Nothing this week.
Is it better to reveal the monster in the beginning all at once or to show glimpses as you go along? I prefer doing the snaps, the flashes that make the characters wonder: what’s out there? To tease the reader with your monster leads to a build-up that you must pay off in the end, each time the monster enters, you show a bit more than before. The teeth. The claws. The horrible, stinky breath. Each reveal getting a little closer and in-your-face. That’s how you build suspense, that’s how you make your reader gasp when the reveal happens.
When you go all out in the beginning, there’s no mystery, nothing to make the terror in your heart grow. Most horror writers know this and stick to this pattern. You don’t show the thing in the basement in scene one, but make the reader hear it, smell it, imagine it in their minds before you bring it on stage. It ups the ante, so to speak. So when, at last, that door opens and the thing creeps up behind the hero or heroine, we anticipate/shrink in fear/scream at what they see when they turn around.
What do you think? Show things up front, or take it slow?
My hand closed on the curtain leading to the stage. This was it. The big moment. Before I’d been a part of the audience, this time, the devue had come for me. At fourteen, I’d longed for the year I’d be chosen. My chance to escape from this nightmarish world. Death would be welcome, a gift from being a food for one of the hellish creatures, who roamed the American Republic. I shivered as a shove came from behind and literally tripped onto the theater floor.
A woman, most likely a pet of the Society that ran these auditions, dressed in an all-black costume that looked like something out of a long-ago, whispered fairytale. I’d been a first-grader when the third world war struck, two years later, the monsters had attacked. Now the Society ran the 1/3 of the country not governed by the enemy factions. Slowly, they were working their way into the military areas as well.
I could hear the children in the cages below, begging, pleading to be me. I’d been in their shoes many a time. First when I watched my Momma and then my Daddy take that chair, draw their chance at a lottery to be free. No more feeding pigs to an army of darkness. I’d gazed at their broken, weary bodies and wished I were them. To have it all end. I couldn’t stand the sucking, the slurping, or the chewing. Most of all, looking into a face so—human—it was eerie.
Picking myself up from the platform, I staggered thanks to a twisted ankle, over to the chair in the center. Tears clung to my eyelashes. Would they turn me away? Repulsed by an offering not perfect? There came no warning bells, no whistles and I breathed a sigh of relief. I sat down, braced myself, and waited.
I heard the sound of ropes swaying above, imagining which of the creatures would descend on her. The dark lady in the costume introduced me. “Mereketh, everyone. She looks to be a fine morsel indeed.” She cued the buckets of blood to be dropped on me. Hisses and yowls came from around me in the faces of a human population gone wrong.
I waited for just the right moment, balling my fists, as they crept toward me. It would be so easy—to let go—but I continued to let them surround me. As they began to fight among one another to see who would be leader of the pack, I drew my hands forward and uncurled my fingers. The toxic fumes reached into their midst and slashed the flesh from their bones as they’d done to many of ours.
I heard the children cry out and then cheer, something they hadn’t done in forever. When I hobbled from the chair, not a monster was standing, they’d all succumbed to magic they’d long forgotten. A magic not always grown on the Akara Mountains, but sometimes, in the heart of people everywhere.
Check out the other yaff ladies’ stories:
By the Roadside…
By the Roadside
(Observations on life, books and the like…)
Living where I do, in Amish country, is simple, easy, and a bit breath-taking. You see some quaint things you don’t see every day in the city. I think it’s part of the charm. Yet, more and more residents are having to move on due to the economy. It’s heart-breaking to get to know people and then have to say goodbyes. I love the neighbors I have and hope and pray that nothing makes them have to leave. But twice now, one neighbor has put up a for-sale sign. It makes me wonder if the house will stay empty, what the new people will be like, how we’ll get along.
My daughter is dealing with the loss right now of one of her best friends. They grew up together and now as they enter their teen years, they’ll do so apart. I wish I could stop the change from happening but I realize it’s part of life. I went through many friendships that ended at some point due to moves. But these days, it seems to be more frequent, and less of a sure thing to keep friends forever. Even my son has gone through several losses. Why you can’t protect them from the hurt, you can encourage them to take the risks, the chance that things will become more stable somewhere down the line.
I suppose this is why I like books/TV shows/movies etc. that show the turmoil that comes with life. It’s an expression of where we’re at in life. Hopefully, they give us the hope, the will, to go on, to face that mountain. Books like The Hunger Game series paint a dark landscape, absolute chaos to be sure, but they also show the perseverance, the strength, of the characters who deal with it. When we as parents try to block our children from reading the books they want to, we’re showing a lack of confidence in them to sort through what their reading and take away from them the experience, the joy of being able to read, the thoughts of what they would do under the circumstances. I’m not saying ALL material is suitable for children i.e. ADULT material, but we need to foster in our children the desire to learn. And if picking up Twilight, or another book of this type, gets them to read, I say let them.
