Crazy Ralph


Today, I would like to talk about how certain elements in writing can contribute to enabling a reader to show emotion in reaction to what the author has put on the page.  Sometimes the author has the ability to make the reader laugh out loud due to a rather character’s sarcastic tone or simply a bit of slapstick .  Other times the reader can be trapped in a scene based on what’s happening to a particular character in the book. A reader will sense a feeling of fear as to what is happening in between pages, notably in the horror genre. That is the aspect I want to focus on today.

Fear can be displayed many ways, and affects the reader, the viewer, and can influence your muse when drawing inspiration from either a movie or a book.  Currently I am working on a second draft for our writing club of a type of horror-related drama involving a summer camp.  Putting the pieces together at first was pretty easy, but it was the second draft that really had an impact on my psyche.  The feedback I received regarding the first draft included the fact that there needed to be more of a fear element to make it look more daunting and ominous.

Originally, I had a really good scene involving a groundskeeper at the campsite warning the counselors, before the start of actual camp, that something was not right. He told them to beware of a certain something on campus. Does it sound somewhat familiar? If you are a horror movie buff then it should.  This circumstance is a template of a scene from the first two Friday the 13th movies.  Crazy Ralph is the old man who warns the counselors of Camp Crystal Lake not to work at the summer camp due to a murder spree that happened previously on or near the original camp site.

Romance blossoming at Camp Crystal Lake

My story falls into the genre of what my writing group likes to call “Corporate Gothic”, which is defined as a story that intertwines the concept of a workspace and an element of horror. The workspace in my story is the camp setting and the element of horror is the condition of the water on the campus. If someone doesn’t drink from the right source, they could die. That lets the reader know that the protagonist could be in trouble and leads to a sense of fear for both the characters in the story and quite possibly the readers themselves. 

Although the basis of my story might not sound too “horrific”, it can still teach us a lesson in basic fear and how to overcome the tragedy within the story.  Fear can also teach us a lesson in morality and how we handle relationships going forward. Usually, the end all to a story or a movie wraps up with some positive advice for both the reader or the viewer.  So, next time you’re out and about on a camping trip or want to explore that cabin in the woods, beware that silly old man telling tales and stay safe out there!

Paragraphic Rift: Have You Polished Your Text?

4: What is Creative Polish?

Creative Polish is an analysis of one’s literary voice for optimization. Not for grammar as much as for poetic elevations and mythic tone. This radical method suggests that one should overwrite, to go beyond systemized reductionism in order to transcend the language of the day. Editors trim for clarity or to emphasize proper grammar, which is their job, but some would delete glory because to them, it’s all been done before. Might as well tell the sun not to rise while we’re at it… 

A good creative polish seeks to challenge the readership rather than bring everything down to the fourth-grade level. It’s more for creative obsessors than hobbyists. Having read much and been greatly inspired, and having a regular muse flash leading unto creative obsession, you will want to obsess over the words already written. 

So… Having written in bliss from out of a bright muse flash nagging you sweetly all day, you return to the text the next chance you get to creatively polish the work. 

Creative Polish Guidelines: 

1: remember the chapter (section) you are polishing, because themes and scenarios should shape language and Inspire voice. (action pace, creepy pace, dialogue, etc) 

2: when you read any sentence, look for the poem that could be there. No matter what the subject, no matter what the demographic, just remember eternity and forget now. Write to be rediscovered on post-apocalyptic bookshelves centuries from now after WW7, fearing no contemporary naysay or caution. 

3: when you encounter the turning of a phrase, take care not to disturb its textual ecstasy. Butterflies are better with wings ON them… 

4: vocabulary must challenge in order to compliment the reader’s intelligence. Be courageous with both existing terms and fictitious wordsmithing, from which all linguistic enchantment derives its fantastical delirium. Example: time machine 
Photo by Josh Redd on Unsplash

Let your obsession reach for perfection, but don’t embrace perfectionism. 

Believe in what the muse brought to mind. 

It is necessary to self-edit, self workshop, self-optimize. 
It is unnecessary to be your own worst critic. 

