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On Writing. Fiction

On Writing. Fiction

Book Review and Commentary,  January 21, 2016

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41O3ebvsQSL._AA160_ On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King is #15 (at this time) on the Amazon Best Seller List in Reference/Writing Fiction paperback books. With over 2300 reviews (3% having 1- and 2-star reviews posted by disappointed and angry readers), I found this book to have little value in “how to” actually write, but great value in the thinking behind King’s writing processes. By reading this book, you will not learn to write effectively or how to write horror stories, but you will learn King’s perspective on how his stories emerge and what he values for his creative writing adventures.

I have over twenty writing books on my shelf—twenty-five editing books. I’m always reading and studying writing books on story, plot, characterization, themes, narrative, and the mechanics of creating stories.

So, what is writing? King says it’s telepathy. He believes that writing is the purest form of telepathy of all the arts. He advises not to “come lightly to the page.” Serious business? Absolutely. The act of narrative is a creation after all. King speaks of his Muse (and yes there are muses—believe). My own muse is unlike King’s who is a “basement guy” that inspires him. Mine is a woman and she exists outside my windows. I can’t see her but the light and the sky stream thoughts to me and without a window or a walk outside, I wonder if I can write at all without her.

It’s true that King addresses vocabulary, grammar, passive voice, nouns, verbs sentences, adverbs, description, and the mighty pace and beat of a story. Sure he recommends Strunk & White’s Elements of Style. Most writers know these basics; what is more helpful is how King speaks about the seduction and magic of writing—about letting go of the fear and self-doubt.

I love that King is more of an “organic writer” than a planner and plotter. Probably because that’s how my writing process works as well. “Stories pretty much make themselves,” King says. I agree. He prefers the “situation” of the story to flow from his intuition. “The story is the boss. Write fast to outrun the self-doubt.”

King advises against writing out plotlines, story outlines, and all that predestination. In The Secret Miracle, The Novelist’s Handbook, edited by Daniel Alarcon, Stephen King is quoted as saying he “never” outlines. Some people believe the old axiom that ‘plotting and spontaneity of real creation are not compatible.’ For organic writers this is often true.

Another book on writing is Steven James’ Story Trumps Structure. Here, Steven James echoes King’s standard for organic writing. James tells us to ditch the outline and follow the rabbit trail. “Let scenes evolve … trust the narrative force to reveal the story.” Steven James believes that using “uncertainty” is an essential ingredient if you desire to make art.

On Writing is friendly and inspiring with common sense advice. I loved King’s philosophies and creative perspectives, but there wasn’t a lot new or progressive and was rather thin on character development. A favorite writing book of mine on creating characters is David Corbett’s The Art of Character, Creating Memorable Characters for Fiction, Film, and TV.  “Without an intuitive grasp of the characters, you can all too easily fall into the trap of reducing them to simplistic automatons or “plot puppets,” acting in accordance with ideas or story necessities rather than behaving with the complexity of intention that real individuals possess.” That makes sense to me. King seems to agree with this approach when he says that he wants his characters “to do things their way.” I like that he lets go of controlling his characters to live and breathe themselves into the story.

The reason I read On Writing was because I thought there might be some insight about writing horror vs. suspense or writing horror vs. mystery. King had nothing to say on this. Author Steven James points to a difference between suspense and horror. James sees suspense as “always emotional” and makes the reader afraid to look away. “A murder is not suspense. An abduction with the threat of a murder is.” In horror, the reader is full of fear to look at the action but wants to see it (Do we really want to see this guy beheaded? Horror readers do and enjoy that fear. Interesting paradox ). A horror writer awakens the readers’ inner violence but within the safe confines of fiction.

I’m not a horror writer; my stories are supernatural suspense, ghost stories, and mysteries. And while I like the threat of murder, I don’t want to witness the bloody stabbing in gory details.