How else are they going to travel that road to adulthood?
In my youth, I read everything from romances to horror. My daughter’s read Stephen King. It hasn’t warped her mind or sent her on some rampage. It’s helped her see that fears can and are meant to be worked through. Controlling your children is never the answer. Instead, give them the opportunity to read and come to you with questions, concerns. It’ll encourage more communication and respect for both your children and you. I know as parents we like to think we’re protecting our children, but sometimes in our efforts, we stifle them.
Just give them the chance, the voice they need and I think they’ll surprise you.
The road may be rough but we’ve got each other to make it through. And that is what matters most of all.
The Gaming Hall
Photo credit jppi from morguefile.
The Gaming Hall
I wasn’t supposed to be in here, to see what went on, but hey, when your sixteen rules are meant to be broken. Especially when it may attract attention from parents who act like you don’t exist anymore since the divorce. Not that I wanted them crushing my world further than it was, but I’d heard things about this place. Things I hoped were true.
“What’s your name?” the woman in charge of the dice asked.
“Madeline Grace Hill,” I squeaked.
“Do you prefer Maddy?”
“Well, this table you’re sitting at is special but I can see right away that you need this more than most.”
I leaned forward. “Can it really help me? Get the two of them together again? To fix everything?”
She smiled. “I can promise, if the dice rolls right, they’ll never be apart again.”
I took the dice in hand. They felt cold, slimy to the touch. I shivered in despite of the sweltering heat outside and in the room. The background around us seemed to fade, the noise of the crowd drowned out. There was only the two of us—and a wish.
“Choose your bet,” she said.
“Lucky sevens. Let’s roll.”
I wiggled the pieces in my hand and then let them fly forth.
The dice tipped and landed on—seven.
My hand went to my throat.
“A winner in the house,” the woman called. She glanced at me and her smile appeared a bit—toothy. And not the crooked kind of way, but gappy like a creature in a horror flick. “Go home, Maddy.”
I stood then paused. “But how will I know it worked?”
She tapped the dice. “The magic is in the dice.”
I hurried home through twisted, populated streets. Caught the subway and felt the splash as we went under the river above. I forced myself to put one foot in front of the other as I went to the door. A blood-curdling scream unlocked my hesitancy.
Inside, I found them.
Hooked together like Siamese twins.
On the sofa, the woman from the table stood. “You see, now they’ll have to get along.”
I stared in horror as each reached for a knife.
The woman shrugged. “Or maybe not.” She stepped toward me. “But, in any case, there’s a price to be paid for the wish.” She licked her needle-like teeth.
Let Me Look in the Mirror Already!
How to Breathe Life into Your Characters
Part II: Let Me See in the Mirror Already!
A character’s looks. How important are they? Some say the less description the better,
but I’ve read in an agent’s recent blog(and I concur)that the readers wants to know what your character looks like, warts and all. I don’t say to browbeat him or her with endless descriptions of a character’s eyes or rosy cheeks etc. But there has to be a healthy balance between what your hero/heroine looks like and what the reader see’s in their minds.
Think of them as clues. Blond hair or dark brown? Green eyes or violet? All little details that drive home the character to us. I, for one, like to “cast” my characters. So on any given day before I start a book, I spend countless hours searching magazines, the internet, or television for that matter for the perfect match to what I see. Sometimes I don’t start with a clear image as to what I’m looking for but just scan until the right photo jumps out at me and claims the face of the character in question.
Sometimes I pick a popular actor/actress, oftentimes I go with an unknown. Because no matter whom they are to you, your reader is going to see someone different. We can only give visual tidbits to further the illusion. And the truth is, I’m going to describe an actor/actress in the way I see them. That means I might notice imperfections others don’t that bring the character alive. And I search for the flaws most of the time because who wants to read about a perfect person?
Really the picture is just a canvas that we need to enhance in our reader’s mind. Character traits play an important part of this. We can have a pretty heroine on the outside but inside she feels like a girl next door or plain Jane. A gorgeous guy can be the vilest person we know deep down. It’s all in how you want to layer them.
In my story, The Safe House, I take a well-known actress and give her body issues. To everyone else, she’s beautiful, to herself, she’s too thin, too little up top, too ordinary. I like to think this brings her down to our level. After all, who among us is comfortable in their own skin, especially at eighteen? The awkward, ugly duckling phase can be felt by all. And when we grow into that swan, it’s not because we suddenly became Julia Roberts, but we came to terms with ourselves inside. It lends a sort of confidence to who we are.
Likewise my hero finds a different sort of failing in himself. Outwardly, he is calm, resolute. Inside, he feels like a fake, an actor on a stage who someone is about to discover doesn’t belong as the lead. He is forced to take more and more responsibility onto his shoulders and yet, his doubts hinder his performance until at last, he breaks free of the insecurities and rises to the warrior he needs to be.
