Posted in a bit of seriousness, dark fantasy, fantasy, horror, humor & fun, Muse, Reading, writers, Writing and Poetry

There’s Trees Out There, But What Else?


Tolkien's Cover Designs for the First Edition ...
Tolkien’s Cover Designs for the First Edition of The Lord of the Rings (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s Trees Out There, But What Else?

Traci Kenworth

 

Sometimes it’s hard to decide what should be in your stories. A hidden brook? An enchanted forest? Elves? All can be fun and yet, just as discouraging. You don’t quite want to bring someone else’s tales to life. You want different. Unique. Where to begin? Listen to your characters. Is there a new twist you can put on giants or dwarfs? Maybe enslaving one or the other to a master who becomes a threat to both kinds? Someone who intends to use the populations to control the world? The possibilities are endless.

I love the LOTR world as much as anyone, but I want to make my take on the beings within unique. Thus, one of my monsters has hobbit feet. Hairy, bare, no-shoes-here ones. Although, from the rest of the creature’s make-up, you’d find a hard time finding anything cute about them. There meant to show the flaw in the design of the monster being able to assimilate itself into the human world.

I started out with small plans for my story background, but it grew more complicated, more complex along the way, until I had a world I love to explore. A world hidden among our own, with principles older than time. I’ve created a people who shouldn’t exist, but through our need for them, do. They are the guardians, the last protectors of mankind. Bursting out of the shadows, they save us from the evil that hangs onto the edges of society. Yet, they don’t want to be our saviors, but our teachers, to bring us back to what matters in our hearts.

I’m fascinated by their village, how it exists, who they are, what they mean to us. I know monsters and magical beings don’t usually mix in the same stories, but in my writing, they do. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m always excited to see just over the next hill, behind that Spruce tree, into the valley below. Magic exists if we wish to see it around us. I hope to bring you all along on those journeys.

Posted in a bit of seriousness, dark fantasy, fantasy, horror, Reading, Writing and Poetry

Finding My Way between Genres


Fantasy Faire 2009
Fantasy Faire 2009 (Photo credit: Monyokararan.)

 

Finding My Way between Genres

 

Traci Kenworth

 

 

 

I know I’ve said I write scary before, but it occurred to me recently that I also bring in the whole world-building of fantasy as well. I find myself teetering between genres. My stories definitely have all the horror elements but the world is steeped in the fantasy settings I grew up on. It’s because of this that I’m no longer going to focus solely on horror on my blog but add in fantasy as well. Call it my salute to LOTR.

 

I enjoy all the details of fantasy: the creatures, the people, the cultures, the magic, on and on. I was in heaven when I attended a Medieval festival a few years back. It was like stepping between the pages of one of my beloved author’s books. So, I’m going to start visiting topics on another genre I love.

 

I don’t know quite how the genres ended up mixing together for me. It’s taken me quite a while. I realized what I have isn’t strictly horror but a blend of the two. I’ve invited giants, ghosts, and the undead into my world. Why restrict myself to one element when I can discuss so much more? So from now on, I write scary with a bite of dark fantasy.

 

Posted in a bit of seriousness, humor & fun, Muse, Reading, writers, Writing and Poetry

Relationships in Horror


The Sandman was advertised as "a horror-e...
The Sandman was advertised as “a horror-edged fantasy set in the DC Universe” in most of DC’s comics dated “Holiday 1988,” an extra issue tying in with the Invasion! crossover, which was the last to involve pre-Vertigo characters such as Swamp Thing, Black Orchid, Animal Man, Doom Patrol, and Shade, the Changing Man, save for Worlds’ End’s loose connection to Zero Hour: Crisis in Time. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Relationships are Key to Horror

Traci Kenworth

 

For me, when writing horror, the relationships are the key. The ones between your characters and, most importantly, the reader. Because if the reader doesn’t care what happens to them, then the book’s just going to be tossed aside or deteriorate on the shelves. So how do we set off getting the reader to feel empathy for the people in our story world? We show them aspects of themselves in our fictional creations. The friendly, well-meaning neighbor who not everyone appreciates until the day something horrible happens near where you live. They’re always observant, always into what’s happening in the neighborhood. You dismiss them out of hand on a regular day. Until a zombie appears and they become you and your family’s best bet to escape the Apocalypse.

The disgruntled grandpa, no one pays much attention to anymore. His crazy ways are just not appealing—until when the count goes down and your life’s on the line and he ends up saving it. What about the bad example teenager no one understands, who ends up being your savior when the demons/vamps come out at night? The woman tortured and left by the roadside who triumphs over her abuser in the end? We read about these personalities because we’re hooked by a trait of theirs, with which we can identify. Who hasn’t felt out of place at a fancy party? Tongue-tied in a foreign area/country? A bit crazed when cut off on the roadway? Those are pieces we may not like to agree we identify with, but they’re there still.