Some words will stay, some shall be rewritten, others deleted. The ones that remain from out of the original muse flash must quiver with mythic resonance, each sentence a poem, each phrase a mystery. Even if you were writing about mundane concepts, your voice should still be beaming bright so that the muse may be honored. 

Adore the process, love the satisfaction, seek more from the muse, give praise to what you revere. You know what you like and dislike, and this polarity helps focus your voice. Your voice is emergent from creative obsession, is harmonized into oneness by reading well and writing lots, and so is both consciousness and unconscious in nature. Unconsciousness is limitless, and the words of muse and voice can transcend amazing thresholds of beauty and ugliness, profoundly touching both heart and soul. 
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Well, creative obsessors, we are back at the halfway point. 5: Creative Workshopping. 

Some people start from the beginning, 1: What Is Your Inspiration; some from the middle, 5: Creative Workshopping; and some from the end, 10: Adaptive Bookcraft. No matter what stage you are in or what direction the development takes, JWC Paragraphic Rift has a way for you to dial in and access the creative edit. 

Let’s see if we can learn from each other’s dreams and grow as writers together.

Poor Winston Churchill: Drawing From Experience to Influence Your Writing

Previously, I talked about how movies, TV shows, and other media influence our writing process. Today, I want to talk about how your own past can influence your muse. I want to touch on things that not only inspired me to write about, but briefly shed a light on how some of the best have drawn from their lives.  The written page can also transcend to the big screen when it comes to this.
My first example comes from the “king” of horror himself, Stephen King.  When reading one of his novels, I came across an excerpt regarding his thoughts on personal inspiration.  He disclosed that when he wrote Pet Sematary, he was inspired by events of his own life. He went into detail about the setting of the story and how it related to the very home that he and his family purchased a very long time ago.

A True Horror Classic

Some of the details that he disclosed involved the big rig trucks featured in both the book and the movie. So, you might have been sitting on your couch in front of the TV or resting on your bed after reading a few chapters when thinking, “Where does he come up with this stuff?” Indeed, some of the best don’t even have to tap into their imagination to come up with the material for their manuscript or screenplay. He got away with it, but was honest in the process, giving credit to his own past experiences. Now, I would like to share with you a couple of personal experiences that influenced me to write. One of these moments came from a dream I had as a young adult. I wrote a scene recently about a robot from the future. In the dream, he was slowly making his way in the direction of the story’s main protagonist. Even though this dream lasted just seconds, it inspired me to write about it more than 15 years later! It was the perfect fit. I was able to successfully draw upon the dream and make sense of the narrative at the same time. A second experience I had was based on an early childhood memory. My recall is not that bad as I was able to use an event from when I was about three years old. I was in the pool messing around with the other kids. I mixed it into the protagonist’s life story and it once again fit like a glove! A good memory can go a long way and help to inspire even the most minute experiences in your manuscript or screenplay. Whether you’re Stephen King or even a writer who has yet to be published, these examples will hopefully inspire you to tap into a part of yourself that has been dormant for quite some time. Also, maybe something tangible like a high school yearbook or a class photo can help your muse. Just remember the next time you write, keep that pen or cell phone handy. Even an idea within a fleeting moment might change the direction of your work.

Pen and Scalpel: How I Create My Characters.

I sometimes look at my mind as a warehouse that has been passed through a blender. Can you picture that? Neither can I, but that’s what I see. I have seen so many films and television shows and have read so many books that my mind has split into two distinct warehouses. The first one is filled with filing cabinets. Each cabinet is a genre or a movie franchise. All of the ideas inside any particular cabinet are kept organized in neat folders. The second one is a vortex of swirling data. Nothing is in place, and ideas smash into other ideas.

My Mind Is A Blender
This second warehouse is where the ideas come from. It could be Jurassic Park‘s velociraptors hitting the Martian War Machines from The War of the Worlds. Out of that comes an idea of a squadron of WWII fighter planes “manned” by trained raptors. Weird, yes, but that’s how the process works. Not all of the ideas work well at all, but enough do to keep the vortex at high velocity.
When it comes to creating characters, I take a great deal more care with them than I do a story idea. Stories are made up of characters who are in situations they must get out of somehow. Without characters, you only have situations and challenges without someone to grapple with them. For me, characters come in different layers. Each layer is important, and they are all tied together. One cannot be separated from any of the others.