So, what did I get out of King’s On Writing? King’s prime rule is to read a lot and write a lot. Learn from the master storytellers. Not newsy advice, since most successful writers tell you to learn from the best writers and read, read, read and write, write, write. King emphasizes a writer must have razor-sharp honesty, discover your muse, and follow your intuition. Dispel self-doubt and run with your stories. Here is his most valuable point about writing in just two words: “getting happy.” I think the gift in this memoir of King’s is telling writers to discover your own true path to your stories and have fun doing it. There are no magic tricks to successful writing, horror or otherwise, but writing in itself is magic. King is famous for saying “Books are a uniquely portable magic.”

Clearly, if you as a writer are feeling the magic as you discover your stories and write them out, then your readers will too. Storytelling is an exertion of power, isn’t it? To write fiction is to allow characters to live in our psychic space. And then they live in the readers’ psychic space. Telepathy, as King describes.

I think the last word here goes to Ray Bradbury because it’s so true: “First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him!”

Zen and the Art of Writing, Essays on Creativity by Ray Bradbury is next on my to-read list and review.

 

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My favorite list of the best writing books I read:

Writing Fiction, A Guide to Narrative Craft, by Janet Burroway. All the basics of how to write: the writing process, show vs. tell, characterization, fictional atmosphere and place, story structure and plot, point of view, theme, and revision.

Story, Robert McKee

Story Trumps Structure, Steven James

The Fire in Fiction, Donald Maass

The Art of Fiction, John Gardner (I reread this book once a year, it’s that good)

Making Shapely Fiction, Jerome Stern

The Art of Character, David Corbett

Getting into Character, Brandilyn Collins

The Secret Miracle, the Novelist’s Handbook, edited by Daniel Alarcon

Becoming a Writer, Dorothea Brande

The Faith of a Writer, Life, Craft, Art, Joyce Carole Oates

If You Want to Write, Brenda Ueland

Reading like a Writer, Francine Prose

Elements of Style, Strunk & White

 

Best Editing Books for Writers:

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Renni Browne & Dave King

A Dash of Style, Noah Lukeman

The Grammar Bible, Michael Strumpf & Auriel Douglas

Line by Line, Claire Kehrwald Cook

Chicago Manual of Style

The Careful Writer, Theodore M. Bernstein

 

Here’s the famous Rolling Stone Interview with King.

Ten Writing Tips from Stephen King, from MentalFloss.com

StephenKingOfficialWebsite, StephenKing.com

StephenKing.com/Library

 

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Rossetti: Pia de’ Tolomei

If you have a writing or editing book you’d like to add, please feel free to comment.

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Filed under Book Reviews, fiction, horror, horror blogs, literature, novels, Reading Fiction, short stories, short story blogs, Stephen King, tales of terror

Stephen King Fans. Rankings From the Worst to the First

Wednesday, January 13, 2015

Many here at Reading Fiction Tales of Terror Blog are Stephen King fans, so I’m sharing a blog post from Horror Novel Reviews.  How would you rank his novels from the worst to the first, 50 to No. 1? Take a look at this fun video (6 minutes) on Horror Novel Reviews.

For myself, I’m not an avid King fan. To be honest, I think he overwrites his prose, but his early novels were far better structured than his later ones. I will say that King is certainly a master at creating stories with high suspense. I did love The Shining and The Dead Zone.

At the moment I am reading King’s On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft. Watch for my book review next month.

For now, hop over to Horror Novel Reviews blog at this link below, and see if you agree which novels are the top five.

http://horrornovelreviews.com/2016/01/13/ranking-every-stephen-king-novel-from-worst-to-first/

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Filed under crime thrillers, fiction, ghost stories, horror, horror blogs, literature, novels, Reading Fiction, short stories, short story blogs, Stephen King, supernatural, supernatural thrillers, tales of terror

Thriller of the Day at Kindle Nation Daily: Night Sea Journey

Thriller of the Day

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

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NIGHT SEA JOURNEY, A TALE OF THE SUPERNATURAL

Do dreams have the power to live beyond nightscapes? Night Sea Journey ia a fast-paced read with the mystery of angels and demons, psychological and spiritual twists, romance, and murder.

An Eric Hoffer Book Award Winner, 2015  

Night Sea Journey on KND:   http://kindlenationdaily.com/2015/12/157588/

Paula Cappa on BookGorilla.com: http://www.bookgorilla.com/author/B009P2HZ7A/paula-cappa

 

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U.S. REVIEW OF BOOKS “Stunning and absorbing plot on par with—if not better than—a Dan Brown novel. Truly an outstanding read.”

