Posts Tagged ‘Traci Kenworth’

Horror Reveal

Traci Kenworth


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?

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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?

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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.


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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.






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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.


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Edit of Death

Edit of Death (Photo credit: Ric James)


Off I go, Editing


Traci Kenworth




The days have passed quicker than I thought. Editing time has arrived. I’m going to begin


with a read-through of LATWD and see what catches/problems I see. I began writing the book about March of this year. So I guess it’s been about a six-month process. From here on out, I want to concentrate on shaping it, making it better. I’m so hoping I don’t find it a big, jumbled mess but instead the awesome story I think it is. It’s taken a lot to get it to this point, and I thank my critique partners for helping me arrive here.


Now, the real hurdles begin. Are the characters strong enough? Is the plot riveting? Will


it maintain reader interest? All these questions and more need to be answered. The truth of the matter is though, I prefer this stage. What? Editing can be a preference? For me, yes. I like it because it’s like being an archaeologist and discovering a fossil. You have to carefully dig out the finished project. It’s not ready, till it’s completely unearthed. With your manuscript, at this point, you only have the bones. Now you need to flesh things out, bring to life the dinosaur.


It’s a scary thought, isn’t it? Trying to recreate something you imagined months ago into


something that’s going to hold your reader’s attention into the years beyond this hopefully? Of course, we want to imagine what we put down the first time is perfect, but the truth is manuscripts take work, lots of it. No one unearths an exhibit that’s ready for viewers overnight. It takes time, many plans, help from outside ourselves, and patience. In the end, you want things to be perfect when it takes the stage. So no hurrying. Step back and observe, lay the groundwork for success.




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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.


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