Each Layer Is Important To The Others
Here are some of the layers I use to create a character. Put as many of these things into your story and give your people’s existence some reality.
  • Prior Life. Their Back Story in other words.
  • Friends, Enemies and Relatives.
  • Eccentricities, Habits and Nits.
  • Real Life Dialogue, Idioms and Catch Phrases.
  • Believability, Honor and A Sense Of Humor.
  • Fears, Beliefs and Superstitions.
  • Speech Patterns, Tics and Accents.
  • Goals, Dreams and Ambitions.
  • Curiosity, Interests and Dislikes.
John Pentgram. He started as a college assignment. I had to write a short story for my Creative Writing Final. The class received the assignment on Day Two of the class. I began to write down ideas, and found they were all terrible.

Then, one evening, I saw an old episode of Get Smart. In it, Maxwell Smart discovered that the enemy spy he had been chasing could not be caught because he’s a vampire. That created a spark in my mind. What if I created a detective who has been bitten by a werewolf? Better yet what if he could control his werewolf urges and use his gift to solve crimes?

The result became Nigh Of Fate, the story all of the other Pentgram stories revolved around. I now have a set of stories that take place before he gets bitten by the werewolf, and a set of stories taking place after he’s been bitten.

Are You Afraid Of The Dark?
Surela of Valtoor. My friend Michael ran a D & D campaign for many years. I couldn’t play but I helped him come up with traps, creatures and impossible situations for his characters. One day, I came up with a character who had influence over cats and gravity. Michael thought I had the potential for a new set of gods and influences they give to mortals.
The next morning, I woke up with an idea about a female thief on a mission to steal a treasure that had never been stolen from an empty town that would not let you leave. I sat down and wrote the name Surela on the paper. Where the name came from I still have no idea. Writing their name down gave me the entire story, including her 5 inch tall, friend Lim and her Entallic horse.

Surela’s entire world revealed itself in the next two stories. With the details of the God Shards clarified, the rest of the world and its history unfolded in the next six months. I wrote with a speed I had never experienced before or since. As a result, I had over 100 pages of background material, from coinage to religions to maps.

The Land Of Variema
Franklin Adams. Suppose the Frankenstein’s monster survived his arctic adventure? Suppose he went west and wound up in Canada? Suppose he became a fur trapper and saved all of his money until he could move to the U.S.? Suppose his scars faded until they were gone, yet he remained un-aging?
Cut to the present day. Adams is a private detective living in the Midwood section of Brooklyn. With over 200 years of knowledge and wisdom, he is used by the Police to help solve crimes they deem unsolvable. No one knows who he really is, until 12-year-old Rochelle Horowitz put the dozens of stray pieces of Adams’ life together. She becomes one of his apprentices and the only one who knows his secret.
Ryan Dacalos. In the year 2227, Ryan is hired to steal the Khurlu, the largest diamond ever found. It is in a secure box on Mars, which is forbidden to any visitors by the Uni-World Council. The money he is offered is too good to pass up and Ryan takes the job. He is immediately set upon by someone who doesn’t want him to get the diamond.

The Khurlu Of Mars
This story all stems from an off-hand remark from my friend Michael. One day, he happened to be talking about the planet Mars. In the middle of the conversation, he said something about the “Great Martian Terra-Form Disaster.” The story instantly hit me.

What if there was a disaster directly caused by efforts to terra-form Mars? What if the governments of the solar system decreed that Mars was now off-limits due to the anticipated destruction of the Martian Eco-system? What if the colonies already established on Mars were given 24 hours to evacuate forever, and some important things were left behind?

All of these details hit me at once, including the character who became Ryan Dacalos, psychic thief and obtainer of lost objects. His friends, Burke and Astra, came later in the day as I wrote down the details as they hit me. These people and the various settings were all in place within the week.

I chose to write the book in the First Person, something I had never done before. That new aspect of writing proved to be no problem for me. I wrote Ryan as if he were actually living the adventure as I wrote it. This gave the story a real immediacy that I liked.

People are just people, and these individuals you have been introduced to are members of their community. They just have jobs that are a lot different than yours or mine.

Pen and Scalpel: Inspirational Quotes of H. P. Lovecraft

H. P. Lovecraft. 1890-1937
Ask anyone who has loves a good horror story and I’ll bet he’s read something by H. P. Lovecraft. While he wasn’t the best writer of fiction, even in his time, he has become as influential as Edgar Allan Poe in the genre. Few people can read The Dunwich Horror or TheCall of Cthulhu and not know true terror. So convincing are his tales that there are some who believe that he wrote from actual ancient legends.
Lovecraft’s tales not only spun great yarns but they also, on occasion, dropped some uncomfortable wisdom on us. The following is merely a sample of that wisdom. Some of it could be disturbing to our beliefs, but that intention came with every story. My comments will be in italicsso as to not confuse the readers.

The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.

These words should be on the wall of every writer who tells stories where fear is present, whether they are Horror, SF, Adventure Or Mystery. The Unknown is the greatest creator of fear and infinite in scope. How many people can walk into a dark room without pausing for a second, wondering what could be hiding in the dark? Not many, I would imagine.

I never ask a man what his business is, for it never interests me. What I ask him about are his thoughts and dreams.

Ah, then, these are the true sources of a person’s motivations. Thoughts and dreams are what inspires us and what we aspire to. It’s what drives us to move beyond our dreary existence.

If religion were true, its followers would not try to bludgeon their young into an artificial conformity; but would merely insist on their unbending quest for truth, irrespective of artificial backgrounds or practical consequences.

Religion, then, has become a source of indoctrination, whether we accept that concept or not. What is used to get us to stay in the fold? Fear is a major source of getting people to comply with the doctrine.

I am disillusioned enough to know that no man’s opinion on any subject is worth a damn unless backed up with enough genuine information to make him really know what he’s talking about.

All the education in the world is useless unless it is applied toward making sense of the world around us. Any idiot can have an opinion, but even someone with a small amount of education can make that opinion worth hearing.

All of my tales are based on the fundamental premise that common human laws and emotions have no validity or significance in the cosmos-at-large.

We Humans have no clue what is in store for us in the Cosmos at large. We should be afraid to leave our little home here in the middle of nowhere in the Milky Way. What we believe matters not to Those Who Are Watching from Out There.

It is a mistake to fancy that horror is associated inextricably with darkness, silence, and solitude.

Yes, I believe that the most horrifying things happen in broad daylight, under the glare of the sun. in Stephen King’s THE MIST, for example, a lot of the action takes place before lunchtime. Darkness only gives what’s hiding out there places to regroup for the next day’s hunting.

Horrors, I believe, should be original – the use of common myths and legends being a weakening influence.

Grimm’s Fairy Tales are excellent and should be read in their original form. But they are just food for the writer’s imagination. As a foundation, they can provide any number of inspired ideas for your work. But don’t stop there. The various myths of the ancient World are also good for ideas, for they are filled to overflowing with heroes and monsters. Take advantage of them.

One can never produce anything as terrible and impressive as one can awesomely hint about.

The great power that old-time Radio shows had that no other medium has ever equaled is that it used audio only. No pictures, no video, nothing but the power of words to create images in people’s minds. Our imagination can make greater horrors than any SFX company could EVER create.

The end of a story must be stronger rather than weaker than the beginning, since it is the end which contains the denouement or culmination and which will leave the strongest impression upon the reader.

Nothing is worse than a story that just ends without a revelation of some sort. A horror story without the situation coming to a head in the last page or two is not worth reading.

It is absolutely necessary, for the peace and safety of mankind, that some of earth’s dark, dead corners and unplumbed depths be let alone; lest sleeping abnormalities wake to resurgent life, and blasphemously surviving nightmares squirm and splash out of their black lairs to newer and wider conquests.

Be careful where you go looking in your quest to quench your curiosity. That old abandoned mine may have been boarded up because something lives in there that wants to be left alone. While the deepest darkest corners of the Amazon jungles may contain wonders that could revolutionize Science, don’t be too sure that there aren’t things in the trees that don’t want you to visit.

Do you have a favorite Lovecraft quote? Or a favorite quote from any author? Let us know below in the comments or tweet them to us at @JoesWritersClub.