So, yes, as you see, there’s more to it than labeling someone with blond hair, blue eyes. And yet those looks help develop who a character is to our readers. Describing our characters too little can often leave them abstract, in need of an infusion of color, warmth. Balance is the key. Bring the emotions with the image. Reflect that back and you’ll create characters that are fully rounded and ready to spring from the page.
Writer At Work
Writer At Work
So what do our days really look like? Where do they take us?
Well, for me, it begins after I get the kids off to school. About 7 a.m. if not sooner, I try
to be at my computer. I do the email and boards thing first then settle into whatever project I’m working on at the moment. Most weekend mornings, I try and write for the blogs I’m part of: Totally4YA, the YAFF Muse blog, and my own WordPress one. Once I knock these out of the way, I get down to business with writing.
Now, admittedly, all that “writing” time is not always spent doing so. Sometimes it’s research time. I’ve recently researched ghouls, Native American prophecies, skin-walkers, and Genetic Engineering. Research can take hours or days depending on what you’re looking for. Fascinating things catch your eyes, lead you off on a merry chase to discover more about the subject.
Those mentioned above are in reference to a horror story I’ve been working on initialed, SH. I wanted my creatures to be something different than traditional vampires, werewolves or zombies. So I’ve begun to blend, blend, blend the myth with new twists. I love re-working legends. You can take a creature’s fear of the sunlight and make it into so much more. How they came into being can be twisted to suit your purposes.
I’d say 50% of writing time is done researching for me, that’s how much I want what I’m doing to make sense, explore the impossible. The other half is meant to pull the research, characters, plotline etc. together. It’s hard to explain the “magic” that happens to a non-writer. You simply sit at the keyboard or with a pad and a pencil/pen and “listen” to the characters tell their stories. It doesn’t always happen right away. There are days when you fight to get a sentence out of them, and others when the flow can’t be stopped. But as you progress, you realize that you’ve really got something here: a story others might be interested to read/hear.
And so you keep at it, fighting, pushing, and sometimes shoving toward that ending. Is it difficult? Yes and no. But the joy of the finished product can’t be compared. A lot of people want to write a book someday but the truth is it’s harder than it looks and can take years of practice before you even get noticed. There are no short-cuts, no secret formulas. It’s mostly sit in the chair and work to apply what you’ve learned to what you still are learning. It never becomes stagnant.
A writer’s work like housework is never done. It keeps building into searching for an agent, rewrites, more rewrites, hoping to catch the eye of the elusive editor, rewriting again, and even after the books sees print there’s promotion to be concerned with. In today’s market, the reality is, you have to get out there and run the bases to earn your readers. And once you have them, don’t ever take them for granted. They support us to do what we love to do.
It all begins with that first page and carries on to the last. And then, even before you’re done with one story, you must begin the next. You never want to come out of the gate betting on just one horse. At the moment, while I’m re-writing SH, I’ve got Walking in the background, calling out for its rewrites. And then there’s a new story clamoring for my attention. Like I said, the Muse never sleeps. It may get rusty from time to time but it merely needs recharged. Watching a movie, reading a book, observing life can jog it.
Then the challenge begins again. Can I do it? Will it even see light of day? Sometimes it’s frustrating. The road to publication is paved with rejections but don’t lose heart. You came into this business to tell stories, to share them with others, if you never reach bestsellerdom, that’s okay. You did what was in your heart, touched lives out there, all in all, you did your job. And that’s all anyone can ask. Good luck with your writing.
More Read-a-thon Answers
1. Which hour was most daunting for you? 13
2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? Suzanne Collin’s Mockingjay
3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? More mini-challenges perhaps?
4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? I loved being able to inter-act with the contests and that, to keep you motivated.
5. How many books did you read? 9, but only a chapter each of 8 non-fiction ones.
6. What were the names of the books you read? Daughter of the Forest, The Lawmen, Getting the Word Right, How to Succeed at Being Yourself, Page after Page, Chapter by Chapter, The Breakout Novelist, Wallflowers Can Dance, and How to Write a YA Novel.
7. Which book did you enjoy most? Daughter of the Forest–it was haunting.
8. Which did you enjoy least? Getting the Words Right–a necessary evil though as a tool to help with my writing.
9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?
10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? Very likely. Reader, perhaps cheerleader.
I finished all 410 pages of Daughter. Now I’m going to have to quit for the night. May take this up in the morning if I awaken early enough.
Finished my non-fiction chaps of How to Succeed at Being Yourself, Writing & Selling the YA Novel, Chapter by Chapter, Page after Page, and The Breakout Novelist. I’m off to supper and then will return to reading Daughter.