We develop our characters for readers to both love, tolerate, or downright hate. Every emotion becomes important, a chance to communicate with the reader. When our heroine feels ruined by the loss of her home, we understand that. When a young boy wants to take an adventure and escape “everyday life” we want to know why, who he’s with, and why that relationship is important to the story. So what are some of the ways you use the familiarity in your own selves in writing to pull the reader in and “show” them that we all make-up a puzzle that once together, becomes our character/s?

Posted in a bit of seriousness, Reading, Writing and Poetry

Scary…to me


Combat Gear
Combat Gear (Photo credit: John Starfire)

Scary…to Me

Traci Kenworth

 

I considered many ways to write this blog but I couldn’t quite pinpoint what I wanted to say. We can define horror in many ways: evil, savage, beastly, to name a few. The fact of the matter is, the types are endless. When I write scary stories, it’s not to invite anyone over to the dark side, or gross someone out so that they lose their lunch. I’m interested in what scares you and me and finding a way to combat those fears. I can think of a lot in this world that terrifies me: the loss of freedom, safety, and loved ones. I’m horrified at some of the real life events that happen. In my stories, I want the reader to find hope, a reason to go on when everything is numb, and quite simply, when there are no words.

My heroes and heroines aren’t perfect. They have flaws just like you and me. They love, hate, and sometimes struggle to forgive. Life is difficult for us and fictional characters. I wish that weren’t true in our case but I’m glad it is in theirs because it forces our story people to come up higher. They find the strength, hope, and courage. With everything in them, they fight to save those they love. Sometimes they have to learn to let go too. Bitterness, anger, hatred, these can crush a person. It’s only when they overcome this darkness the light shines into the cave for them and all the bats rush outside. So, I suppose you could say, I like to bring my characters back from the brink of death, just to show them, it’s possible.

Over and over, we hear that those that do something horrible showed few signs of what they were capable of here on this Earth. In fiction, I sometimes smudge those gray areas as well. Villains love their wives, pets, even their dolls. They seem like us and yet, there is a pocket of pure evil within them that we can’t begin to understand. It forces us to confront them, ourselves, in an attempt to blot them from existence. We don’t want to see the cannibal living among us, the abuser, or the monster in the shadows. Somehow, we think if we don’t look, they aren’t there. Horror fiction to me, exposes that under seam of life, that certain nasty we want to ignore. It drives the protagonist to stab that vampire through the heart with a stake. Perhaps this same protagonist is attempting to atone for what he is himself: a bystander who takes no action against a savage act, until someone he cares about is harmed.

I don’t want to get all morally superior here and determine what is and isn’t good horror. There is certainly material out there that I find as objectionable as the next. But this is about what I write and why. Sometimes it’s because I’ve been the one in hiding, running for my life. Others, it’s because I want to show to that young girl or boy or even older reader, there is a future, a bright one, and you can triumph over evil. It’s not easy. But someday, someone will take your hand and lead you into the daylight. That’s why I write scary. So that, by doing so, I can shatter the demons around us.

Posted in a bit of seriousness, humor & fun, Muse, writers, Writing and Poetry

Update Feb. 7, 2013


English: Street scenes of fall
English: Street scenes of fall (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Update Feb. 7, 2013

 

Traci Kenworth

 

 

 

I’m still in the editing/rewriting stages on my wip. Although it may not seem like I’m making much progress (it feels like it’s been forever doing this), truly I am. My story has undergone such changes that will make it better, stronger, hopefully more fulfilling for the readers and that’s what matters. I know each time we query, we need to present the best story possible for us at that time. It takes a lot to get it to that “ready” stage. I’ve rushed in the past and found myself putting forth less-than-perfect entries and that’s not good. We want to earn an agent’s notice for writing well, not by something we should stuff inside our desk drawer as “lessons learned.”

 

What I’ve been working on with the book are the creatures. There’s different kinds and within one group, different levels. It’s tough to come up with something totally “unique” but I’ve tried to with mine. I’ve thought of the things that scare me and built on that in the development. What scares the characters also went into the consideration. It has to be a combination of both, I think, to get the “monster” to be at its worst.

 

You know from the last time, one of my characters went from being a brunette to a blonde. Well, I took a look at the rest of my cast as well and fixed those I needed to. Her brother is still dark-brown-haired but I’ve added glasses for him and more of a “stiffer” personality to accord his lawyer aspirations. His girlfriend is still a redhead, but more of a tomboy which will allow some conflict between them. Not to mention, the brother is torn between all that he’s learning about the legal world and the fact that his family is on the run because of his sister’s supernatural abilities.

