.

More horror books need to focus a bit more on the psychological aspect of their setting and plot, even if they don't fit exactly into that genre. There's just so much there.

In You by Caroline Kepnes (which, while a page-turner, is super crude, so I wouldn't recommend it. If I did, it would be with caution) the story is from the POV of the stalker, and while the stalker doesn't see it as disturbing, the readers will.

 The biggest scare of You is the realization that social media has made it so easy for a person to be stalked. I don't even have social, social media, but even on this blog I share a lot about my life even if I don't mean to, and it's really unsettling to realize that I've put a lot of me out there for someone to take advantage of *shivers*.

Another scare of You is the other realization of how easy it is for someone to justify and rationalize bad behavior.

Now, I've focused on the more psychological side of horror, but before this post ends, let's briefly think about the more bloody side of horror.

When I contemplate the best violence I have read in books, I find that the common trait is that it's used sparingly. The authors tend to rely more on the five senses more than anything.

Sight: What does your character see? The glint of a knife in a jacket? A looming shadow at their doorway? The terrified expression on a friend's face?

Smell: What does your character smell? Hair burning? Decay and fear?

Hearing: What does your character hear? The deranged laughter of a madman? The creak of old floorboards? The sound of their own breathing as they try to hide?

Taste: What does your character taste? Blood? The salty tears that are rolling down their face?

Touch: What does your character feel? Cold skin?  Damp leaves?

And that brings this small rambly series to an end!
What have you observed while reading horror?
What do you find terrifying?

Happy Writing, 

10/14/18

this post was really negative but i re-wrote it several times


I can’t write for anything, everything comes out wrong and it’s so frustrating I want to cry

I can’t do this, I’ll never finish this story. I fail as a writer, I fail at doing the thing I love most.

Am I even a writer anymore? I want to fling my laptop at a wall, why is this so hard? Why can’t I do this? Why must I fail at everything? My writing stinks. My writing is empty and uninspired.


I can and I will write and I will write well and to the best of my abilities. I will write what is on my heart and what is in my soul. Maybe one day my words will help someone or inspire them, maybe my books will be there for them like so many books were there for me. 

I am a writer, I love words, I love writing words.

I love the feeling of the keys under my fingertips, the way they clack as I type. 

I love creating worlds, characters, and problems for them to overcome. 

I am a writer, and thus, I write. 

It doesn't have to be good, it doesn't have to be #famous, it just has to be heartfelt and honest.



Sorry for the random post, I've just been in a slump when it comes to everything lately. 

Happy Writing, 

10/8/18

How to Write Scary Stories / part 1: suspension of disbelief and suspense


Hey guys, now that it's October, everything is getting ready to be spooky once again, we have the Halloween costumes going in stock in stores, the decorations, and of course all of the horror movies that will be hitting theaters.

I love October, not so much because of Halloween because my family has never really celebrated that, but because of all the horror stuff that will be coming out in the forms of movies, books, and online stories (horror lover right here! :p).

So since it's October I decided to write some posts about spooky stories. Recently I've been really thinking about this genre, I've been reading my past failures at this genre and others' past fails and have been asking myself, what truly scares readers? So here are a few of my ponderings and conclusions/theories(?)


The first thing I think makes a good scary story is Suspension of Disbelief.

Now, what is Suspension of Disbelief? Well according to Wikipedia it is:

 The term suspension of disbelief or willing suspension of disbelief has been defined as a willingness to suspend one's critical faculties and believe something surreal; the sacrifice of realism and logic for the sake of enjoyment.

This is where a lot of short horror stories fall flat.  

 I clean a church for one of my part-time jobs once a week, and while I clean I like to listen to a lot of creepypastas, which are scary short stories. 

If you have listened to or read a good amount of creepypastas, you'll know that the majority of them are complete trash, so what I do is I'll listen to one, (usually the stories are around five to fifteen minutes long each,) and then I'll take a few minutes to think about it before moving on to the next one.

Typical things I tend to ask myself after are:

Was the story good: If so, why? If not, why? 
Did it scare, disturb, or unsettle me in any way? If so, why? If not, why?

I also ask myself how the story could have scared me if it fell really flat.

Like I said, the majority of these stories aren't good, and the number one reason why (at least for me) is that they fail at the suspension of disbelief.
I tend to be a more critical person, so I don't get scared that often by horror movies or stories, but I often like to turn off that more critical part of my brain while listening to them and let myself be swept away into the story. But even without the more rational part of my brain side-eyeing these stories, I still find myself rolling my eyes.

So why do these stories fall flat when it comes to suspension of disbelief?