SAN FRANCISCO BOOK REVIEW ★★★★★ ” Readers will be taken on a continual thrill ride, impossible to put down, a fast-paced thriller.” 

★★★★★ Grady Harp, Amazon Hall of Fame Reviewer. “A talent that will draw even those who are not keen on supernatural stories into her fold.”

 

Trade paperback published by Crispin Books, Milwaukee, WI.

Amazon.com

Amazon UK 

Barnes & Noble.com

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In the Shadows of the Guillotine, a Love Story

Solange: Dr. Ledru’s Story of  The  Reign of  Terror by Alexandre Dumas (1850s)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror,  July 23, 2013

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During the Reign of Terror, did you know that a skilled guillotine executioner could behead two victims per minute? The death toll ran in the tens of thousands. It was thought at the time that the victim would likely only feel a quick cold chill tingling rapidly at the base of the head, as the blade struck the flesh. And what if the executioner was not so skilled? I’ve got a wicked stabbing at my neck just thinking of it!

Some of Alexandre Dumas’ fans might know that this author was more than just a little interested in beheadings of the era. Dumas often speculated if a guillotined person suffered pain during the beheading, so of course these beheading themes runs through some of his stories.

Solange reflects this theme but is actually a little love story. However, don’t underestimate the horrific executions  in this particular fiction  because it carries a riveting reality.

We are in the streets of terrified France, at Rue Tournon, when a beautiful young woman called Solange is about to be hauled off to the guard house for not having a pass (which surely meant death on the scaffold).

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Pale and trembling, “with feet like a child’s,” Solange is saved by M. Albert, our gallant and generous narrator. Albert is a physician/scientist investigating beheadings by examining and testing the severed heads and trunks of the victims. A gruesome task beyond the imagination. Albert is of high devotion to his work. He soldiers on to his goal of convincing the lawmakers that capital punishment must be abolished “for the good of humanity.”

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To this effort, Albert acts not only to save Solange from the guardhouse and guillotine, but he falls wildly in love with this very pretty young thing.  With the revolutionary police ever present and aggressive, escape or hiding was Solange’s only hope.

While their tears mix with their kisses for Solange and Albert, the plot takes a wicked turn that you may or may not find predictable. I was nearly breathless at the end expecting the worst for these two lovers. And the worse was certainly fulfilled for Dumas doesn’t spare you a moment’s relief. This haunting ending will not fade away easily and is truly a tale of terror and woe.

Read it at OnLine Literature.

http://www.online-literature.com/dumas/3175/

Are you a Dumas fan? What other stories/novels would you like to suggest here for the readers?

Maybe, if you are up for more about beheadings, you might like Horror at Fontenay. I couldn’t find the text as an online read but the novel is on Amazon or likely at your local library.

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http://www.hellhorror.com/links/

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The Supernatural Powers in Dreams: Psychic Reality

Greetings:

Have you ever had a ghostly cold dream? A nightmare with the chill of death in it? Carl Jung (20th century Swiss psychiatrist) says a dream speaks for itself.  Are nightmares telling us something important? Jung believed there is a psychic reality to dreams. He even went so far as to say they carry a supra-luminous level of frequency that exceeds the speed of light. That in itself is frightening.

As dreamers pass into this passage of sleep, they might feel like a heavy dark spot spreading out. This is akin to the fear of losing consciousness. And this fear is so great that—rather than become unconscious—we dream.  We create images and action, stories, to maintain our identity. These are the thoughts of Dr. Laz Merlyn, psychiatrist, in Night Sea Journey, A Tale of the Supernatural. A novel about nightmares, dreaming, and a supra-luminous frequency.

Laz Merlyn is a Jungian therapist. He sees a dream as a dance of alternate energy, an event that is actually a psychic reality taking action in our lives.

Let’s say you dream of a bird. A phoenix, lush with grand feathers and with wings pushing out. Merlyn will tell you that a phoenix, in Jungian theories, symbolizes the human spleen that protects against infection and cleanses the blood. Maybe in normal life, some bacteria or person or event is poised to attack you in some way. Merlyn will tell you that when you wake up, this phoenix will linger over your life. The psychic energy of the phoenix is present, day upon day, redirecting you, watching over. Are you becoming more guarded as the days pass? Suspicious? Cautious? For some people, this frequency goes unnoticed. For others who are alert to it, they are deeply affected.

But, what if you dream of a raging firehawk? A shadowy winged creature with a flaming chest, shedding ash, who captures you in your sleep and drags you into the bottom of an icy sea. This nightmare comes again and again and each night, you go deeper beneath the choking waves as the firehawk grows more fierce. What would Dr. Laz Merlyn say about that?

Merlyn isn’t the cliché handsome type. He has a rather hard face but with kind eyes. His patients find his voice to be tender, like a stream of blue smoke streaming through the air. He might tell you “The flow of psychic dream energy has the power to move inward and outward. In this dream of the firehawk, there is a negative psychic frequency. Likely caused by intense night terrors. What are you afraid of?”

Kip Livingston, an artist who lives alone on Horn Island in a house named Abasteron, dreams of this firehawk. She paints her dreams, bringing them into the physical world for all to see. With Merlyn, Kip explores her fears and the raging firehawk in the opening chapters of Night Sea Journey, A Tale of the Supernatural.

But the exploration takes a turn, as the firehawk reveals it doesn’t just live in Kip’s dreams.

On Amazon.com,  LOOK INSIDE to read the opening of Night Sea Journey.  Meet Kip Livingston and experience her dreaming firehawk inside Abasteron House on Horn Island.  Price: $2.99. Ebook.

http://www.amazon.com/Night-Journey-Tale-Supernatural-ebook/dp/B009ONWSC2/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1350058974&sr=1-1&keywords=Night+Sea+Journey+paula+cappa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under dark fantasy, Dreams, fiction, Ghosts, horror, mysteries, Nightmares, novels, paranormal, Psychic energy, soft horror, supernatural, suspense

Psycho’s Author Robert Bloch

Greetings:

I just read The Hungry House by Robert Bloch.  Bloch is primarily a crime and horror writer (most know him from his novel Psycho, adapted by Hitchcock). The prose is a little dated (I don’t mind this usually), but the story is still very disturbing.

Hungry House is a soft horror short story about a married couple who buy a house.

… “Then it came. Perhaps it was there all the time; waiting for them in the house.”

One of the first owners of the house was Laura Bellman, an exceptional young beauty– mirrors in every room. Ahh, vanity! Then Laura grows old, ugly, and afraid.  But mirrors don’t lie … or do they?

. . . “She was all alone. Laura and her mirrors.”

I won’t tell you how Laura dies but after her death, the house spawns  mysterious disappearances and deaths. And the married couple who move in?

You can enjoy this little homespun mystery in The Weird, A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories  by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer on Amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/The-Weird-Compendium-Strange-ebook/dp/B006TXZD3G.

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=Night+Sea+Journey+A+Tale

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What are soft horror novels? What are quiet horror novels?

Greetings!

You may be wondering … what is “soft horror” or “quiet horror”? This subgenre isn’t new: the classic quiet horror story, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson was highly popular and is still worth a read.  My debut novel, Night Sea Journey, A Tale of the Supernatural fits this quiet horror category, now available on Amazon.com.  For those of us who prefer the lighter horror novels with less violence and more moody hauntings, more character driven stories with psychological drama,  I’ve compiled a list and will be adding to this list as the weeks go by.   Here is a short list of quiet horror  stories.

Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin (classic)
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
A Woman in Black, A Ghost Story by Susan Hill (don’t miss this movie; excellent!)
The Fall of Never by Ronald Damien Malfi
In the Night Room by Peter Straub
The Snowman’s Children by Glen Hirshberg

My search will continue to discover suspenseful  reading that can haunt and thrill us without the disturbing high violence of traditional horror novels.

*See my updated post on quiet horror posted on this site on September 13, 2013, “Quiet Horror, Still the Darling of the Horror Genre.”   Click Here.

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