 

The excitement is brewing is regards to this project and I’m so thankful. It really helps to love your story, your characters, what you’re doing. When you’re miserable, it shows. Right now, I’ve added another two chapters with the creatures pursuing my characters. I wanted to show not only their terror but how close to losing everything they love they are. I think that’s a key to horror. They have to not only be afraid of their lives ending, but the lives of those around them as well. When they care about someone other than themselves, it keeps the reader spell-bound. It shows what kind of character they really are: others come first.

 

I hope your own writing/editing is coming along well. Happy writing.

 

Posted in a bit of seriousness, humor & fun, Muse, writers, Writing and Poetry

Jan. 24, 2013 Update


Garden flower
Garden flower (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Jan, 24, 2013: Update

 

Traci Kenworth

 

 

 

Editing is going well. I tend to pick at things writing-wise and it takes me longer than getting that first draft written which, I suppose, is as it should be. Editing takes times. It’s about looking at things and making sure you have everything where the camera-in-your-mind wants it. There is usually some pruning (whether it’s taking out a character/s, changing a situation, rewriting a scene) and some juggling (switching everything around to improve the flow), not to mention tweaking of material to get it just right.

 

In the past few weeks, I’ve concentrated on the people in my story more than the events happening around them. I’ve brought them front-and-center and shown how life around them bulldozes them or makes them stronger. You see, I’m learning the story is about the character with the problem not the problem itself. Now, there are writers out there who focus on the plot and not the protagonist and they’re skilled at the twists and turns, but for me, I “love” the story that brings me into the world of the hero/heroine and shows me who they are and how they react to the situation they’re put in.

 

I was having a particular problem with one heroine who I couldn’t get to “care” about the situation she was in. Turns out, I had the “wrong” character in mind for her and had to crush her and begin from scratch again. Her looks changed from a brunette to a blonde and I “cast” a different actress to play her. Instantly, the world opened up around her from my ability to see   how she’d face things, to who she was as a person. Sometimes it takes a bit of shaking up to get a character just right. Now, I know not everyone pictures particular actors for a part, but I feel it helps me if I can zoom in on their facial expressions, how they walk and talk, how they encounter a problem and persevere, or not.

 

Other unexpected things happened. My hero found out some things about the people in his life that he wish he hadn’t which took him to a darker place. Grief does that. As in reality, some people disappoint us, while others surprise us. It all works together as a whole, to enrich our story. Sometimes I think that’s why certain ones take us longer to write: we haven’t grasped the concept of what they’re all about yet. So, yeah, my work’s not done yet, I still have to continue on with the tweaking, doing all the things mentioned beforehand, and seam things back together but I’m happy and that’s what it’s all about: bringing your story to fruition. Good luck out there with yours.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Update on Progress


 

Flower & pot
Flower & pot (Photo credit: Vijay Sonar)

 

Progress Update

 

Traci Kenworth

 

 

 

Things are going well so far. I’m digging deeper and deeper into edits and the changes

 

and questions that have come up. So far, I’ve changed one character’s gender and ethnicity, tweaked the background, and considered whether to leave-in or take-out the brief backstories I gave my two main characters. All the while, reading, and discovering that things are not as bad as they could be at this point. I like the story. It needs chipped away at still to become what it will, but it’s off to a good start.

 

Lest you should wonder if I’ve read the whole thing in its entirety yet, the answer is no.

 

I’m only on chapter four and still jotting down notes. Most of what I’m doing at this point, is absorbing what needs to be done to make things better. I’m enjoying myself though. Yes, that’s right. I used the right word. Lol. Editing is a tool used to shape the possibilities. A writer should learn to like the process if not love it because it helps to bring everything into focus for the story.

 

Good luck with your own stories, I’ll update from time to time as I go along.

 

Posted in Reading, writers, Writing and Poetry

Book Review: How to Write a Damn Good Novel II by James N. Frey


 

Cover of "How to Write a Damn Good Novel:...
Cover via Amazon

 

Book Review: How To Write A Damn Good Novel II by James N. Frey

 

Traci Kenworth

 

 

 

St. Martin’s Press 1994                                     `Fiction

 

 

 

I’m going to take a quote from the book: “This book covers advanced techniques such as how to make your characters not just dynamic but memorable, how to heighten the reader’s sympathy and identification with the characters, how to intensify suspense to keep the reader gripped, how to make a contract with the reader and stick to it, how to avoid the fiction writer’s seven deadly mistakes, and perhaps most important of all, how to write with passion.”

 

There is so much packed into this craft book that it’s heavenly to read. I’ve had this one sitting on my shelves for years and as part of my effort to re-read craft books and focus on the ones that truly helped me, this is one of them. James N. Frey has a no-nonsense approach to writing that I’m sure worked well during his lectures. This book will help anyone who wants to write fiction or non-fiction, genre or literary.

 

He took a winding path to become the published writer that he is and this is something I can identify with as I set aside my own writing during marriage and the early years of raising two children by myself before returning to it full force six years ago. Passion is indeed something I think that is vital to the business if you’re to succeed. It gets you through those dark times, the rejections, the absolute heartbreak you face. I believe it’s what motivates those of us who keep at it, to keep trying.

 

This book stresses the importance of communication with your reader. We need to gain their trust, their confidence, and in the end, tell them a story that resonates with them. Without our audience, we have no future. This doesn’t mean you don’t write the story you envision, rather that you enhance it so that they enjoy it as well as you do. There will always be critics, of course, but it is the reader who we must listen to and share our journey with whether that path includes hobbits or zombies. Readers want to care about your characters, cheer them on, cry at their losses, and in the end, part with them as friends.

 

 

 

Posted in a bit of seriousness, humor & fun, writers, Writing and Poetry

The Monster Show


 

Promotional photo of Boris Karloff from The Br...
Promotional photo of Boris Karloff from The Bride of Frankenstein as Frankenstein’s monster. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The Monster Show

 

Traci Kenworth

 

 

 

Who didn’t go to a monster show at some point growing up? I remember sitting on the couch every Saturday when I was twelve or thirteen watching the local channel’s Scream Theater showing. Frankenstein’s monster, the she-devil, and BIG bugs reigned. Armed with a bowl of buttered popcorn (oh, those innocent, before I became weight-conscious days), and a group of friends, it was something I looked forward to all week. Perhaps because of these screenings, horror often topped the list of my readings growing up.

 

I loved to root for the characters, praying fervently that each would make it. I think this weekly ritual was the stepping-stone to my writing. It brought an eagerness to tell stories, even those heroes/heroines that didn’t make it, of my own. Writing just clicked with me. I could explore new worlds, the human psyche, and wrong decisions. I found myself at peace when I got it all down on paper (the way it was done before computers came along). At least, into my household. I didn’t own my first computer until I was married.

 

When divorce hit me, my next computer helped bring me through the rough patches, and pointed me back down the road toward writing. It wasn’t easy, raising two kids by myself, buying a house, and paying the bills, but I did it. I’m still doing it. I watch very little of what’s called horror these days (mostly because it’s become so much of a gore-fest), but when I do, I’m reminded of those Saturdays spent cringing from this week’s monster.

 

Oh, I have my favorite shows still to keep me tuned in. From Supernatural to The Vampire Diaries, I’ve learned that it truly is the protagonist/s in trouble that capture my attention and less the nameless ones that flee the masked murderer in the forest that capture my efforts. I like fear to count for something, I guess. When I get to know a character, their family, their hopes, their dreams, I want to see them survive. It’s what I try and do in my own stories. Capture the essence of who they are, where they’re going, and how they’re going to come through things. In short, I want people attached to my stories, not a body count.

 

All this has helped me make some recent cut-backs in my own work. I, too, went for the high amount of corpses versus the character, but I came to realize: less is more. If you want your reader to care about what’s happening, give them heroes/heroines to root for not walk-ons who are just there to get cut up by some psycho. It’s the story that counts, the truth behind what is happening, it’s the meat on the bones.

 

Yes, those Monster shows educated me on what’s important: the survivors. If you’re having trouble in your work-in-progress, it may mean that you need to step back and look at the people in your story. Are they fully-rounded? Do we care about them? Or is the boogeyman the main character? Readers want to read about people. What makes them tick, how they survived a day in hell, and what their future may look like. Concentrate on the protagonist/s and the curtain on your show will continue to go up every time.

 

Posted in a bit of seriousness, humor & fun, Muse, writers, Writing and Poetry

Writing in the Dark


Writing in the Dark

Traci Kenworth

 

I used to write religiously with an outline as I’ve said on here before but lately, I’ve been “writing in the dark” so to speak. Which is to say, I’ve thrown out my outline with my current project and what I’ve begun to do is to take each chap as one/or several long scenes and jot down notes before writing the chapter. Then I proceed to the next chapter and start the process over again. I’ve discovered a freedom in this type of writing and it’s really opened up the creative doors for me.

Part of why I’ve down so is reading several Stephen King interviews as well as going back over his The Stephen King Companion. He’s admitted he isn’t one for knowing exactly how a story is going to go, but with his writing, “finds what he needs, when he needs it.” I’m paraphrasing here, these aren’t his exact words, but I’ve found this to be true when it comes to my own writing. See, I was having a hard time getting enthused about a wip when I knew what was going to happen down to the ending. Writing this way lately, has multiplied the possibilities.

I’ve found new life in my story, my cps are enthusiastic about it, and it’s turning out to be one of the most complex stories I’ve written. So, it just goes to show, sometimes if you throw all the rules out, you find the will to go on, and what’s more, you’ll soar in your efforts. How about you? Are you an outliner or a pantser or a little of both? Any tips on how to do writing your way that you think might help others?