Here is the number one reason that these stories fell flat:

1. Too much shock value and no suspense. Gore and violence is a very scary and disturbing thing, but after a while if there's no suspense it just feels cheap.

For example, if you write a story with a serial killer in it, don't just write about the gore, write about the fear.

 Imagine how scary it would be if your friends were being found brutally murdered one by one. Often times in these stories I see the author focusing more on describing the gore and trying to shock me into being scared instead of focusing on the fear and the horror of situations like this.

Honestly what really gets me when it comes to horror is the more psychological level of it, and I wish more authors focused on that instead of just cheap scares.







You want your readers to relate to your story in some way, whether it is through your settings, characters, or monster.

 A story I think actually does this well is Princess by Anonymous, which you can read for free here or listen to here.  

This story is a creepypasta I thought was pulled off well, and it's about an evil dog. 

To summarize this story quickly:

There's a family that are dog lovers, a dog of theirs has puppies and one of those puppies is off from the very beginning. Animals start being found dead around their yard with no marks, and then one of their most beloved dogs die. 

They soon realize that Princess (the dog's name) is the murder, who is calculated enough to kill by strangling her prey. 

etc. etc.

This story was good, I enjoyed it, and I probably would have found it scary if I haven't desensitized myself so much over the years. 

Here's why I think this story was as good as it was:

-It was believable and wasn't over the top, a dog being evil is something that feels like a possibility. 

-It built up suspense, in this story you have the characters sensing something is wrong with their dog from the beginning and then events start piling up and getting worse and worse, so you end up on the edge of your seat thinking, "what's next?







Suspense is often that "off" feeling in your story. In horror movies, they often place a few jump scares, in the beginning, to foreshadow evil to come.

Character A hears a noise and goes to investigate, floors creak, shadows watch, suspenseful music builds as Character A carefully follows to where they hear the noise... 

Character A pauses and listens, silence. 

BAM! Character B jumps out at A shouting, "Boo!"

This is a common scene in tons of horror movies because it gets people's heart racing, it's also a way to give off that creepy vibe that one needs.

It's also why tons of movies and books take place in creepy atmospheres such as woods, because it is easy to give that "off" feeling by creepy shadows, looming trees, the silence of birds, and isolation.
Another common scene is when character A will see something out of the corner of their eye, but when they turn everything is normal.

As cliche as those two are, it's a way to convey that something isn't right.

Now, if you don't have a good setting for this vibe or if you don't want to risk being cliche, there is another element that I feel is often forgotten in the horror genre:

Gut feeling. 

People aren't totally stupid, we can often sense when something is wrong. Feeling sick to the stomach, goosebumps, and hair rising on one's neck are common ways to show that your character is uneasy.

Remember: In horror stories setting the scene and the vibe is important as well as conveying your character's emotions.
There will be a part two for this post because it was so long.
What do you think about scary stories? 
How do you build uneasiness? 

Happy Writing, 

Since this post was so long, I split it up into two parts, so stay tuned!

10/3/18

The Bibliophile Sweater Tag (AGAIN)!!!


I did this post last autumn but I wanted to re-do it this year because my book choices have changed (obviously) and I just love sweaters!! 



Last time I did this I didn't actually have a sweater at all (one doesn't really need one in Texas, lol), I just liked the idea of them, but I got one! And I ADORE it, although not sure if I'll get a chance to rock it during the fall months, so perhaps it's more of a winter sweater instead of an autumn. 😜





^^I'm a dork, I know. 

Anyways, let's get into it!
Fuzzy Sweater (A book that is the epitome of comfort):

Small Damages

This book is the sweetest thing, I swear. <3

Striped Sweater (A book you devoured every line of):


Finding Felicity

Another amazing and sweet read!

Ugly Christmas Sweater (A book with a weird cover):

Cheating for the Chicken Man

Not exactly /that/ weird, but the story was so cute and this had the potential to be a much cuter cover. 

Cashmere Sweater (The most expensive book you bought):


$15.99, I'm cheap when it comes to buying books. :P

Hoodie (Favorite classic book):

The Phantom of the Opera

This one totally counts as a classic and I love it.

Cardigan (A book you bought on impulse):

None! I'm a cheapskate/money saver, so I calculate most of my buys out before buying them.
       
Turtleneck Sweater (A book from your childhood):

Harriet the Spy (Harriet the Spy #1)

I related to Harriet so much!! 

Homemade Knitted Sweater (a Book that is Indie published):

Dissemble (Allegiance #2)

All of the books in this series by Sarah, but this one was my favorite. ;)

V-Neck Sweater (A book that did not meet your expectations):

Tess of the Road (Tess of the Road, #1)

It was okay??? Just very mehish for me.

Argyle Sweater (Book with a unique format):

All of Nick Lakes books! I love how he doesn't follow typical formatting or writing style rules.

Polka-Dot Sweater (A book with well-rounded characters):

The Blue Castle

This book is a must-read, it's so good!
 I tag anyone who likes sweaters, autumn, or both!

Have you read any of these books?
What books would you choose?


Happy Writing,

10/1/18

Why I ADORE The Mysterious Woods of Whistle Root by Christopher Pennell


I drag books a lot, so today I thought I would give some love to a book I really adore, The Mysterious Woods of Whistle Root.

**All photos were taken by meeee! (but only one is good, because I only took an effort to take an aesthetic photo once for this book and it was before I planned this post, and now I'm too lazy to set everything up).**

There are a lot of reasons why I love this book but let's go through the highlights.

1. It was a favorite (and still is tbh) when I was younger, thus making it a SUPER nostalgic read!

You know that cozy happy feeling you get when you re-read a story your parents use to read to you? Or when you get a whiff of that one scent that brings back memories of baking cookies and running through your backyard? THIS BOOK DOES THAT TO ME. 

2. It's just a super cozy read in general??

It's middle-grade so maybe that's why the writing is so charming but I love it so much. 

3. I relate to Carly so much. 

Maybe it's because she's a short eleven-year-old girl with curly hair, who is an insomniac and sleeps in bookshelves to avoid school.

And at the time as a short eleven-year-old girl with curly hair who was a night owl and had problems going to sleep (still do!) and who wished she could fit herself comfortably at the bottom of a bookshelf, Carly was pretty amazing. 

4. The amazing drawings.



I LOVE drawings, we need more in young adult books, they shouldn't just be for middle grade and below!! I AM A FIVE YEAR OLD AT HEART, Y'ALL.*

*Actually, am I? Sometimes I still feel five but other times I feel really old and worn out, occasionally I actually feel like a normal teen. So idk. ¯\_()_/¯

 5. The whole theme/vibe/concept of the book.

Dancing owls? Musical rats? Vegetables on roofs? Monsters? Platonic friendships? Walking on the wind? A lovable mc?

COUNT ME IN, FRIEND! 

6. Musical rats.

I AM HERE FOR MUSIC PLAYING MICE + RATS, AND TINY RAT VILLAGES IN THE WOODS. ALSO, LEWIS IS ADORABLE.

7. The whole book is just this amazing adventure and it's so fun.

Reading this is a blast, it feels like a long walk through the woods at night with your friends and a flashlight, classic. Exciting.

8. The chapter names!!



They're so cute and intriguing !!!

And yes,^ that is the photo that I actually took time to take and didn't just quickly snap in bad night lighting. :P

Have you read this book?
What are the childhood favorites that you can't let go?

Happy Writing,

9/26/18

School, Teenage Angst, and Nerves // END OF THE MONTH WRAP-UP


Another month has passed us by!!!!!


I am so behind on everything, my reading challenge is failing almost as much as my grades... oops. (jk. my grades are okay, I'm just a perfectionist who beats myself up over nothing, lololol).


HOWEVER, I am still getting into the swing of school but it's getting better.

I'm currently learning about Lobotomy and Dr. Freeman for Psychology, and although it has been sickening, it's been interesting (in a horrifying way). I've been learning a lot.

 Dr. Freeman filmed most of his procedures on his patiences (victims, really), so we watched them in class and it upset pretty much all of my classmates and I, but it was good for us and has started a good discussion. 



I am so ready for fall weather!!! GIMME. Also, homecoming is on October 6th and I am so excited !! (But a bit nervous). I'm going with a group of friends.


I feel happier this month, I mean, I've had my bad days where I feel really bad, but for the most part being around people has been good for me.

 I've also been trying to cut off some of the more toxic people in my life, not because they're bad people persay, they're just bad for me personally. So, I'm avoiding them as much as I can without being rude or obvious, and as a result, I feel so much better.



As for books, I read very few that I sort of liked, but here they are:


A Monster Calls was a re-read, but it is still so amazing.


I've also been working on getting back into art.

Music I liked this month:










I realize this post was really short, and although a lot did happen this month it's hard to put it into words. I've been going through a lot of emotions as I get back into the swing of things, but the important thing to note is that I am in a good headspace as of now. I'll be okay. 

How was your month? 

Happy Writing,

What's Hot This Month: